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The National Geographic Field Guide to Birds of North America first appeared in 1983. Now in 2008 it is also available in East and West editions. Conversely, Roger Tory Peterson's classic guides (East since 1934; West since 1941) after five and four editions, respectively, have finally been slightly revised and combined to cover all North America in Houghton Mifflin's recently published Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America. Regional or national guides, which are best? Most advanced birders prefer guides that cover all of North America, while inexperienced and occasional birders like regional guides, which are easier to handle, with fewer birds. These new National Geographic Society (NGS) guides employ minimal revision from the fifth edition of the North American volume. The range maps are slightly larger. The paintings, text, and maps are all of high quality and are suffused with the expertise and current, vast knowledge of the highly respected authors and their wide network of authoritative consultants. The NGS guides invest heavily in detailing subspecific (race) differences and include Latin trinomials, more than most lay birders want to know. But birds in life are complicated and defy the oversimplification inherent in most guides. The NGS basic guide includes all North American species, even the rarest, in contrast to any other guide. Whether to choose a regional or continental edition is a matter of personal preference. Highly recommended either way.
—Henry T. Armistead