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All,

I just thought I'd give you my impressions of the new field guide, "Birds of New York State" (BONYS) written by Budlinger & Kennedy. A few other members have commented on it but not in a lot of detail. It is true field guide dedicated strictly to birds that are likely to be seen in NYS - not necessarily breeders or common birds. It includes roughly 350 species, with an entire page dedicated to each species. 

The first few pages are something quite welcome in a field guide - a brief Table of Contents immediately followed by a GREAT Reference Guide that has illustrations of virtually every species crammed  very neatly into 12 pages broken down into rough taxonomic orders/families. These pages include under the picture the common name, the size, and the page number. This is very similar to the way Sibley did his Family plates at the beginning of each section, but instead, all placed in the front of the book - much more convenient for a beginner that doesn't know where to look in a field guide. The sections are then color coded to match the page "tabs" for quick field location. 

The Introduction is similar to most of the newer guides, with the addition of major birding areas and Top 100 Hotspots Birding Sites with a locator map showing major ecological zones within the state. 

Species accounts are quite detailed with excellent, plain-language descriptions and "Best Sites" section to help narrow your search, as well as perfunctory(?) range maps. Typically, one or two large, painted illustrations for each species (usually male/female) and many species have some smaller illustrations of the bird in flight. The illustrations are superb and color quite accurate and natural, which was one of my few complaints with Sibley's guides that make the bird a little too "cartoonish". My biggest criticism of the plates in this guide is that they were not all painted by the same person. Accordingly, from plate-to-plate and species-to-species, there are rather pronounced style differences in the illustrations. On illustrator favors smooth, soft feathering, and another prefers almost to tease the feathers out for a roughed-up appearance - like the bird just emerged from a vacuum cleaner. Both are quite attractive, but I favor the former, because that is typically the way a bird looks in the field at even a slight distance. But my complaint is that if you ar trying to distinguish very similar species, such as Acadian and Alder Flycatchers, the illustrations make them appear very different, even though we know the differences are slight. But I can find few faults with the accuracy of either style - each has their own merits.

The species text I feel was reminiscent of Peterson's early field guides, but more elaborate. Interesting and informative bits of birdlore and natural history makes reading the book from cover-to-cover an enlightening and entertaining endeavor.

The end of the book contains a glossary, checklist, and both scientific and common-name indices. The back cover includes yet another, more condensed, color coded & tab indexed "Quick Guide" with page numbers - yet another outstanding feature. 

Although positioned as a state field guide, I would say it would adequately cover the northeast, with the exception of some regional specialties. I don't believe I have ever sen a regional field guide that even comes close to this volume and I would like to see a guide in the same format for North America. For $21.95, it is an outstanding bargain!

Dana C. Rohleder
Port Kent, NY