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Books of Interest: Birds of Prey of the East

Books of Interest
By Jeff Wright

Birds of Prey of the East
Text and Illustrations by Brian K. Wheeler
Princeton University Press, 2018. Available in print and as an e-book.

This is a recently published field guide that is comprehensive and authoritative. It is classically organized for field use with extensive information on plumages, morphs, behavior, habitat, age classification, molt stage, flight, and full-page range maps. It supports field IDs and also is a reference to ID of birds in photos

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It is both a field guide and an in-depth reference for the hawks, eagles, vultures, kites, falcons, harrier, kestrel, merlin, osprey, and a bird of prey of the East that has yet to appear in our area - the Crested Caracara. Also included is a section on Western Species and Subspecies that are casual or accidental in the East.

There is a companion guide by the same author – Birds of Prey of the West.

With the rise of quality Birding APPS is there still a need for printed field guides? My answer is yes. A good field guide is a useful tool for expanding knowledge and to make a correct bird ID. This field guide is a “keeper” and fits into a pack or a pocket. It is a reference source on the great variety of birds of prey that frequent Coastal Virginia.

The plates contain exceptionally clear and detailed lifelike paintings of each species depicting age, sex, inflight and perched views as well as depictions of the head and tail feathers. All of the plates use a standard set of poses to aid comparisons. What is useful are the number of plates and supporting text that covers each subspecies and help with key field marks. For example, the segment of the guide covering the Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) is extensive as there are plates and accompanying text as well as detailed range maps for each of the many sub-species.

A guide of this quality is really a detailed exploration of a small set of birds that have prominence in our hearts and souls. Through this guide I hope to able to better identify the juveniles, 1-year olds, and adults when they are perched and when they are in flight. The book even supports the adventures of the ID process – color morphs, molts, albino, leucitic types, and accidentals.

A tip of one’s binoculars to Brian Wheeler for this exceptional guide. Clearly a life’s work as an illustrator for 72 plates and as an authority on Birds of Prey.

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