US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in The Prairie Naturalist 29(1): March 1997.


This photographic identification guide covers more than 530 species of birds that regularly occur in the western half of North America. It is slightly larger than most field guides, including the popular National Geographic Society's Field Guide to the Birds of North America, which is continental in coverage. Nonetheless, it is small and sturdy enough to conveniently carry in a jacket pocket or backpack. The field guide begins with a short section on how to use the book; the bulk of the book consists of species accounts. Each species account occurs on one page (a few species are jointly covered) and includes one to four color photographs (ranging in size from 3.5 X 5.0 cm to 7.5 X 10.0 em), a species description, a distribution map, and brief notes on feeding, nesting, behavior, habitat, vocalizations, and population trends. All birds in the pictures are oriented in the same direction to simplify comparisons. Species descriptions are brief and emphasize key features with boldface type. Symbols are provided for species that use bird feeders or nest boxes. Interspersed among the individual accounts are several "learning pages" for the more challenging bird groups, including hawks (in flight), shorebirds, gulls, flycatchers, warblers, and sparrows. A glossary, photograph credits, and a general index complete the book. A color tab index and an alphabetical index provide quick access to general bird groups.