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The Sibley Guide to Birds, 2nd Edition (Sibley Guides) Flexibound – March 11, 2014
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I have purchased the second printing of this second edition and I am very happy with the corrections. The richer colors add new life to Sibley's paintings, the text is clear and easy to read and the layout is much improved. Page space is better utilized in this edition, allowing Sibley's beautiful illustrations to take center stage. The only caution I add is that, to my knowledge, there is no way to know what printing of the second edition you are purchasing when ordering through Amazon.com.
The second printing has been released and should be available at brick & mortar book stores as well as a number of online stores. Hopefully Amazon will make a distinction between the first and second printings so that its customers can order the correct one. In case there is no way of knowing which printing you are buying from Amazon, I offer the following 2 options:
1) Go to a brick and mortar book store and physically purchase the guide. You will want to turn to the copyright page and look for "Second printing, July 2014". If it says "Second Edition, March 2014" then you are holding the first printing with the off colors and light font.
2) Go to an alternative online source such as Buteo Books, where the second printing is in stock, available for shipping and it is specified as the second printing. They even have the option to buy the first printing if one is so inclined.
When I obtain the second printing, I will update this review. So far, I have heard good things: the font is readable and the colors are more representative of what one would see in the field. I'm looking forward to this second printing!
A very annoying feature of this guide is the font. Not the size necessarily, but where many of the bird illustrations are WAY too dark, the font is way too light and lacks contrast. I keep tilting the book to get a better angle as if the text is catching or reflecting light but it's not. I have great eyesight, but I find the text a strain to read. Many of the birds are too dark and the colors are simply wrong. This shouldn't be a matter of opinion. The book betrays itself with statements like "brilliant red" on the scarlet tanager when it's obviously showing dark red; "flaming-orange throat" on the blackburnian when it's dark orange; "bright orange-red bill (never as dark red as many Caspians)" on the royal tern, well it's not bright and when you flip to the Caspian it's almost the same color! The orange-crowned warbler is green, the hooded warbler has a highlighter-yellow face, the baltimore oriole's orange is more like an american robin's red and there are many more disappointments. Some of the bird's faces are so dark that you can barely discern any detail. Sibley set the bar and his second edition does not measure up.
Update: Thank you to R. Matz for providing a link to an article from birdforum.net in which Sibley has stated in a Facebook correspondence "There are a few images (like the male Scarlet Tanager) that are obviously not OK and will be corrected in the next printing, but I think that involves a very small number of images. The font is another issue, and it's clear that too many are finding it hard to read. Tests are already being done to find a way to fix that in the next printing."
Improving the readability of the text will be a major improvement. Along with the male Scarlet Tanager, I hope Sibley will fix color issues with the following birds:
- Eastern and Western Bluebirds (too dark)
- Orange-crowned Warbler (too green)
- Blackburnian Warbler (make the orange "flaming")
- Baltimore Oriole (brighten the orange)
- Lighten some of the birds on which the facial features cannot be discerned
I look forward to the next printing (which should be available this September)and the fixes it will offer. A "Thank you" to B. Walker for contacting Knopf to find out that a fix is in the works and that we should have a new print available to purchase by late Summer.
Having now spent some time with several different field guides, a) I've found I greatly prefer illustrated guides over photographic, and b) I understand why Sibley's is so highly-regarded in the birding community. The detail, side notes, and attempt to capture as many details as possible without being overwhelming makes this field guide both very user-friendly and very accurate for most typical birds.
While no field guide can capture every aspect of every single bird (especially tricky ones like flycatchers, shorebirds, or sometimes-highly-variable juvenile or breeding plumages), Sibley's is better than anything else I've used when it comes to covering as many aspects of tricky birds as possible, and highlighting key marks that can be used to eliminate possibilities when nothing's an exact match at first glance.
Top international reviews
Sibley is for me the Birdwatcher Bible eager to identify the right bird, with the right name.
The print quality is optimal. A book always useful! ... The professional, the passionate and the beginner will find their answers to their enigmas.
this appeared to have caused a printing issue: the printer was forced to maintain heavy inking on the black color in order to maintain readable text. this caused a major problem with the illustrations because they appear to be over-inked and way too black.
À quand le Guide Sibley des oiseaux du Mexique, pour couvrir toute l'Amérique du Nord ?
Excellent livre. J'ai encore la version avec les mauvaises colorations à certains endroits, mais je les acheter plus pour l'information.