The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds by Richard Crossley is a remarkable bird guide indeed. This is the first time I have used a Crossley Guide and it is just simply wonderful in its design.Â It is unique in its approach to helping people identify birds, no matter what level of birder you are from beginner to expert, you will find this guide useful. While most bird field guides use the majority of space to give information detailing the specific physical traits of each bird, they often have one or two photographs of each bird. They rely heavily on detailed physical description for identification. This is good but it is not always easy to correctly identify birds this way, particularly when you are just learning to enjoy birding. Let me share a little story with you about one of my first bird identification experiences.
I happened upon a very aggressive owl who kept swooping at me, lunging even, right in the woods behind my apartment. Even as a novice, I figured the owl was probably nesting or had babies and didn’t want me near its nest. At the time, I was fascinated to be so close to this amazing owl. I took pictures of it and got identification books so I could identify it. From all physical descriptions it seemed to be a Spotted Owl. I read all about it and saw the few small pictures in the guides and the bird I saw looked a lot like this Spotted Owl in the guides and the physical descriptions matched. After posting it to the a website and going on excitedly about this rare Spotted Owl in my backyard, some more experienced birders informed it was actually a Barred Owl. The two descriptions,
Barred Owl — 48 cm in length, females slightly larger. Round head, dark eyes, lighter spotted face, brown and gray.
Spotted Owl — 45 cm in length, females slightly larger. Round head, dark eyes, lighter spotted face, brown and gray.
And their pictures…
As a beginner birder, could you immediately tell the difference from one description and one small picture (shown bigger here) when looking out in your backyard while the bird is perched on a tree or flying at you? It is not as simple as we’d like it to be. But The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds makes it so very easy with a wide variety of pictures showing the birds in their natural habitat, at different distances, perching, flying, swimming, etc. There are more than 10,000 photographs of over 660 species of birds in this book and virtually all of the photographs were taken by the author himself! It also includes a succinct description of physical characteristics and habitat, which is important but not the main focus.
Here is the page for the Barred Owl in the The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds (unfortunately this particular book doesn’t have the Spotted Owl in it because it is a guide to birds of the Eastern United States, whereas I and the Spotted Owl live in the Western United States.
Do you see how the picture shows the bird perching from the front, from the back and flying? And this is one of the photos that have only a few angles, many have several! It is really perfect for identifying birds without having to go to several different sources or looking them up in one book and then having to confirm through several websites just to be certain. It cuts out the extra research needed to confirm the identification—you can identify the birds with just this guide.
And as if this unique, simple approach were not great enough, The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds also has three indexes, one of which is very creative and useful. In the back there are two indexes categorizing the birds both by their scientific name and their common name.Â The best index is in the very beginning, a picture index of every bird! It shows the bird flying or standing in categories of Swimming, Walking, and Flying Waterbirds; Upland Gamebirds; Raptors; Miscellaneous Larger and Aerial Landbirds; and songbirds. Small index photographs of the various birds for easy identification with the shorthand code for each and the page number you can see more of it. This makes it so easy to thumb through and recognize the bird(s) you’ve seen right in the front of the book. I love it!
This ID guide is really practical in many ways and will definitely make identifying birds so much easier. It is definitely unique in its approach and the author clearly loves what he does and it shows through in every aspect of this guide. It is a guide all people living in or visiting the Eastern United States should have. I can’t wait for the Crossley ID Guide to Western Birds (in production)!
More photos of the book:
You can see more about this book at the author’s website, Crossley Books: Turning Birding UPSIDE DOWN.