The Bald Eagle’s head tucked in the corner of the large D on the cover of The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors, had a beckoning look that encouraged me to immediately explore what treasures were on the inside pages.
My first stop was the preface, which allowed me to understand what the authors hoped the reader would take away from using the book and to get the authors’ perspectives on how to use the guide. “The most important thing is to enjoy the book,” Crossley encourages the reader.
Each of the plates showcases the species against photos of locations where it might be found, as though you are looking out a window watching the birds go about their business, both close at hand and further away. If there are regional differences or coloration variables, additional pages portray these unique characteristics. Adult and juvenile pictures are labeled, but inter-mingled as they are in nature. The personality of the bird is captured through its poses and with descriptive language, e.g. Black Vultures are described as ‘shy and wary when breeding, but pugnacious and fearless at roadside carrion and around human settlements and landfills.”
After studying a page, Crossley suggests the reader look away from the page and ask “What did I see?” On other plates, the reader is encouraged to test his/her observation skills by identifying and aging ‘look-alikes’ at rest, in flight, and at varying distances.
Additional information, e.g. flight style, size and shape, plumage, geographic variation, molt, similar species, hybrids, status and distribution, migration and vocalization are included on each species in a separate section. Normally, I don’t like to use field guides where the plates and descriptive information is separate. However, this ID Guide is not primarily for determining what bird a person is seeing, but more about expanding the birder’s knowledge base about a particular species to broaden their enjoyment and appreciation – and to gain skills in differentiating similar species when they encounter them in the field. .
Many volumes on raptors seem to assume that watching this group of species happens primarily at hawk watch sites during migration. For me, my greatest enjoyment of raptors comes from watching them at home in their breeding or wintering territories – perched in trees and on fence posts or cliffs. This will be a book I will turn to time and again to study those that are spending time in my area or to internalize information that will be helpful when I travel.
I would heartily recommend this book to any birder or nature-lover who wants to get to know better the birds they encounter.