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January 15, 2012 / Leslie

Weekend Birding: The Crossley ID Guide

The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds
by Richard Crossley

Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publish Date: February 20, 2011
Format: Hardback | 544 pages
Rating: 5 of 5

The Crossley ID Guide is a revolutionary concept in bird identification guides. The book uses composite photographs to show birds as they would actually be seen in the field. The Eastern Guide contains 640 scenes created from more than 10,000 of the authors own photographs showing birds in a wide range of views.

The book begins with a short introduction by the author where he explains how use the guide and a little information on birding and bird terminology. The remainder of the book, over 500 pages, are photographs combined into scenes. Instead of the usual drawings found in typical field guides, these are scenes created from thousands of different photos placed into a collage. Birds are show in various poses, in flight, in trees, on land or water, in the birds natural habitat.

This is a book for both beginning and experienced birders, and I would recommend it for new birders. Traditional guides often show a drawing or photo of a bird close up and in detail, but this isn’t how you see most birds. They are hopping around and flying away at many different angles. The composite photo gives you several different views of the bird, plus differences in plumage by age, sex and season. It also show the typical behavior of the birds by putting them in the proper context.

Showing the birds in context is invaluable. For example, the Dark-eyed Junco is a bird seen in the Eastern US in the winter, therefore the photos show the birds in snowy scenes perched on shrubs, trees or at bird feeders, where they are most likely to be found. There is also a photo of a Junco in flight showing its white underparts; when a Junco takes flight you almost always see a white flash. Another example, Cedar Waxwings are shown both perching and hanging upside down grabbing berries from tree, which is often where they can be found. In addition, species are identified as male, female, juvenile and immature. A young bird will sometimes look nothing like it’s parents for the first year.

Black-capped Chickadee, The Crossley ID Guide - page 372 (Click for larger view)

Below each photo is the common name, scientific name, a short description of the bird and a listing of the important field marks: size, shape, plumage. And lastly, there is a range map indicating year-round, breeding (summer) and winter ranges for each species.

For anyone accustomed to a standard field guide this will feel a little different at first. It didn’t take me long to be won over, this is the first book I reach for now when I need to ID a bird. This doesn’t take the place of a field guide which is smaller and something you would take with you on a birding trip. This is a fairly heavy, full size 7½ x 10 inch book.

I’ve been using this guide for a few months now and my conclusion is… I love it! I pair this with a small field guide like National Geographic and I’m good to identify most birds in the Eastern USA. New birders looking for a guide to get started should take a look at this book.
Additional samples of the photographs in the book can be found on the author’s website.


Leave a Comment
  1. Mary / Jan 15 2012 8:44 am

    Great review! I love that you can recommend it for beginner birders as well as experienced.


  2. BermudaOnion / Jan 15 2012 2:45 pm

    That’s the perfect book for you!


  3. Sheila (Book Journey) / Jan 15 2012 9:38 pm

    The book sounds wonderful!


  4. Alyce / Jan 16 2012 1:44 am

    That sounds fantastic! So many birds look alike, especially when seen from afar; having that context would be invaluable.


  5. Cathy / Jan 19 2012 2:12 am

    This sounds wonderful. I wish there was a Western bird edition– I have a feeling I’d wear it out!


    • Leslie / Jan 19 2012 2:26 am

      I should have mentioned that there is a Western edition in the works.


      • Cathy / Jan 19 2012 2:50 am

        Yeah… but I want mine NOW! LOL



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