Hawks at a Distance: Identification of Migrant Raptors by Jerry Liguori. First published 2011. As reviewed and pictured: softcover, 194 pages.
As a raptor handler volunteer with FCWR, I got to work up close and personal with several different raptor species. Holding a beautiful bird of prey on my arm is and always will be an amazing experience, and it is always an extreme privilege to be able to share my knowledge about and respect for these incredible creatures with others.
Unfortunately, the kind of intimate knowledge I acquired by volunteering with Flint Creek’s birds of prey didn’t do much to help my field craft when trying to identify raptors at a distance. That’s where Jerry Liguori’s new book comes in handy. Hawks at a Distance is a special kind of field guide, featuring crisp photographs of raptors as they would be seen during migration (think Hawk Watch).
The book begins with an extremely helpful introduction. While a reader’s instinct might be to jump to the photo section and start memorizing, the information presented in the introduction is invaluable and provides a strong starting point for any budding hawk-watcher. The author has years of experience in identifying migratory raptors, and in the intro he shares advice based on his richness of knowledge in a very easy-to-read, somewhat informal tone.
The species accounts are fairly straightforward, with an overview page for each family of raptor (Accipiter, Buteo, Falcon, etc) and then several pages devoted to each species.
The species photos are certainly the main attraction, but the text descriptions accompanying each bird are well-done and include important identification tips which add a lot to a hawk-watcher’s understanding of how to differentiate between similar species. The photos themselves are grouped by age and/or sex where appropriate, and certain species also include comparison shots of similar birds in similar flight positions.
Overall this is a very strong addition to the library of any birder who wants to increase their identification skill of a difficult group of birds. I’m not quite able to identify every dot I see in the sky just yet, but with Hawks at a Distance, I’m definitely getting better. I give Hawks at a Distance 4.5 Goldfinches out of 5.
Disclosure: This is my own original, honest review of Hawks at a Distance, a copy of which was provided to me free of charge by the publisher.