Sibley's field guides have been my favorite go-to guides. There are several great new field guides which I use regularly too, but Sibley's guides are always my first resource. Downloading the Sibley eGuide to Birds was naturally my first choice. Now that I've had a couple of weeks to get familiar with the app and test it in the field I feel prepared to share my thoughts about this really cool tool. I've also been using the Audubon Birds App which has served as a comparison, which app I will review here soon.
|Main menu screen of the Sibley eGuide to Birds in landscape/horizontal view.|
|Scrolling thru the taxonomic index, headings appear in larger font to help you|
The range map is available with the tap of your finger on the map icon - and I still like Sibley's color-coding system better than any other field guide out there. It's nice that you have the ability to enter your own sighting notes for each species, including the date and location, which I used to write in the margins of my first Sibley guide. I wouldn't use this type of feature anymore since I am so devoted to entering all my sightings into eBird, but I still like that this tool is there and available should I want to employ it.
Suggestions for the next edition:
|Main screen in vertical view|
Having the text on the same screen as the illustrations isn't necessary. The current version has a split-screen which can scroll independently which is cool, but having the icon there to bring up the full text in its own screen is sufficient.
I tried out the Smart Search, where you select characteristics of the bird and it helps narrow down the possibilities. I have to admit that I got frustrated with Smart Search after testing to see if it could help me identify birds. For example, I plugged in a couple attributes for Cedar Waxwing, but it never came up in the narrowed field. So, either Smart Search is meant for people smarter than I am, or its just not that smart yet. I have come to the conclusion that I'd never really use that feature anyway, so why dwell it any more.
One other issue that I continue having is what are called a "forced close", where the app shuts down on me, sometimes with an error message and sometimes without. I notice this happens only when I use the "back" button on my device (not in the app itself) and it will more often than not not allow me back into the eGuide without powering off the phone and turning it back on. I'm not sure if this is a device problem, user error, or an app development issue.
The Sibley eGuide to Birds rocks! It provides all the great attributes of Sibley's printed field guides with additional cool features. Every birder, beginner to expert, will benefit from and enjoy this app.
This birding app costs $29.99, which is pretty expensive in the world of 99-cent smartphone apps. But think about it this way...if you buy a field guide and bird song CD's separately, you've already spent more than $30 and you're missing out on the valuable convenience of the digital app on your phone. There are other birding field guide apps out there for less money, but they just ain't Sibley!
*Disclosure: David Sibley, in partnership with the fine folks at MyDigitalEarth.com reimbursed me for the cost of this app when I expressed interest in posting my review online.*