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The Rom Field Guide to Birds of Ontario

by Janice Hughes

Ornithologist and author Janice Hughes understands the anxieties of the bird watcher. With little to distinguish closely related species other than slight variations of plumage and song, even experienced birders can be stricken with a condition Hughes refers to as “identification dilemma.” The ROM Field Guide to Birds of Ontario ($26.99 paper 0-7710-7650-9, 416 pp., McClelland & Stewart), published in association with the Royal Ontario Museum, aims at putting those anxieties to rest by providing a comprehensive Ontario bird guide that can fit into a coat pocket or backpack. The thick laminated cover and paper stock and stitched binding also ensure a level of protection from rain and other outdoor hazards.
The guide is prefaced with a list of tips for easier bird identification, including seasonal migration habits, an explanation of Ontario’s diverse habitats, and a key to reading the individual distribution maps included with each bird description. The individual “species accounts” include a remarkably clear photograph of the featured bird alongside a comprehensive description of its appearance, voice, habitat, behaviour, and frequency of appearance in a given area. A to-scale drawing of each bird – a feature in some birding guides – would have been helpful for quicker on-site identification, but its hard to imagine how Hughes could have fit any more features on the page.