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The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors

The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors

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The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors

The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors

Princeton University Press

The Bottom Line

Richard Crossley takes his innovative approach to bird identification to the next level with The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors. Along with the insights of co-authors and renowned raptor experts Jerry Liguori and Brian Sullivan, Crossley presents the 34 diurnal raptors of North America in stunning detail, combining conversational text and rich composite photographs to create an identification guide that birders of all experience levels can not only learn from but also enjoy, appreciate and read over and over again, rediscovering raptors on every page.


  • Composite photos show birds in authentic surroundings with views from every angle and distance.
  • Mystery pages offer opportunities to practice identification techniques, with answers and explanations provided.
  • Extensive text is conversationally written to be accessible for novice birders but includes enough detail and information to be useful for more experienced birders.
  • Place names included in some plate captions can provide inspiration for birding travel to see raptors.


  • Species plate images and detailed text accounts are grouped in separate sections of the book, though each includes page numbers for easy reference.
  • Extra birds on species plates are not always labeled, even if possibly confusing.


  • Title: The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors
  • Authors: Richard Crossley, Jerry Liguori and Brian Sullivan
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication Date: April 2013
  • Format: Softcover
  • Bird Artwork: Photographs
  • Dimensions: 10" (25.4 cm) tall, 7.5" (19.1 cm) wide, .75" (1.9 cm) thick
  • Page Count: 286
  • ISBN: 978-0-691-15740-5
  • Price: $29.95 (USD)

Review - The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors

Raptors can be tricky to identify, but even trickier are some of the elaborate guides available for raptor identification. That isn't the case with The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors, however. Like its predecessor, The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds, the raptor volume uses spectacularly arranged composite photos to show birds in their natural surroundings, with views from a wide range of angles, distances and postures. This gives readers a thorough and intuitive opportunity to study the birds, and when coupled with the expert text offering hints and tips with each photographic plate, provides an exceptional way to learn about raptors.

The 101 color plates include thousands of individual bird images covering all 34 species of diurnal raptors regularly seen in North America. While readers familiar with the first Crossley guide may recognize some individual birds in each photo, the plates themselves are new versions rather than duplicated from the previous book and each one is a work of birding art. The brief text that accompanies each plate includes the bird's common and Latin names, standard abbreviation, basic measurements (length, wingspan and weight) and notes about how to best identify the species.

Additional text for each species is found after the complete set of photographic plates. Each species profile features 1-3 pages of information about the bird, starting with a creative birding anecdote or description and including details such as:

  • Range map
  • Flight description, including wingbeats, how the wings are held and flying patterns
  • Overall size and shape, with proportion descriptions
  • Adult and subadult plumages as well as dimorphic genders as appropriate
  • Geographic variations for distinct subspecies
  • Molt pattern and timing
  • How to distinguish similar species
  • Migration timing and typical flyways
  • Vocalizations

While the more informative text is not next to the photographic plates, both the photo pages and the text include page numbers for easy cross-referencing between them. More easy reference is provided by the soaring bird composite image inside the book's front cover that serves as a visual table of contents for each species, as well as the brief glossary and index provided at the back of the book. A color map of North America as well as a range map legend is included inside the back cover.

The book's brief introduction includes some overall information about raptors, as well as how different raptors are related in similar families. The photo diagrams of raptor topography on pages 10-11 are especially helpful.

One of the book's most unique and most useful features is the 65 pages of "mystery" photo composites designed to provide a study and quiz opportunity for readers. Interspersed among the photographic plates, these unlabelled photos of multiple raptors allow readers to put what they've learned about raptor identification into immediate practice. The final mystery plates include even greater challenges with raptors in different lighting (backlit and at sunrise) as well as in black and white. Answers are provided at the back of the book, along with the relevant clues that lead to proper identification.

The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors is a book to study, to enjoy and to learn from. Though larger than a typical field guide and not intended strictly for field use, it is still small enough to accompany readers whenever and wherever they may spot hawks, eagles, falcons or vultures. Even more important than the identification of individual birds, however, this book is a teaching tool for both novice and expert birders, and as Crossley states in the preface, there are two lessons to be learned: "First, the best birders are the best because they have made more mistakes than everyone else – they have also learned from them. Second, it is the voyage of discovery that is most exciting."

With The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors, birders can continue to get excited about raptors as they discover more about them with every page.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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