There are about four hundred species of birds we call “raptors” of which most are falcons, hawks, eagles, owls, and so forth. I believe there are about 40 in what is considered the United States (from a person, not a bird, perspective) and many of them are found across much of the US, with the usual breaks across the Rockies, and a certain amount of north-south geography, and varying degrees of migration.

A typical page

A typical page

There are 69 species of raptors, many overlapping with those in the US, in Mexico (which is part of North America, from a human perspective) and Central America. Interestingly, many of those species are geographically fairly limited in space, compared to the more northerly North American raptors. Or at least, that is my impression from looking at the distribution maps in Raptors of Mexico and Central America by William Clark and N. John Schmitt.

This is a very nice book. Given that it covers only 69 birds (but comprehensively, because it has all the raptors in this raptor book) it is possible to have all the methods and modes used in one book. There are plates with multiple species, appropriately collected to make helpful comparisons, using drawing of the old Peterson style. If you use this book to identify raptors in the field, you’ll probably make your final decisions based on reference to these plates, as that is what they are designed for.

The bulk of the book are species essays, some several pages long (generally about two-three pages). Each essay has a prominent photo of the bird, other photos, a range map, etc. Details on behavior and ID are given, as one expects in a bird book, but with much more information than usual, making use of the space available. Variations of sex, morph, age, and molt, are very important with raptors, depending on the species. The species-level discussions of molt are fantastic.

The front and back matter is modest and appropriate.

Plate of the Collared Forest-Falcon.

Plate of the Collared Forest-Falcon.

If you live in the US Southwest or south to Ecuador, this book needs to be on your shelf. If you ever go to any of those places, bring it. The format is full size trade book, not field guide.

William Clark is a photographer specializing in raptors and one of the leading authorities on this type of birds. N. John Schmitt is an artist who specializes in drawing birds of prey. You’ve certainly seen their work many times. The book Raptors of Mexico and Central America gives you 213 more color photos and 32 plates with many drawings per plate.

A few other books by these authors:

A Photographic Guide to North American Raptors (Natural World)
Birds Asleep (Corrie Herring Hooks Series)
A Field Guide to the Raptors of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa