It isn’t every day that so much hype surrounds the launch of a bird book. I have to admit that I was somewhat unsure of what to expect as the release date approached; nothing leads to more disappoint than when something gets overhyped. In this case, the buzz around Richard Crossley’s The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds turned out to be well earned in my opinion.
Probably the first everyone notices upon picking up this book is that it is huge. This was never meant to be a field guide. Crossley mentions his experience in British birding culture, where taking a guide into the field is looked down on. This book was intended to sit down and study before going out into the field. Each plate is packed with information, but you won’t find it in the text. Crossley starts off his introduction by declaring, “I don’t like text.” Instead, the important information on the birds is all in the carefully stitched together photographs- behavior, habitat and posture are all depicted in a way that has not been possible before. However, Crossley does not completely eschew text; the descriptive paragraphs at the bottom of the plates are full of character.
One important question that comes up when a new guide comes out is- who will benefit from this guide? I held up on writing this review for a little because I wanted to gauge the reactions from a broader group of birders. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Everyone that has flipped though the book seems to quickly catch on to the benefits of a layout like this. Several of the people I have shown this book to immediately went out and bought their own copy. This positive response has included the whole range of birders: from intense everyday birders to casual bird feeder watchers to researchers who don’t consider themselves birders at all. Everyone seems to get the point of the book immediately.
I think that the Crossley ID Guide will make birding more accessible and lessen the learning curve for many people because they can page through the book and see what birds look like in their natural environments under many different conditions. People new to birding will really be able to study birds before they see them and understand more than just what colors to look for.
Nemesis Bird says: Get this guide, you won’t be taking it out into the field but you’ll find it hard not to page through it each time you pick it up. There are a lot of good ID tidbits to find in the text and always something new to learn from the plates.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Princeton University Press.