Review – The New Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern Region

Prepare for a regional shift, thermal birders . . . here comes the review of The New Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern Region by Donald and Lillian Stokes. As you might expect, there are many similarities between the “Western Region” version of the Stokes Guide that Tim reviewed a little while earlier, but as a primarily Eastern birder, I thought it would be helpful to throw in my two cents about this lovely new field guide tailored to my main area of birding adventures.

Using real images/photos in field guides can be hit or miss, but without a doubt Donald and Lillian Stokes knock it out of the park with the new Eastern Region guide. It goes without saying that each of the 2200 color photographs are of fantastic quality, and they are diagnostically helpful both in their detail as well as their coverage of the important I.D. marks for each species. And it is worth repeating again and again: Paul Lehman’s range maps are awesome.  Let’s just say I like my range maps like I like my kitchen knives: new and cutting edge.

What I really enjoyed about The New Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern Region   were the little details included on each plate. ABA Codes, important subspecies, and common hybrids can be found for each species, as well as location/date captions for each photograph. I find this to be a nice touch to a photo-based guide, as it gives a reassuring ‘real-world’ context for the species and identification of the birds. The major groups of birds even have “Identification Tips” boxes throughout the guide to provide an overview of general characteristics to look for (Spizella v. Ammodramus sparrows, for example). More difficult species also get a variety of pictures to demonstrate different views and field marks, and easily confused species are cleverly placed side-by-side to one another, such as Bicknell’s and Gray Cheeked Thrush.

As an eastern birder who frequents major gulling spots in the winter, I absolutely loved the coverage these difficult birds got in Stokes. Each age is given significant attention both in the photographs (standing and in flight – thank you!) as well as in the accompanying text. Trust me, you see a lot of crazy looking gulls around the Great Lakes, and this guide does an excellent job with the gull plates. If you live in the east, this feature alone is worth getting the guide for.

Don’t forget about the text! It is well written, informative, and to the point. Text may not be everyone’s favorite part about field guides, but it is well addressed in Stokes, particularly on the various plumages and life stages. The best part: all of the information is up to date, so you get the latest coverage on all species, including increasingly common vagrants. As with the Western Region guide, the Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs: Eastern Region makes an excellent audio companion to this field guide (available on Amazon).

About the authors – “Don and Lillian Stokes are widely recognized as America’s foremost authorities on birds and nature. Their books include the bestselling Stokes Field Guide to Birds, the Stokes Beginner’s Guide to Birds, the Stokes Nature Guides, and the Stokes Backyard Nature Books. They live in New Hampshire and Georgia.”

More on this guide from Little, Brown and Company –

“The culmination of many years of research, observation, and study, the THE NEW STOKES FIELD GUIDE TO BIRDS: Eastern Region is factually, visually, and organizationally superior to any other photographic field guide available.

This easy-to-use guide features 545 North American bird species and more than 2,000 stunning color photographs. And yet it’s portable enough to fit in your pocket! The photographs cover all significant plumages, including male, female, summer, winter, immature, morphs, important subspecies, and birds in flight. The guide includes:
* the newest scientific and common names and phylogenetic order* special help for identifying birds in flight through important clues of behavior, plumage, and shape* detailed descriptions of songs and calls* important behavioral information and key habitat preferences* the newest range maps, detailing species’ winter, summer, year-round ranges, and migration routesWhether you are a novice or experienced birder, this new Stokes guide will take your birding to the next level.”

The New Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern Region will be available on March 26, 2013, from Little, Brown and Company for $19.99. Be sure to check it out!

Disclosure – Little, Brown and Company kindly provided us with a review copy of this book.