Face it. Half the time … most of the time, really … you use your Peterson (or some other favorite “field guide”) as a checklist. You see a bird and you pretty much know in your head what it is, but you need to look it up to see what the three or four similar ducks or woodpeckers or whatever are in your area in order to be sure that it is a Common Merganser or a Red Headed Woodpecker or whatever. All you need is a basic picture (drawing preferred for this sort of thing) the names of the birds and basic range maps.
That is the role played by the Princeton Illustrated Checklists; These books are similar to the Petrides guides but with less in the way of detail and instruction, and thus more in the way of coverage (over 900 species). In particular, the brand new Birds of North America and Greenland: (Princeton Illustrated Checklists) is about the size and shape of a Peterson Field Guide to the Birds but includes both eastern and western US, Canada and Greenland. Covering Greenland is good for all those in New England and the Maritimes, because that is where some of the accidentals come from, but it might be nicer if the book also covered farther south to include Mexico. The problem with this would presumably a size issue as adding more subtropical areas of North America would add many species to the mix.
Like the other illustrated checklists, the book is well produced but inexpensive, smallish, designed to provide coverage rather than detail, and to be easy to use. The birds are organized along a commonly used ducks-to-song-bird sequence, descriptions opposite plates, lots of birds on each plate, and maps next to descriptions. I wish the maps were larger.
The illustrations are very well done.
I’m not sure where I’m going to put this book. Up north we have two cabins, and my Peterson guides tend to get mixed up with other people’s Peterson guides, then moved around, so it is not uncommon for me to be in one cabin looking out at some bird and needing the book that is in the other cabin. Perhaps I’ll station Birds of North America and Greenland in one of the cabins in order to avoid writing on a Peterson “Greg’s Book Don’t Touch” or something. And I’ll put it in the eastern-most cabin because that is closer to Greenland …. For traveling to Colorado or other points west, this book is going in the car, of course.