Monday, February 21, 2011

Bird Guides

I have four bird guides on my shelf these days.  They are, in order of preference:  Kaufman's Birds of North America; National Geographic's Field Guide to the Birds of North America; The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds, Eastern Region;  and Peterson's Field Guide to Western Birds.   The only reason I don't like the last one is that we live in the east, not the west. They have an  Eastern version, too, but I've never looked at it.

Here are links to all of them.

I like the Kaufman bird guide best.  It's easy to use.   Birds are grouped by type and by appearance within the type.  One of the things I love best about the book is the one page quick reference guide just inside the back cover - once you get good enough to know/guess that a bird is a [sparrow, thrasher, woodpecker, etc.], you can look that up in the back very quickly to get the page number for those types of birds. Then go to that section for pages full of birds that look like that.   Each page has several different birds on it so you can compare them to see which one is in your tree.  On the right hand pages, each bird is illustrated with a drawing of the bird in its most generalized form, which eliminates the problems of natural lighting and shadows from photos.   There are notes on which markings are distinctive - the eyebrow, the pink feet, white spot on tail, etc.  One the left hand pages, each bird is named with common name first, then the Latin.  In addition, there is a map showing distribution and color coded by winter/summer/year-round presence and a description for each bird including special characteristics such as '..if alarmed, it walks away  into the thickets or flies away swiftly and low.' [White-Tipped Dove], a description of distinctive physical characteristics or behavior, and a description of the call and voice.   The call/voice descriptions are better than nothing and have actually been quite helpful on occasion, but let's face it, describing Ella Fitzgerald's voice isn't going to help you recognize it in a crowded bar.  Ahem.   Which brings me to bird song guides.

I have a couple of bird song guides:  Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song and Bird Song Ear Training Guide: Who Cooks for Poor Sam Peabody?.

The first is one of those big books with the pretty pictures and the computerized player on the side.  You punch in the bird number and it plays you the song.   We got it dirt cheap at a garage sale.   It's fun, simple and helpful - a great song guide if you can get one cheap.   I like that it includes both the picture and the song.   K2 likes snuggling up outside in nice weather and playing through it.  It helps her to see the picture with the song.

My very favorite bird song guide is the Ear Training Guide cd, which we picked up at the Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge  gift shop. 

It has 190 bird songs of the eastern region of the US. It plays the bird song, then gives you a human song to help you remember it, then plays the bird song again.   Awesome!   This is how I know which birds say, 'Pizza!' 'Quick, three beers' 'Who cooks for you-all?' 'Cheese-burger', etc.   They're fun and make remembering the songs much easier.   I turn it on in my studio and just let it play while I'm working.


  1. Do you know what bird sounds like one of those old screen doors with a rusty spring? I have one that wakes me up all summer long. I just call it the screen door bird!

  2. Hope - it sounds like it might be a type of blackbird. Next time I pull out the cd, I'll let you know.

  3. i read your blogs and get so sidetracked checking all your links..i think we planned to go to that wildlife refuge one time on our way to louisville..but ran out of time, but now i definitely want to check it out, and after reading about all the things in your area again i want to move to louisville more and more...we will eventually get there!!!! or at least in that area.


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