The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition on the shelves today

Sibley second edition cover

Sibley second edition cover

It’s been 15 years since the original The Sibley Guide to the Birds came out and, in its own way, revolutionized the birding field guide. Today, the second edition hits the streets.

As press materials for the release says, the birds haven’t changed, but the book has to come degree. The second edition includes more than 600 new paintings and adds 111 rare species. It also includes tips on finding species in the field.

In his own words, from a media release: “The plan for a revised edition was driven mostly by my own ideas about things that I wanted to change. I thought the text could be improved, to make more direct comparisons between challenging species and to include information about status and habitat. And I wanted to revise the artwork.”

I will write much more about this book in the coming weeks. David Allen Sibley is touring New England, and beyond, to promote the book. I will get to sit down with the author later this month and pick his brain about the new edition. Til then I will delve into my copy and compare it with the original. I’ll let you know what I think. In the meantime, if you have the new edition or get it soon, let me know what you think.

For the Birds column: Greenberg to speak about Passenger Pigeon book at Yale

Contributed image Cover of Joel Greenberg's "A Feathered River Across the Sky."

Contributed image
Cover of Joel Greenberg’s “A Feathered River Across the Sky.”

Here’s an excerpt from my latest For the Birds column, which will be in print in The Hour tomorrow. Full story is available online now, click on link below.


Joel Greenberg says the story of the Passenger Pigeon is unique in three ways: the species’ sheer abundance; its vast flocks; and its rapid descent to extinction.

To expand on that a bit: The Passenger Pigeon likely numbered in the billions in the mid 1800s. Its flocks were so monumentally large that naturalist John James Audubon wrote that a single flock darkened the sun for three days. Finally, the species went from billions of individual birds to zero in matter of about 40 years.

Greenberg is the author of “A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction,” which was published in January by Bloomsbury USA. He is also working on an accompanying documentary entitled “From Billions to None.”

Species in peril today are protected by various laws and, for the most part, have the human race rooting for them to survive. That was not the case with the Passenger Pigeon.

“Hunters, instead of saying ‘let’s lay off a bit,’ took the other attitude,” Greenberg said. “They said ‘this bird is disappearing so I’m going to kill as many as I can before they are gone.’ There were a handful of individuals expressing concern, but not many.”

But, Greenberg points out, …

Click here for the rest of the column.