As I reviewed it over at the Birdchaser blog, The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America is the newest and biggest guide to birds, but one place that it isn’t that useful is with exotic birds in the urban jungle. I’m not sure why, but the Stokeses limited their book to birds accepted as established by the American Birding Association. That means that dozens of species of birds commonly seen in urban areas–especially in California, Texas, and Florida are not included.
Peach-faced Lovebirds are common in the Phoenix area, and will probably be accepted as established by the ABA soon. Ditto for Black-hooded Parrots in south Florida. But they aren’t included here, along with 20 other exotic parrots illustrated in the Big Sibley guide. Five parrot species are included (Monk Parakeet, Budgerigar, Green Parakeet, White-winged Parakeet, and Red-crowned Parrot. But there are dozens of other species in the urban parrot flocks are among the most conspicuous wildlife spectacles in many cities and neighborhoods, so this is an unfortunate bias against exotics here.
Same thing for exotic waterfowl. While Sibley illustrates eight exotic species and four domestic waterfowl breeds commonly found in urban parks, the Stokes guide only includes feral Mallards and Muscovies–as well as White-cheeked Pintail which is occasionally seen as an exotic, and sometimes as a presumed natural vagrant. No sign of the myriad domestic geese and other waterfowl that grace parks and ponds across the country
No big deal, right? Except these are some of the most commonly seen birds in American cities, and Stokes leaves people unable to identify them. As surveys show, more people travel a mile or more to view waterfowl than any other birds. And I’d venture to guess that many of those ducks and geese aren’t in the Stokes guide. Just this week I had a student report a Ross’s Goose to me in New Jersey. Turns out to be a common domestic goose–it just wasn’t illustrated in his bird guide so he went with the closest thing he could find illustrated.
I’m a fan of the new Stokes guide in many ways, but seriously wish they had included the exotic birds that are among the most likely birds that many people are going to be see in parks and other environs in American cities.