The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America by Donald & Lillian Stokes. First published 2010. As reviewed and pictured: Softcover, 792 pages.
The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America is an amazingly comprehensive new photographic guide. Over 850 species are covered, ranging from common feeder birds to rarities. Each species is represented by one to 11+ plus photos, depending on the need. For example, feral non-native parrot species may be represented by one image, while other species in the gull or hawk families may have many more.
The photos in the guide are stunning. Sorry to say my photos here are rather poor; they are provided to show how the pages are arranged. Each bird also has strong text, too, providing keys to identification with a nice emphasis on shape and key tips to identifying birds in flight. Special ID tips are provided for certain families too (for example, distinguishing phoebes and kingbird species). The provided range maps are clear and well-sized in proportion to the rest of the entry.
There are some great little extras in this guide, some of which I haven’t seen in other recent field guides. The birds are arranged in taxonomic order, of course, with each family color-coded using a bar on the bottom of each page to make it easy to quickly find bird families. The ABA code for each bird is shown after the species name. On each photo the plumage type is noted, along with the month and location the photo was taken. Subspecies are noted, when appropriate, along with ID tips (also when appropriate).
The front fold-out cover page has a quick-find index, plus keys to using quantitative shape for species identification. The very first page of the book is a “key to bird accounts” – how to use the guide – which I find extremely well-placed. Sometimes it’s maddening to search for range map color codes or the meaning of captions in the early pages of a book. I love this feature. The guide also comes with a supplemental CD of 600 bird sounds; these are helpfully noted in the species accounts. The final page of the book is an index of the bird songs, and the back fold-out cover page provides a quick and basic “parts of a bird” anatomy lesson.
The size of this “field guide” must be noted – it’s big. And it’s heavy, weighing in at nearly three pounds. While it may not be practical to lug this gorgeous field guide out on a hike, it’s a wonderful reference and a welcome addition to my library of guides. I have been using it at my desk for the past few weeks to look up birds for Birdorable and other blog posts or articles and I find it really handy to use. I give The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds 5 Goldfinches out of 5.