Earlier this year, I got my hands on a copy of Birds of Europe: Second Edition (Princeton Field Guides). This review is part two of two; the first part is here.
Back in April, when I first looked at The Birds of Europe, I had high praise for the illustrations, species text descriptions, and the family overview pages. After using the guide in the field, I stand by this initial assessment.
During that initial review, however, I did have some concerns, addressed below. Although our visit to the Netherlands was not a birding holiday, we were able to spend a couple of days out, and I did get to use the book to help me with identifying birds.
Concern: "One thing I miss in this guide is a similar visual summary."
My concern here was that I use the visual summary provided in Sibley a lot. I'm talking about the first page of a family, for instance the two-page overview of warblers that precedes the individual species descriptions. I tend to use the summary pages in place of the index, because I can rather quickly page to the section of the Sibley I'm looking for. And because I'm forever looking at the same stuff: warblers; sparrows; raptors; ducks; etc. Although the taxonomic order of the Birds of Europe is similar, I needed to use the index to find the family of birds I was looking for, just because I wasn't familiar with the book. For this short trip/use, I didn't mind. And if I was going to be using the guide for a longer period, I think I would miss the convenience of a visual-type summary page.
Concern: "The book is also lacking a quick (one- or two-page) index, but I can live without this feature."
This was no problem while I was using the book during our birding excursions. The index is nearly 20 full pages, and includes common and taxonomic names. Sub-entries are indented and the text is clear so I didn't have any trouble using it to quickly find what I was looking for.
Concern: "The thick paper cover is not too much sturdier than the average paperback; I can imagine a well-used book will quickly begin to show its age [...]. My review copy has only been traveling around my office for a couple of weeks and the corners are already starting to fray."
A totally needless worry, so far. The book got more wear moving around my office, somehow. I carried it into the field in my little book bag and took it in and out many times, including in the howling wind and rain. It's in fine shape. Sturdier than it first appears, I suppose!
So there you have it. There are a lot of things to love about this book, but the the fine illustrations really stand out, and the detailed yet familiar species descriptions are outstanding. I give Birds of Europe 4.5 Goldfinches out of 5.