to the Birds of Alaska
Guide to the Birds of Alaska
by Robert Armstrong
Who must have this book: Anyone who is planning
a birdwatching trip to Alaska or any birding resident.
Who should have this book: Anyone who appreciates
birdwatching in Alaska.
is a very nice book filled with very nice pictures and information
about the birds of Alaska. I have been very happy with my copy and
have spent hours flipping through it, daydreaming about the birds
I will find on the next trip. It has become my Alaska birding life
list and all my new sightings are carefully recorded into its pages.
I think it make a fine addition to any birder’s library or it
would be a great gift or stocking-stuffer for a birdwatcher. But in
my honest opinion, I find it hard to say that this book is a “must
buy” for anyone who would be birding in Alaska. I would definitely
suggest that you look at Curtis West’s Birder’s Guide
to Alaska for several reasons.
Unfortunately the information in the book is not overly deep. The
pictures are nice, but with only one or two (rarely three) photos,
it does not work as a field guide. For that I would recommend
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America or the
National Geographic Field Guide To The Birds Of North America.
Also, the distribution charts are sketchy at best, the book would
have been much better served with range maps. So the book barely works
as a location guide (which Birder’s Guide to Alaska excels at.)
So the book is not a strong reference in the field and not an overwhelming
This is not to say that I am glad I have a copy. It has been nice
and I do refer to it from time to time. And it is a great life list
but for the field I recommend the books above, and for an Alaskan
Birding reference, definitely pick up the Birder’s Guide to
The book covers all 295 regularly occurring species with a one page
entry that include one to three photo illustrations, a brief description
and a distribution chart. The photos are nice, but photos are often
not the best type of illustration for field identification. The descriptions
cover field marks, behavior, similar species, voice and habitat. The
similar species paragraphs might be the most useful part of the book.
The distribution charts split the state into six regions and mark
abundance as Rare, Uncommon, and Common. Unfortunately dividing Alaska
into six regions is like trying to cover six states. A bird may be
marked as common in the South Central region of the state but in reality
may be limited to a band of coastline or alpine ridges. It would be
nice to have range maps rather than the charts.
At the end of the book, there is a section of all vagrant and casual
birds that have been recorded in the state. Each entry includes only
the name of the species and a four or five line description of the
bird. I feel like I am coming down hard on the book. It is really
a nice book, but it just doesn’t add a lot a value to planning
a birdwatching trip to Alaska or in the field.
Robert Armstrong has worked and lived in Alaska since
1960. He has written extensively about the natural history of Alaska
and has authored or co-authored books like Guide
to Birds of Alaska, The Nature of Southeast Alaska,
Alaska Birds, and Alaska Fish.
Other books by the Author