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What's the best field guide for Ecuador? (1 Viewer)

lgonz1008

Well-known member
Recently purchased the Helm Field Guides for the Birds of Ecuador thinking that it would be a good piece to add to my collection and it is always best to have a more up to date version of a field guide if available, but this one left me thinking I made a mistake, does this happen often?

I don't have a big bias set for field guides, if you ask me what I choose when picking my main guide, I like to go for quality over simplicity (ie: NatGeo Birds of North America over Sibleys or Peterson), and for the most part, I've been lucky that the few field guides I own that aren't from North America, are usually published by Princeton, but decided to give Helm a chance and now I'm just wondering if I was better off purchasing the original field guide from back in 2001?

Content wise the Helm guide is clearly superior in speciation and range maps, but certain parts like the facts that many similar yet many in number bird families (ie Tyrant-Flycatchers, Raptors, Hummingbirds, and so on), the birds look like they follow the same model with enough of human error to be written off as a simple mistake, which isn't too bad when you're looking at something like the egrets or even the tanagers, but I'm afraid when I have to compare nearly identical species like Yellow-olive and Yellow-margined Flycatchers or any of the Tapaculo species.

So, with my little rant out of the way, which one could be considered the best field guide to use for the birds of Ecuador?
 

Andrew Whitehouse

Professor of Listening
Staff member
Supporter
Scotland
When I went to Ecuador I mainly used the Helm guide, at least partly because it's more portable than the older guide. I think it's generally fine and is more up-to-date taxonomically. The illustrations aren't amazing but there are a lot of them, so a lot of variations are shown.
 

njlarsen

Gallery Moderator
Opus Editor
Supporter
Barbados
I agree that the Restall illustrations are not very life-like, but in some other ways they are fine. However, my personal collection of bird books for that area include:
The app built on the same illustrations but with sounds
The very old field guide of Ridgely and Greenfield, split into two parts, test and plates bound independently
The field book, which is shown in this link: https://www.nhbs.com/fieldbook-of-the-birds-of-ecuador-book - I have first edition but the print in the second edition I have seen is better. This one is the one I actually used most in the field (three visits) and the app is second. The plates from the old Ridgely was in the suitcase and the text mostly have been used at home.

Niels
 

THE_FERN

Well-known member
I have birds of Northern South America which the Restall app is an extract of, and Ridgely. Not sure any Ecuador guides have super wonderful illustrations: the Ridgeley images are ok if you already know what you're looking at!

Actually, I'd advise getting a couple of apps: a good one to Ecuador itself and then birds of Peru (can't remember if this is in an "app" form as such but electronic definitely). Illustrations in it are broadly the most realistic for the region. So you can play the game where you identify things based on Peru guide, find the species isn't in Ecuador and then find the closest to this which is in the Ecuador guide.

(There's what looks like a good Colombia guide too but I think this is only on paper).

Personally I don't bother with paper now if I can avoid it. The apps/pdfs have their drawbacks but as nothing compared with lugging a massive multivol paper database around!
 

THE_FERN

Well-known member
I should also have noted that it's worth checking what free apps are available for the region. These are increasingly common and they'll help with widespread birds at least. E.g. some guides in Colombia learnt their craft using these
 

lgonz1008

Well-known member
I should also have noted that it's worth checking what free apps are available for the region. These are increasingly common and they'll help with widespread birds at least. E.g. some guides in Colombia learnt their craft using these
Not sure if it works as the best app, but the Cornell Merlin app has a pack for Ecuador and each of the main regions of the country, while not perfect, it gives you access to photos and the bird calls you get from the eBird Species Profiles
 

birdboybowley

Well-known member.....apparently so ;)
Supporter
England
We used the helm guide and the Sunbird 'All Birds Ecuador' app when we were there in Feb. It worked OK but still can't beat paper for comparisons and the artwork in app is shockingly bad but calls were useful and main reason for getting it. See attached to see what I mean...so bad 😂😂

Screenshot_20201202-165353_All Birds Ecuador.jpg
 

THE_FERN

Well-known member
We used the helm guide and the Sunbird 'All Birds Ecuador' app when we were there in Feb. It worked OK but still can't beat paper for comparisons and the artwork in app is shockingly bad but calls were useful and main reason for getting it. See attached to see what I mean...so bad 😂😂

View attachment 1357157
As you know, these illustrations are from birds of Northern South America... Some aren't great I agree but they vary. For example I think the wood warblers are pretty good. Here's the equivalent from the Peru guide. A bit better...
 

Attachments

  • Screenshot_20201202-173816.png
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birdboybowley

Well-known member.....apparently so ;)
Supporter
England
Honestly my niece was drawing better than that at 10yrs old.....shocking
Yes, Peru guide much better on the owl front!!
 

T.O.

