Old Field Guides

March 1, 2015 2 By Audrey

I’ve grown fond of old field guides.

The 1941 Peterson Guide I bought from a used book store has notes inscribed inside by the Bruno Hukari Family: “Swallows arrived March 26, 1967, March 1978, March 1979.”

I think it’s neat to think about how birding has changed (and not changed) through the years. Recently, a friend of mine picked up a few older guide books on the cheap from an estate sale for me. I’m curious if old field guides and journals might hold clues about changing bird populations over the years.


So cool!

Flipping through old field guides at a book store yielded this 1977 Cedar Waxwing trading card from Kellogg’s. Apparently, there’s an entire series of these vintage bird trading cards.



The earliest field guide in the US is Birds Through an Opera Glass (1889) by Florence Bailey. A reprint of this book is available as a free eBook on Google Books! (or for purchase on Amazon).

I’m entranced by the colorful descriptions of the birds. Here’s an example:

THE BLUEBIRD. As you stroll through the meadows on a May morning, drinking in the spring air and sunshine, and delighting in the color of the dandelions and the big bunches of blue violets that dot the grass, a bird call comes quavering overhead that seems the voice of all country loveliness. Simple, sweet, and fresh as the spirit of the meadows, with a tinge of forest richness in the plaintive tru-al-ly that marks the rhythm of our bluebird’s undulating flight, wherever the song is heard, from city street or bird-box, it must bring pictures of flowering fields, blue skies, and the freedom of the wandering summer winds.”

Vintage tweets and chirps,