Sunday, March 31, 2013

Crossley Does It Again with The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors

The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors
Richard Crossley, Jerry Liguori & Brian Sullivan
c. 2013 Crossley Books
Princeton University Press
286 Pages

Release Date: April 2013

Internationally-known birder Mr. Crossley raised the bar in the world of birding reference works with 2011's The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds.  Now, Crossley and his well-credentialed cohorts have taken aim at raptor identification for the latest installment of the series.  Raptors - what non-birders refer to generally as "hawks" or "buzzards" - can be very difficult for even experienced birders to properly identify.  (Spotting the differences between a Sharp-shinned Hawk and a Copper's Hawk readily comes to mind.)  While this book can't make one an expert in raptor identification without the necessary years (or decades) of field observation, birders of any level will find both something to like and something to learn on the pages of this ID guide.  

Each of the 34 diurnal raptor species found over the entirety North America are featured here, with hundreds of photographs documenting the various stages and morphs of each subject. If you're looking for an image of a second-year male Northern Harrier, or an immature female Prairie Merlin, you've come to the right place.  Crossley presents each species by using "plates" which superimpose many images on a single habitat-appropriate background, which makes comparisons of stages, morphs, sexing and similarities to other species much easier.  The book also contains numbered, unidentified images that serve as tests of knowledge with an answer key and explanations at the rear of the volume.  This work is much more than photographs and identification drills, however.  Each species has a detailed description down to its wingbeats and molt, along with a habitat distribution map.  If you live in New Jersey but want to photograph a Zone-tailed Hawk, you'll be pointed in the right direction.   

You don't need to be a specialist to enjoy this book, despite the amount of information presented. Everyone from the backyard birder to those of us who plan expeditions to see certain species can benefit from the knowledge painstakingly compiled by the authors here.