This compact little guide to birds of the Midwest is part of a 3 guide series that also includes one for birds of prey and one for water birds. It is specifically targeted as an alternative to fold-out bird guides, so it is sized at just 4" wide by 7" tall, and is waterproof and tear-proof. I soaked my copy in water and let the water sit between the pages for a number of hours, and the guide did just fine. I tried unsuccessfully to tear a page as well. The spiral binding make the pages easy to turn, fold back or open flat, but the spiral isn't as convenient in a back jeans pocket as a folded guide would be.
Birds are arranged by color and located behind one of the seven color-coded tabs. Stan Tekiela's state guides are set up in a similar manner and that feature - tabs that quickly bring you to all the birds of a similar color - is always well received when shown to customers in our Wild Birds Unlimited shop. From experience, I know that color-coding is a main selling point to the backyard birder when buying their first field guide.
A Key on the first page explains that if the male and female of a bird species are different in color, they will each be shown in their appropriate color group. The guide also identifies birds that visit backyard feeders with a bird feeder icon.
Within each color grouping, birds are shown in size order, small to large. When you go to the color group in search of a bird, it is fairly easy to locate your bird since there are relatively few birds to look through, except for the brown birds. If the mate is a different color, finding it, and then flipping back and forth between the male and female picture is fairly easy, since there are only 18 pages showing birds.
On the bottom of each page is a size key, showing the bird in gray silhouette and listing the bird's length. I found this key awkward, with my eyes jumping back and forth as I tried to match the silhouette either by position on the page or by shape.
There are 113 species in the guide, and the selection of birds shown is where I have concerns with this guide. This guide identifies the Midwest as encompassing the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. I question the selection of a number of birds that are seen in only a very small portion of this range and are uncommon even then (like the Spotted Towhee, etc.) or those that are very irruptive and uncommon (like the Red Crossbill). They pass on the Common Grackle in favor of the Great-tailed Grackle, even though you'd be more likely to see the common in most of the range.
I also miss having an index.
I think this guide is targeted to an adult with a casual interest or curiosity of birds in their area. I feel it might leave them frustrated. It includes some birds that are unlikely to be seen by the casual watcher, and doesn't provide enough help in terms of description. A guide as basic as this should select birds on the most-likely-to-be-seen by the most likely users basis, in order to provide the greatest value. With that in mind, in my shop at least, I would likely recommend guides from the Tekeila Birds of State series instead.
BIRDS OF THE MIDWEST ADVENTURE QUICK GUIDES
Published by Adventure Publications
Comment on this post to have your name entered in a drawing to win my review copies of the Midwest Adventure Quick Guide Set: Birds of the Midwest, Birds of Prey of the Midwest, and Water Birds of the Midwest. Entries close December 31, 2013. Winner will be notified by email.
In accordance with Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR Part 255, it is disclosed that the copy of the book read in order to produce this review was provided gratis to the reviewer by the publisher.