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The Warbler Guide by Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle. Published 2013. As reviewed and pictured: Flexibound, 560 pages.
I used to read travel guides cover to cover. They aren’t really meant to be read that way, but I enjoyed planning future holidays so much that I couldn’t help myself.
When I started birding, I began to accumulate books on birding. Unlike the travel guides, I never read a field guide all the way through. With even my favorites, only the introductory sections got my full attention, while the species accounts were browsed through at leisure or certain sections studied only when I needed them.
New this year, The Warbler Guide turned out to be a genuine page-turner for this birder.
Before the species accounts begin, the authors delve into identification tricks and tips, first covering “What to notice on a warbler”. This goes deeper than the typical topographical bird maps found in most guides. A lot of pages are devoted to learning warbler songs, calls, and chip notes, including in-depth instruction on reading and understanding sonograms.
Before getting to the species accounts, there are some great “quick-finder” keys. These are available as independent free downloads from publisher Princeton University Press: Downloadable Warbler Guide Quick Finders. In the book and as separate print-outs they are an effective way to quickly scan for a bird, with several view choices available depending on how much of the bird’s body you managed to observe.
The species accounts themselves are as in-depth as you’d expect in a quality family-only guide. Photos of full and limited views are accompanied by detailed ID tips, including habitat, foraging technique, behaviors, and more. When plumage differences exist between sexes or ages, they are treated independently — with distinctive views and comparison species shared per plumage.
The Quiz and Review section at the back of the book is a great way to use the skills and techniques shared in the preceding pages. A couple of additional quick-finder style indexes are also found towards the back of the book: warblers in flight and warblers in silhouette. All of this and much more make The Warbler Guide an outstanding family-only resource for birders looking beyond their general field guide. I give The Warbler Guide 5 Goldfinches out of 5.
Disclosure: This is my own original, honest review of The Warbler Guide, a copy of which was provided to me free of charge by the publisher.