Among the world's most popular birds, hawks can be some of the hardest birds to identify. They're most often seen flying high above and at a distance.
In the first edition of Hawks in Flight, Pete Dunne, David Sibley, and Clay Sutton presented a holistic method of hawk identification, using general body shape, the way they move, and the places they are most likely to be seen.
This new edition of the book that Roger Tory Peterson called a 'landmark' integrates an array of carefully selected photographs, David Sibley's superb illustrations, and a clear, information-packed text and takes raptor identification to a higher level. This edition covers all of the raptors that breed in North America, including those with limited ranges in Florida, the Southwest, and Texas.
Picking up where its predecessor ended by including two decades of raptor identification refinement, Hawks in Flight summarizes and places in users' hands an identification skill set that used to take years to master.
Our Opinion: This new edition has all of the identification details and text of the original edition, completely overhauled and updated, now complemented by an array of superb color photos by a cast of the best bird photographers in the world. Beginning with a chapter on flight identification, the remainder of the book is organized by family, beginning with Buteos, to Accipiters, Falcons, Pointed-winged Kites, Northern Harrier, Eagles and Vultures, Crested Caracara, and Osprey, followed by Southwestern Buteos and Kin, Florida Specialties, and Regional Specialties. The final identification chapter covers Other Birds that Soar which could be confused for raptors. An incredibly useful bibliography and complete index round out the book.
Before discussing the text and illustrations, itís important to note that this is NOT a field guide in any traditional sense. Rather, itís a book to be used and studied at home.
The text contains what the authors claim is 'two decades of raptor identification refinement' (on the part of the authors), with the text covering all regularly occurring raptor species found in North America (north of Mexico). Unfortunately, the text is needlessly over-written - a characteristic of Pete Dunne - and could be improved by some additional ruthless copy editing (in other words, get to the point). Parenthetical literature citations are not included in the text thus making it impossible to know exactly where some of the information comes from. For example, I long ago used the term 'headlight' in my own raptor identification field guides to describe the conspicuous pale cere of the Broad-winged Hawk when seen approaching head-on. Although the authors of this book refer to this feature, they do not use my original 'headlight' term which is unique and helpful.
Because many raptors seen during migration (especially from raptor migration watch sites along the inland Appalachian ridges, and elsewhere) are observed from great distances with little or no color perceived, it is necessary to rely on shape and flight-style to make identifications. Moreover, and equally important, not every raptor one sees can be identified to species level. The text deals with many of these subtle characteristics.
The most significant difference between this new edition of Hawks in Flight and the first edition is the use of numerous color photographs rather than the black-and-white photos used previously. In addition, many more excellent pen-and-ink drawings by David Sibley add significantly to the overall value of the text.
Every North American hawk watcher and raptor enthusiast can benefit from reading and studying the basic information and illustrations contained in this book. Recommended.
-Reviewed by Donald S. Heintzelman, author of Guide to Hawk Watching in North America and Hawks and Owls of Eastern North America
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Year of Publication: 2012
Page Count: 335
Weight: 1.75 lb