Well-known member
I don't have a big bias set for field guides, if you ask me what I choose when picking my main guide, I like to go for quality over simplicity (ie: NatGeo Birds of North America over Sibleys or Peterson), and for the most part, I've been lucky that the few field guides I own that aren't from North America, are usually published by Princeton, but decided to give Helm a chance and now I'm just wondering if I was better off purchasing the original field guide from back in

You are aware that most Helm Field Guide titles are published in the US by Princeton, so different publisher, but exactly the same content...
 

lgonz1008

Well-known member
You are aware that most Helm Field Guide titles are published in the US by Princeton, so different publisher, but exactly the same content...
I am aware of this, but certain books that don't have the same art quality, don't get published unless there's a certain quality standard.
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
I am aware of this, but certain books that don't have the same art quality, don't get published unless there's a certain quality standard.
Can you give an example of a Helm guide, that was rejected for printing in the US by Princeton, on the basis of poor art?
 

lgonz1008

Well-known member
Can you give an example of a Helm guide, that was rejected for printing in the US by Princeton, on the basis of poor art?
You could argue that Birds of Ecuador along with Trinidad and Tobago are two that Princeton did not pick up despite both of these being highly visited countries from a North American market, while they still picked up Birds of Mongolia alongside the recently published Birds of East Africa 2nd Edition and Birds of Argentina.

I'm not saying all of the arts are bad but when you're dealing with large families that are in both of the Helm Field Guides (Ecuador and Trinidad) such as Flycatchers and Antbirds, the birds look like they were rushed and the art quality fails in comparison to other field guides, not just Princeton picked one but also the locally chosen publishing companies like A Zona Tropical Publication, example The Birds of Costa Rica 2nd Edition and the Wildlife Conservation Society Birds of Brazil series.
 

gdhunter

Well-known member
I'm not saying all of the arts are bad but when you're dealing with large families that are in both of the Helm Field Guides (Ecuador and Trinidad) such as Flycatchers and Antbirds, the birds look like they were rushed and the art quality fails in comparison to other field guides, not just Princeton picked one but also the locally chosen publishing companies like A Zona Tropical Publication, example The Birds of Costa Rica 2nd Edition and the Wildlife Conservation Society Birds of Brazil series.

I'm having trouble following that last passage. No doubt I'm missing something obvious, but are you saying that the Helm Ecuador guide (for example) suffers in comparison to (for example) the Zona tropical Costa Rica guide, or are you saying that the latter also suffers from such deficiencies? I have both, and I find neither especially deficient. I do like the Ecuador "fieldbook" (McMullan & Navarrete) for quick reference to refresh memory and narrow down choices, but it's rarely been the resource that solves my most difficult puzzles. And for that, the Helm guide, along with the older Ridgely, has (at least for me) been much better.
 

lgonz1008

Well-known member
I'm having trouble following that last passage. No doubt I'm missing something obvious, but are you saying that the Helm Ecuador guide (for example) suffers in comparison to (for example) the Zona tropical Costa Rica guide, or are you saying that the latter also suffers from such deficiencies? I have both, and I find neither especially deficient. I do like the Ecuador "fieldbook" (McMullan & Navarrete) for quick reference to refresh memory and narrow down choices, but it's rarely been the resource that solves my most difficult puzzles. And for that, the Helm guide, along with the older Ridgely, has (at least for me) been much better.
I meant mostly the former, when I read through the Zona Tropical Field Guide, I am able to tell the differences easily enough between similar species, however in the Helm field guide, I need to go around looking for images online and other sources to be sure of the differences since I can't be sure the difference is due to artist liberty/error or the bird actually has those features. This can be seen for certain birds whose main field marks are shades of brown on certain parts of the body along with streaking and bill size. These features are usually hard to duplicate but when you're dealing with extensive families that many of their field marks beyond sound is these little details, it makes me worried when studying up on the species.
 

lmans66

Out Birding....
Supporter
United States
I have not seen Helm....how does it compare to Ridgely's Birds of Ecuador ..... Not really a field guide to take into the field though... I know I have seen various paper guides that have put out by various groups in Ecuador in the past. I have them packed up now and ready to move to another location, but there used to be some small guides that fit into your pocket that showed elevation of bird, rough location etc.....
 

njlarsen

Gallery Moderator
Opus Editor
Supporter
Barbados
I have not seen Helm....how does it compare to Ridgely's Birds of Ecuador ..... Not really a field guide to take into the field though... I know I have seen various paper guides that have put out by various groups in Ecuador in the past. I have them packed up now and ready to move to another location, but there used to be some small guides that fit into your pocket that showed elevation of bird, rough location etc.....
https://www.amazon.com/Birds-Ecuador-Helm-Field-Guides/dp/1408105330 It is a spin off of the Birds of Northern SA. More or less the same information plus sounds available as an app https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.sunbirdimages.allbirds.ecuador&hl=en

This has been criticized in some of the posts above. I made a post on December 1 that told you what I preferred to use: the field book supplemented by plates from Ridgely (text left at home) with the sunbird app for voices.

Niels
 

lmans66

Out Birding....
Supporter
United States
I used to use a small guide by Ecuador guide Andres Vasquez... I believe it was published via Sunrise? ...Some of my books are packed as I am in the process of shifting homes, but these were great little guides, could easily fit into a binocular case, maybe a 1/4' thick and just had images of the birds, a map where they were located, a map etc.. So essentially just plates with a combined map, location under each bird. The 'best' for a quick ID in the field.
 

njlarsen

Gallery Moderator
Opus Editor
Supporter
Barbados
I used to use a small guide by Ecuador guide Andres Vasquez... I believe it was published via Sunrise? ...Some of my books are packed as I am in the process of shifting homes, but these were great little guides, could easily fit into a binocular case, maybe a 1/4' thick and just had images of the birds, a map where they were located, a map etc.. So essentially just plates with a combined map, location under each bird. The 'best' for a quick ID in the field.
Very similar principle as the Field Book I mentioned in post #3. Given that it covers the entire country, it is more like 1/2 inch thick.

Niels
 

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