Birds of Canada is a treasure, with over 1000 full-colour images, and 512 pages covering over 600 species. Birds don’t respect political boundaries, and call the entire continent home. While the information in this book covers all of North America out of necessity, unlike other North American field guides, it does not list species we will never see here. No need to flip through hundreds of extraneous species found only in Texas or Florida. These are the birds we can expect to see in our own country.
Full page profiles cover 435 of the most commonly seen Canadian species; quarter page profiles cover an additional 30 rare species such as Eurasian Wigeons; and a chart lists accidental visitors, including where they might be seen in Canada.
The full page species profiles also contain information not found in other bird guides. Their conservation status in Canada is listed at the bottom of the page, although I could find no reference as to which authority they are citing.
One of the most useful elements – particularly for sparrows and warblers – is the Similar Species box. Colour photographs, complete with field marks, identify birds that closely resemble the bird featured on that page. The profile for the Lincoln’s Sparrow, for example, lists the Song Sparrow as being larger overall with coarser streaking, and the Savannah Sparrow as having a yellow stripe above the eye.
Flight patterns are also included for each bird. Additional captioned photographs show the bird in its typical habitat, or exhibiting typical behaviour. Colour-coded bands on the outer edges of the pages are arranged by family, making it easy to quickly search by flipping through the pages.
This book would be invaluable in identifying that new bird while in the field, except for one thing – no one is going to take this book on a bird watching trip. It measures 7.5 x 11” (19 x 28 cm) and weighs 3.5 pounds (1.6 kg). No one I know is going to lug that much weight around in addition to binoculars, scopes, cameras etc.
The wealth of information on evolution, anatomy, migration, courtship and mating, nests and eggs make this book more of an encyclopedia than a field guide.
Whether it is a field guide, an encyclopedia, a guidebook or a handbook, however, the Birds of Canada book now has a very special place on my bookshelves. If you’re a Canadian interested in birds, it should be on yours too.
Birds of Canada
David M Bird, Ph.D.ed
Published by Dorling Kindersley, and available on their website