Ever since I first heard of this book I have been coveting it. A month ago I finally got my hands on a copy and I must say that I just love it! The Crossley ID Guide to Eastern Birds by Richard Crossley is a whole new approach to bird guides. I like how each species is displayed in an illustration showing the bird’s most likely habitat. I also like that he shows you several views of the bird from different angles and in different plumages where this applies. While the book is large and not something that I would ever take out to the field with me, it is something to have on hand at home where you can compare your photos and field notes with what you saw in the field or in the yard. Beneath each illustration is a description of the bird as well as the four letter alpha code which many bird guides lack. For someone who is just learning these codes it is hugely useful and convenient.
Each entry also has the range maps for the species. I really appreciate this especially since I have just moved back east and need to learn all my warblers! I have already consulted the guide several times as new migrants come it. I used the guide earlier this week to identify a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk that flew into the yard and landed in a tree. One detail I noticed about the hawk was the way it looked like it was furrowing its brow in deep thought. When I consulted the guide Crossley mentioned in his description that, on juvenile birds, “pale areas above and below eyes give studious look.” This description clinched the ID for me! Plus, his illustration matched what I saw and what I photographed.
At the beginning of the guide are pages with all the bird species laid out in photos that compare relative size, which I feel is a useful feature. If I have one criticism, other than size, it is that he does not include wingspan along with length on bird species where it would be appropriate, like eagles, hawks, geese and swans. I find this kind of information useful especially where teaching children about birds and it would be nice to have it readily available at your fingertips. But, overall, I would say that this has become one of my favorite books and a go to guide as I learn all my eastern migrants.
Though the size of the book its large, it is also what makes the illustrations so beautiful and so useful. If it were any smaller the visual impact would not be the same. With that being said, you are very likely to see me sitting outside on my back porch with book in hand and binoculars and camera nearby as I wait. Come on warblers! I am ready for you!
Check out the Crossley ID Guide for yourself!