The U.S. birding community is all abuzz after 14 years of the release of his first edition of David Sibley’s 2nd Edition of The Sibley Guide to Birds. And that has got me thinking about field guides. Do I need another field guide? And if so why?
Just how much money do I need to spend on field guides? I have used Sibley’s smaller Eastern North America Field Guide as my main source since I started birding. And for certain things I have switched to the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of NA. I also own the Big Sibley, Western NA Sibley, the bigger NG Complete Birds of NA, and the Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of NA. Plus field guides to Costa Rica, Australia, and Europe. And then there are specialty books on sparrows, warblers, etc.
So how many more field guides/books does one person need? The more I birded the less I used field guides until I’m at the point I no longer carry one in the field. Instead I rely on describing anything I find interesting into my voice recorder and then check the field guides when I get back to the car or home. And then I basically just use a couple – Sibley’s or Stokes. Sibley’s for his fine drawings and Stokes for their fine photographs. From the comparison and contrast from those two sources I can usually answer my questions.
So how would buying the new Big Sibley’s benefit me?
First, I am familiar with the taxonomic order in the old version. Second, there haven’t been that many splits or consolidations that would throw me off. Third, I never used the range maps in the first edition. I check the NG which are better. Fourth, I thought the drawings in the first edition were top-notch. And lastly, and probably the most important, my book shelf is already full.
So besides just having the new edition of Sibley’s I can’t think of a good reason to update. For now I will probably keep my money and buy a field guide to South Africa or the Far East so I can dream of birds far away.
But if you have a compelling reason for me to purchase the new Sibley’s I would love to hear it.