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Peterson Field Guide to the Birds [book review]

peterson field guide

This month Houghton Mifflin revised the Peterson Field Guide to the Birds of Western North America (4th edition) after not being updated in nearly 20 years. The Peterson Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America (6th edition) was also revised and was released on March 14th 2010. Both books include the many name changes and taxonomic splits and lumps, along with its typical Peterson style maps and arrows. These revisions include updated text and 40 new paintings for two series of books. New to these revisions include over 3 hours of downloadable Video Podcasts from many different categories.

peterson field guide

The Peterson Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America has been a best-selling field guide since 1934 and includes more than 500 species, 159 color plates, and with 512 range maps.  The Peterson Field Guide to the Birds of Western North America has been log-awaited with nearly 600 species, 176 color plates and with 588 range maps.


I personally love the cover change from the pervious blue stripe version (this revision reminds me of the older versions). Looking through the book closer the thumbnail maps next to the species accounts are larger and easier to use than the previous version. Not that it makes a difference but the text style is different but I am not sure if it’s easier or harder on my eyes?? Obviously with the AOU taxonomical order changes in 2009 they needed to change the some of the painting plates to be properly updated. It shouldn’t take me long getting use to finding the Golden-winged Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler and hybrids finally together on the same page and the Hooded Warbler further back in the warbler pages with the other Wilsonia genus. These changes were long over due and this revision is comparable to Sibley’s and other guides in not being the “newbie” guide anymore. I enjoy finding the family color tabs on the bottom of the pages for helping me find families of birds quicker.


Being an iPhone owner I quickly downloaded the video podcasts from iTunes and was amazed at how wonderful they turned out. I have downloaded many birding podcast before that are boring but these are actually kept my attention and I am sure they will be watched a few more times. My favorites were the Warbler, Bird Songs-sounds, and Topography podcast. What was exciting is the fact they actually use the book as a reference and show you how to use the maps or how to use the field marks in identifying the birds. I am afraid to say it but this is going to become the future of most field guides. They can be downloaded onto any mp3, iPod, iPhone from the Houghton Mifflin website or from iTunes (however took me a while to find on iTunes).  Below is one of the podcasts taken from youtube on warblers to show you an example how nice the podcast are.

If your looking for updating your library then these revisions are worth your time in doing.

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3 responses

  1. Marg

    Loved the podcast-great review of what sounds like a great new favourite!

    22 March 2010 at 8:14 pm

  2. Rick

    Great review and I am due for a new guide.

    22 March 2010 at 11:45 pm

  3. Grace

    The black-throated blue is too cute!

    7 April 2010 at 12:00 am

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