Great Plains Natural Science Society


The Prairie Naturalist

Date of this Version


Document Type



The Prairie Naturalist 47:62–63; 2016


Published by the Great Plains Natural Science Society. Used by permission.


George Armistead and Brian Sullivan have written a book whose aim is to provide birders with a solid foundation upon which to develop better birding skills. They advocate a more holistic approach to bird identification than simply looking at a set of predetermined field marks. To that end, their approach combines traditional field identification approaches with behavioral and habitat cues, as well as natural history, to broaden bird identification skills. This is not the first book to make a case for looking at bird identification more broadly, although their specific approach seems unique. The authors offer constructive criticism of “traditional” field guides that focus on a relatively few signature field marks, thereby causing birders to avoid understanding birds in greater detail. As an ornithologist and birder, I certainly appreciate birds far beyond the basic field identification challenges. The natural his- tory of birds is fascinating, and we still have much to learn! But I wonder, is this field guide the answer? Probably not. A book covering all North American birds, modeled after Better Birding, might run into the thousands of pages and would hardly be usable in the field.