During my weekly 15 minute Facebook visit I notice there’s always someone asking for ID help. I know this has been brought up on every bird forum and listserv ever, but why don’t people offer a guess to the species? And why they think it’s that species. I have six words for those people – Field Guide, Buy One, Know It.
They might answer they rely on an on-line or electronic guide. But the problem is it’s tough to compare similar species. To all those people I recommend getting a good field. And learn it.
How well do you know your field guide?
Here is a test.
Hold your field guide in your hand. Get your phone stopwatch ready.
How long does it take to find European Starling?
Now try again with Barn Owl?
And Barn Swallow?
I choice those species because they’re in almost every field guide.
Here are my times for the following field guides (minutes and seconds):
|Sibley Eastern NA||Birds of Europe||Birds of East Asia|
As seen I know my Sibley Eastern guide. I don’t know the Birds of Europe. And sort of know Birds of East Asia. The reasons:
- I’ve used the Sibley Eastern guide for years and know it.
- I obviously don’t know the arrangement of families of the Western Palearctic – Old World Warblers and the like. Starling is farther back than I expected, and they are not with Bulbuls.
- The Birds of East Asia was published in 2009 and follows the taxonomic order I’ve used. But would I know where the Babblers are located? Nope.
The point isn’t about speed but knowing your field guide.
The speed part demonstrates a good feel on where species are located.
Back to the Facebook point. A little study starting with the Families listing at the field guide’s beginning will pay dividends.
A side note. I’m beginning to support field guides being sorted by color and habitat. With the changes to the taxonomy order and more coming, I’m not sure using taxonomic order is the right thing.