Bird Book Review: Terns Of North America

A Photographic Guide

Review written by Chris Lotz on 30 March 2024

2023 Princeton University Press

This is a beautifully illustrated book with a great many truly superb photos of a charismatic group of birds – the terns (as well as the closely-related noddies and skimmers). It comprehensively covers all species of these occurring in North America. It claims to be the essential identification guide for these birds, and I do agree that it is a “must-have” book for anyone wanting to get a proper handle on the ID of this often-challenging group. The book presents many photos showing size and plumage comparisons between species, and of different plumages within the same species, that nicely supplement the identification information in more conventional field guides of North America. I do believe that photographic identification guides have their limitations. However, when combined with and used alongside field guides containing illustrations in the form of paintings (which are widely available as per the above link), it is a great recipe for successfully mastering any challenging bird group, such as terns.

The text, like the photos, is great. The text is extremely informative, not only for identification but also to provide facts (e.g., distribution, migration/movements, behavior and a lot more) about these incredible birds. I read in another review of this book that someone wanted range maps for each species, but these are easily available in conventional field guides and on eBird/Merlin, so they are in my mind not essential for this book that can complement these other guides.

I highly recommend this book for anyone from beginner to advanced birder. I also highly recommend it to those who just like learning more about our wonderful birds from the comfort of an armchair; it’s a beautiful and informative book.

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