I've been asked by several friends recently to recommend a field guide for identifying birds in their yard and in the field. It's been several years since I've written about guides, so I figured this was a good time. I already knew which books were the favorites among most serious birders, so it was a "no-brainer."

National Geographic's Field Guide to the Birds of North America and The Sibley Guide to Birds are probably the most used and loved. I know my copies are well-worn and I depend on them for much of my research.

The other day I ran across a real "gem," Birds of Oregon by Roger Burrows and Jeff Gilligan. From the moment I picked this book up, I haven't been able to put it down! But I must tell you the "good news-bad news" first.

Unlike the guides referenced above, this book covers only the birds you are likely to see in Oregon. It won't do you much good in Texas or Florida. And, if you happen to see a bird that is really off course and shouldn't be in our area, this book may not help.

Now for the good news. Unlike most other field guides I've seen, this book gives a brief overview of the bird, such as who named it, its peculiar habits, and other interesting information. Also, each species has its own page with a large, full-color painting, range map, and description — including size, status, voice, and the best places in Oregon to see the bird.

This guide has by far the best paintings I've ever seen. They are large, precisely colored, with incredible detail. I've always preferred paintings over photos in field guides because photos don't always illustrate the way the bird should look. They can be influenced by shadows and subtle differences in plumage and posture among individual birds.

The front of the book has a quick reference guide, tips on birding, and a list of Oregon's top birding spots, including precise directions to each location. The back of the book even has a checklist where you can mark off bird species you've seen.

I would highly recommend this guide to anyone who is just getting started birding, to those who will probably bird mainly in Oregon, or to anyone who would enjoy a really great reference book to add to their collection.

The guide has what appears to me as a vinyl cover and is about average size for field guides. It retails for $21.95 and would make a fine gift. I found it at Wildbirds Unlimited in Medford, but it should be available at other stores, as well.

Birder's Quiz Answer: You've spotted an Orange-crowned Warbler, usually the first of the "wood warblers" to visit our area in the spring. The field mark that sets these birds apart from most others is their "lack" of bold field marks. They are just little yellow birds, plain but distinct.

Richard Cronberg is a birding enthusiast and photographer who lives in Central Point. Write him at P.O. Box 4283, Medford, OR 97501.