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Birds of Prey of the East  
Wednesday August 8, 2018   |

Asking why birders need another field guide is like asking why diners return to the same three-star restaurant. You do it for the chance to experience something amazing and pleasurable. Paging through Brian Wheeler’s new field guide to Birds of Prey of the East is like enjoying a multi-course meal. I already have a couple of Wheeler’s raptor guides, so what could a new one possibly offer?  Imagine sitting down for your three-star meal and having the chef join you, elaborating on why they selected the spices and preparation techniques they did. The more you know, the better the meal.

This book can take you beyond just identifying raptors, it will help you savor them. The 72 plates are packed with original illustrations depicting the same position, side-by-side comparisons. One of my pet peeves are field guides that describe in the text a key field mark, but fail to offer an appropriate comparison in the illustrations – no issues with that in Birds of Prey of the East.

This guide also avoids another shortcoming of many new guides: Tiny images that aren’t helpful even with your eyeglasses on! Wheeler focuses on heads and tails, two critical features when studying birds of prey. The Northern Harrier plate, for example, features nine head paintings. Why?  Because that’s the kind of detail you need to distinguish a juvenile male from female in fall plumage! Expect this guide to entice you into a new level of raptor appreciation.

The range maps fill an entire page, providing great detail for the eastern United States. Photographs of representative habitats are sprinkled throughout the text. Wheeler uses layman’s terms for bird parts, rather than technical language – don’t worry about trying to remember the difference between remiges and rectrices.

The Bald Eagle plates are marvelous. As Bald Eagles become increasingly common in the east, birders have more and more opportunity to appreciate and age these raptors. Wheeler devotes five plates to the Bald Eagle, including one each for heads and tails. With this guide, you’ll finally be able to fill in the age data on your next eBird report!

And what about the every-day Red-tailed Hawk? I’m going to leave that one to my co-editor Paul Konrad to discuss in next week’s edition of The Birding Wire. I know he can’t wait to expound on the 12 plates and 47 pages on this favorite roadside raptor.

Review by Peter Stangel

For more information, please contact https://press.princeton.edu/titles/11291.html

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