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The Sibley
Guide to Birds

Sibley Guide to BirdsIt's a sensual pleasure to read this large-paged, lavishly illustrated soft-cover book.

Each page is beautiful. Author and artist David Sibley has created 6600 illustrations, by far the most in any modern field guide to North American birds. Each bird appears in several poses, an average of eight pictures per bird.

Why so many? To show all the different ways a bird appears, which may vary depending on its gender and age, on the season, and on the area of the country where it's found.

Most pages show two species, but many birds, such as Red-tailed Hawk and White-breasted Nuthatch, get a whole page to themselves.

David Sibley has done something wonderful here, for while all his pictures are rich in information, each one is also a work of art. Each account includes a good-sized map of where the bird is found in all seasons and a detailed description of its songs and calls.

And while most field guides show birds only in profile, this book shows, in addition, many birds perched nearly head-on to the viewer, especially sparrows and other small birds that we often see from that position.


Nearly every bird is displayed in flight, both from above and below, showing how the top and bottom of the wings look. No other American field guide has ever done that.

Small silhouettes show how a bird's wings change shape in flight. Notes next to the illustrations point out the birds' identifying characteristics.



As in all good field guides, the author groups similar and related birds for easy reference. Furthermore, David begins every family of birds with an overview page, showing all the members of the family together and to the same scale.

To look at the owls introduction, for example, is to get a sense of what owlness is — the big head, the front-facing eyes, the no-neck body, and so on. The ability to recognize what group a bird belongs to is a primary skill in identifying birds, and this book does the best job I've ever seen at helping a new birdwatcher form a concept of each bird family.

The Sibley Guide to Birds weighs over 2-1/2 pounds and measures 9-3/4 by 6-1/2 inches. That might be more than you want to carry in a pocket, assuming it would fit in a pocket at all. It's a great book to have in the car, by the window overlooking the bird feeders, or by the bedside.



Diane's says:

Reviewer Diane PorterThe book's paper and printing quality are excellent. After just a little breaking in, the book lies open nice and flat. Generous white space and an uncluttered layout give the book an elegant, leisurely feeling.

It's a pleasure and an education to use this book.

The Sibley Guide to Birds, written and illustrated by David Allen Sibley. Published by Alfred A. Knopf. Paperback, 544 pages.

--Diane Porter

TIP: If you like this book, you might also enjoy Sibley's Birding Basics.


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