The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds is undoubtedly the most innovative avian reference guide to come along in many years. In fact, the guide represents such a bold leap forward that reading it makes one wonder what the future of bird guides holds. This is why we asked readers to share their views on the NEXT big step in bird guide design, philosophy, or technology as part of our Fun, Fun, Fun Crossley ID Guide Giveaway. This is the second entry in a three-part series discussing those predictions:

Richard Crossley subscribes to a tradition of field identification that values GISS (General Impression of Size and Shape) over physical field marks. Understanding each species’ typical behavior, profile, and peculiarities leads to quicker, more accurate IDs, or at least that’s what these oracles into the future of field guides believe:

I can see more guides utilizing the “giss” concept.  It would also be interesting if future guide use eBird for their range maps.

The future of guides includes giss as Crossley has demonstrated.  Also showing flight patterns would be helpful.

It would be nice to have more guides focus on giss like the Crossley guide.  Some things that would be helpful include flight pattern (ex. undulating), flocking behavior, walking vs. hopping, tail wagging, etc.

I can see future guides duplicating Crossley’s style.  He certainly has found a niche in ID guides.

Crossley has done an amazing thing.  It’s about time a guide focused on giss.  I see more guides being developed focusing on this.  I’d also like to see flight styles, something like the Golden Guide Birds of North America.

I think future field guides will use giss such as Crossley.  They will hopefully streamline there guide so it can be brought in the field.

I think the future of field guides lies with what Crossley has done.  Guides focused on GISS and behavior would truly be valuable.

I think Crossley hits the nail on the head.  More guides that focus on giss are bound to come down the pipe in the next decade.  It would be nice to see such a field guide that can actually be carried in the field!

Another way this emphasis on guides to GISS manifests is a more specific desire for rich multimedia field guides to work the angles…

I think the future of field guides should have lots of views of all the birds, all the plumages, and a sound hookup so that you can listen to the sounds of the bird while looking at its page.

I think future guides will be digital and allow 3-d images which you can rotate 360 degrees to see the field marks from all angles.

The future of field guides in digital videos that show birds from different angles plus in flight.  Also footage of them singing.

I think that the next “futuristic” field guide will have more view of the birds that are prone to take a certain position. For example, for warblers, the field guide will show the normal field guide side view, but it will also show the bottom view since the bird is often seen in that position. Or for ducks, the field guide could have a back view. I think that this would be useful because birds are definitely not always in the position a field guide like Peterson shows it. This field guide would be able to help you when you see the bird in an odd position.

And apparently, even existing authorities on field identification need to fall in with the new GISS world order…

I’m a big fan of Sibley but I think he needs to make a new edition with updated maps.  Also to be considered for any future guides is flight styles.  One guide had a line representing undulating, direct, bounding flights for example.  I don’t remember which guide it was, but it was helpful.

Many thanks to everyone who submitted their predictions about the future of birding field guides. How do you imagine an emphasis on general impressions of size and shape will impact the future of bird field and reference guides?

Written by Mike
Mike is a leading authority in the field of standardized test preparation, but he's also a traveler who fully expects to see every bird in the world. Besides founding 10,000 Birds in 2003, Mike has also created a number of other entertaining but now extirpated nature blog resources, particularly the Nature Blog Network and I and the Bird.