My first thought on hearing about the Birds of North America and Greenland by Norman Arlott was, “Who needs another bird guide to our region?” After spending a bit of time looking through the guide, I have decided upon the perfect person for this guide. Casual European birder, packing light and traveling across N.A. (possibly hitch-hiking) with no pre-determined route. See, the author wasn’t completely committed to updating the names and so some of the familiar looking species have interesting names associated with them- does Brünnich’s Guillemot sound like something you would like to add to your list? Well too bad, it’s actually a Thick-billed Murre. There are many idiosyncrasies that pop out when you are flipping through the book, some more distracting than others, but they all add up to a less-than-enjoyable read.
For the most part, the guide itself isn’t too bad. The illustrations are underwhelming but pretty good and it is fun flipping through species that you won’t find in the Sibley or Kaufman guides. The shape and postures of the birds is often a bit off but overall fine. There is very little text per species and each species just gets a couple of illustrations depending on sexual dimorphism so it ends up being a thin book. I just don’t see any real niche for this book to fill. If you want an excellent field guide to North America, look no further than Sibley or Kaufman. If you really need the extralimital species you should get a National Geographic.
Princeton University Press is coming out with more and more of their illustrated checklistswhich vary greatly in quality. Some areas of the world are in need of a good general field guide but for a region as bird-book saturated as North America, its questionable whether it was worth their effort.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Princeton University Press.