Published April 23, 2010, in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.
2014 Update: There’s the field guide I take into the field, and then there are all the others on the shelf, which I consult when I get back.
By Barb Gorges
Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Eastern and Central North America, 6th edition, by Roger Tory Peterson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010.
Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Western North America, 4th edition, by Roger Tory Peterson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010.
Two years ago I wrote a review of the new Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America, which combined and updated Roger Tory Peterson’s eastern and western guides.
There were many improvements to the classic field guides to be excited about, but it is a larger book, harder to stow in a jacket pocket.
This spring Houghton Mifflin Harcourt presents the smaller Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Western North America (493 pages) and the Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Eastern and Central North America (445 pages).
I guess the publishers decided it was easy enough to cater to both birders who like the entire continent in one book and birders who like the regional field guides, having only to distribute the right species to the right book.
The boundary between the two new guides is the 100th Meridian, that famous and historical demarcation between civilization and the Great American Desert which vertically bisects the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas and Texas, and cuts off the Oklahoma panhandle.
Unfortunately, unlike Sibley’s regional field guides, the individual species range maps cut off half the continent so you can’t get a feel for continent-wide distribution when a species has one.
Cheyenne is frequently visited by eastern warblers during spring migration. While the western guide has their pictures and descriptions, no range maps are provided to give you an idea how far away their normal range is.
The species accounts are not identical between guides. For the house finch, the combined field guide lists Cassin’s finch (a western species) and purple finch (an eastern species) under the subheading “Similar Species.” The eastern guide lists the purple finch but the western guide lists nothing, though it does mention both purple and Cassin’s in the descriptive notes.
If you live out here in the middle of the continent and you want a Peterson guide to birds, famous for its trademarked field identification system and Roger Tory Peterson’s classic illustrations, go for the big one, only $6 more than the $20 western guide. You’ll get a more complete view of our birds and be able to use it wherever you travel in North America.