Friday, April 19, 2013

How to identify hawks and other raptors
Review: The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors

Photo from Princeton University Press.
As this blog focuses on birds and birding in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, readers may not be personally familiar with The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds, published in 2011. That large 544 page book is stuffed to the gills with over 10,000 photos of birds from every possible angle set in museum-like panorama photographs (such as above). Each species is displayed with 3 or 4 larger images and many smaller images of as many different plumages and postures as possible. Text for each species is at a bare minimum. Richard Crossley's idea was that you could learn ID just from looking at the photos of birds alone. [I thought that not having text could also mislead. See my review of Crossley's Eastern Birds.] When the Princeton University Press offered me a review copy of Richard Crossley's latest field guide on North American raptors I jumped at the chance.

The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors (April 2013) is a 340 page book book covering the identification of 34 species of hawks, eagles, falcons, kites and other raptors found north of Mexico. As in the original Crossley guide, each page is like a museum panorama of dozens of bird photos backdropped by a photo of some well-known (often) North American scenic location. Most photo collages are 2-page spreads.

More than half the book is made of photo panoramic plates. The photos start with a couple of plates explaining the identification of each species and age. That is followed by a photo quiz plate! There are over 30 double-page plates of raptor quizzes, averaging more than 10 birds per quiz!

Whereas the original Crossley guide forsook text for photos, about a third of the book is textual species accounts written by raptor ID experts Jerry Ligouri and Brian Sullivan. Each species account begins with an interesting first-person introduction written from the perspective of the raptor itself--very unique! Subsequent sections in the species account include an overview, flight style, shape and size, plumage, geographic variation, molt, similar species, hybrids, status and distribution, migration, and vocalizations. Large 3-color maps show the breeding, resident, and winter ranges. The final 20 pages or so give the answers to the photo quizzes.

Three books in one!
  • Annotated ID plates similar to the original Crossley ID Guide to birds.
  • Expert in-depth species accounts covering status, distribution, and detailed plumage and flight style ID.
  • Photo quizzes and answers.
I really like this book. It teaches identification through both numerous photos and expert text. The photo quizzes aren't just a quick glance and a look at the answers. I went through the 15 images of birds on the flying Acciptiers quiz page and wrote down my answers. Twice. Then I looked at the ones I wasn't quite sure about to choose a final answer. My results? I got 13 of 15 correct, and feel like I improved my identification skills! Who could ask for more?

For your convenience you can follow the link below to order this book from Amazon. And, yes, a very small percentage of the sale will go to me.