Book Review: “The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors”

CrossleyRaptorsWhen I heard sometime last year that a new Crossley ID guide was coming out in April, I was very excited, and even more happy to learn that it was a Raptor ID guide. I was hoping to win The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors by Richard Crossley, Jerry Liguori, and Brian Sullivan (Princeton University Press, April 2013) through the Princeton University Press contest in March, but then last month, my mom surprised me with the guide she had ordered through Amazon back in January. I’ve been able to read through the guide and it’s wonderful!

Raptor experts and co-authors Richard Crossley, Jerry Liguori, and Brian Sullivan have teamed up to create a great raptor guide filled with hundreds of colour photographs and very helpful text. Jerry Liguori, who is a photographer as well, has written two previous books on hawks — Hawks from Every Angle: How to Identify Raptors in Flight (Princeton University Press, 2005) and Hawks at a Distance: Identification of Migrant Raptors (Princeton University Press, 2011). Mr. Liguori has a great website — be sure to see his amazing photographs of raptors and other birds.

Brian Sullivan is the Project Leader for eBird, and photo editor for both the Cornell Lab’s Birds of North America Online, and for the ABA journal, North American Birds. Mr. Sullivan is also a co-author of the forthcoming Princeton Guide to North American Birds.

The raptor guide follows the same principle as previous books by Richard Crossley — that of pattern recognition or gestalt, instead of field marks.  I wrote a bit on that principle back in March in my review of Mr. Crossley’s Shorebird Guide. The raptor ID guide includes 101 color plates of all 34 species of diurnal raptors that regularly breed in Canada and the United States. And almost half of the book is filled with the species accounts and excellent range maps.

And just as in The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds, the photographs are very good, and the backgrounds and the amount of information are great. Even for advanced birders, raptors can be a tricky bunch of species to identify, and there are times when one can watch a raptor at a great distance or just see a silhouette without being certain about the species. So the plates, each with a variety of the same species at different angles and ages and in varying poses, are incredibly useful.

The first part of the book (more than half) is specific species plates, with each species getting at least one two-page spread; at the end of that section, there are also some multi-species plates, for a total of 101 plates. There are also a few multiple “mystery photo images” featuring a variety of unidentified species for readers to practice with (answers are at the back of the book). The second, smaller, part of the book includes detailed species accounts and range maps.

You would think with all the colored plates that the guide would be heavier and thicker, so I was very pleasantly surprised to find that it’s actually quite light and portable; the weight is helped by the binding, which is paper flexibound (turtleback) instead of a heavier hardover. If you’re planning a trip and you’re specifically going to watch raptors, this guide definitely deserves a place in your backpack or bag. I highly recommend this field guide!

You can buy it from your favorite bookseller or

The  American Kestrel plate is my favorite from the new guide,


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I thought I would just mention that Princeton University Press has some excellent titles on birds and nature: the Crossley guides and hawk books by Jerry Liguori mentioned above, and The Unfeathered Bird (which I just received and hope to review soon). If you are interested in some of their other books, you can find them in PUP’s “Birds and Natural History 2012” catalogue, available here as a PDF.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: “The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors”

  1. I have the Crossley’s Guide to Eastern Birds and I was somewhat disappointed by it. I found the pictures to be quite dark. The one page you posted certainly doesn’t look as dark.

  2. waves and waves of sandhill cranes came over edmonton yesterday mid afternoon, each waves had hundreds of birds in it, must have been thousands of birds. We’ll see if any more come today!

  3. Thanks for posting the link to Liguori`s website Charlotte.
    You mention some terrific hawk guides, anything by Wheeler finds its way onto my bookshelf!


  4. Pingback: “Crossley ID Guide to Britain & Ireland” Giveaway! | Prairie Birder

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