I just had a chance to look over the new Peterson 1."Field Guide to Birds of
Eastern and Central North America" and 2."Hawks of North America" My
1. This newly revised and updated guide stayed in the store primarily
because it is only in hardback right now and is a little larger than
standard field guide size (which seems to be increasing all the time!).
However, perusing it briefly in the bookstore, it didn't impress me as a
huge improvement. They updated plates and maps, and addressed the recurring
issue of distribution maps beside the species plates by adding thumbnail, or
rather pinky-nail sized, two-color maps on the facing description page. I
never felt they were that necessary in a FIELD guide, but now they are
there. However, they are not as detailed or useful as the range maps in the
back of the book, which are still included. Illustration size seems slightly
larger, probably because of the format size increase, and are very clear,
but have a little softer color saturation, which I didn't particularly like.
In summation, I may purchase the softcover when it comes out if it is
smaller, but otherwise, my old Petersons are doing their job well - still my
only FIELD guide, while many others are on my back seat and bookshelf.
2. The new Hawks guide is a major revamp - or, I would say, an entirely new
book rather than a second edition. The text, still by Wm. Clark and Brian
Wheeler, now has twice as many color plates by Wheeler, with usually one
species to a page. Color photographs, found in the description section at
the book, are quite nice and replace the B&W photos from the 1st edition
instead of supplementing them. It is now more in the format of the
Identification Guide series sponsored by the ABA, such as "Shorebirds",
"Waterfowl", etc. I don't feel it is a general field guide to raptors as the
first edition was. Each species is broken down into EVERY plumage variation,
with a letter key referring to the facing page description, which I don't
find particularly useful in the field. The 1st edition had text instead
under the illustrations in the Peterson style, which I feel is easier and
quicker and a better learning tool, as you simultaneously look at the image
and the description, instead of glancing back-and-forth. Also, the 2nd
edition has eliminated similar & confusing species on the same plate, i.e..
Bald and Golden Eagles, Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawks, which also slows
you down in the field. Very clear, colorful range maps are still in the back
of the book, which is fine for this type of format. The color photos in the
description section serve more for art than education. They are very clear,
but are again, not organized in such a way as to make ID easier.
Unfortunately, I feel the loss of the B&W images hinders field ID, because
color is often not as much of a factor as silhouette and shape.
In summation, the amount of detail and information is incredible, and is an
excellent resource if used in tandem with either a general Birds of North
America field guide of your choice, or the Peterson "Hawks" 1st edition,
which I feel is a better field guide and a little friendlier to beginners.
If there is room on the shelf or the back seat, pick one up!
Dana C. Rohleder, O.D.
Port Kent, NY
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