Hummingbirds of North America: The Photographic Guide

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The Bottom Line

As befits a photographic guide, the more than 200 photos in Hummingbirds of North America: The Photographic Guide are clear and detailed with descriptive captions. The accompanying text is just as beautifully detailed, however, and includes a great deal of information about each hummingbird as well as overall trivia and background information about hummingbirds. Together, the photos and text create an exceptionally extraordinary guide to North American hummingbirds and a book that should be in every hummingbird enthusiast's library.

  • Large, clear photos provide superior visuals for hummingbird identification.
  • Covers all regular breeding and vagrant hummingbirds north of Mexico.
  • Extensive photo captions provide additional information.

  • Not all hummingbird species accounts include range maps.
  • Detailed language can be overwhelming to novices.
  • Lacks information on attracting or feeding hummingbirds for backyard birders.

  • Title: Hummingbirds of North America: The Photographic Guide
  • Author: Steve N. G. Howell
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication Date: January 20, 2003
  • Format: Paperback
  • Bird Artwork: Photographs
  • Dimensions: 8.5" (21.6 cm) tall, 5.5" (14.0 cm) wide, .5" (1.3 cm) thick
  • Page Count: 272
  • ISBN: 0-691-11603-2
  • Price: $29.95

Guide Review - Hummingbirds of North America: The Photographic Guide

Covering 24 hummingbird species, Hummingbirds of North America: The Photographic Guide is an excellent reference for both common and uncommon hummingbird species both regularly and rarely sighted in Canada, the United States and northern Mexico.

The inside of the front cover has a convenient table of contents for each species, but this book contains far more than just species accounts.

The 34-page introduction provides a comprehensive overview of hummingbirds, including a definition of a hummingbird, the taxonomy of different types of hummingbirds and identification tips. Several pages of bird topography images are large, highly detailed and well labeled with the parts of a hummingbird showing different postures for clear views. The language of the text throughout the introduction and the rest of the book can be academic and may be confusing for novice birders, but it is well written with contextual clues and explanations where necessary.

The species accounts of the hummingbirds are extremely detailed, covering not only appearance but also each bird's voice, habitat, structure, behavior, molts, hybrids and more. The exact amount of text covering each species varies, but more familiar hummingbirds – such as the ruby-throated hummingbird – have far more information presented.

Multiple photos are part of each species profile and frequently include both genders as well as juvenile bird images, though the photos lack pointers to highlight field marks. Even without the pointers, however, the generous size of the photos makes different identification marks and details clear, and detailed captions provide additional information. Where useful for comparison and identification, sketches of tails, wing shapes and profiles are also included.

Unlike most field guides that only include minimal text, the comprehensive accounts of each hummingbird species in this book are better studied as a reference rather than sorting through the abundant information in the field. Once birders are familiar with the book's format, however, it can become an invaluable field guide as well, and blank pages at the back of the book are handy for field notes.

With thoroughly detailed text and large, beautiful photos, Hummingbirds of North America: The Photographic Guide lives up to its reputation as a rich visual guide to some of the most beautiful birds in North America. Any birder who professes to enjoy hummingbirds is missing out if they don't add this book to their birding library.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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