The Crossley ID Guide Britain & Ireland – Review

The Crossley ID Guide Britain & Ireland - Review
The Crossley ID Guide Britain & Ireland – Review
The Crossley ID Guide Britain & Ireland By Richard Crossley & Dominic Couzens | 301 Pages | Crossley Books/Princeton | Paperback | 2014 | ISBN: 9780691151946 |

When it comes to bird books there have always been two distinct forms, the painted/drawn version, where an artist creates an image of the average look of a bird (these days’ superb reproductions) or a photographic guide, sometimes something new comes along that challenges this rule changes things. With the new Crossley ID Guide for Britain & Ireland there is indeed something different a new kid on the block if you like.

The Crossley ID Guide Britain & Ireland – Review

Well Crossley uses photographs as a traditional ID guide might, but that is where things change, rather than one or two images of a species in the Crossley ID guides there are loads of each species spread across a few pages in a collage format! The different photographs show the birds at differing distances and in different poses and plumage’s.

OK So does it work well?

Well oddly yes it does, I’m not going to lie to you, when you first open the book you will likely at first think it is a horrendous mess, images don’t match, the lighting is all different, perspective is completely off (You’ll have a large close up next to a distant flight shot for example) in fact it can be a shock to the system, but in reality it actually works as an ID guide really well.

Having the different poses plumage’s and sizes (all in one place) really actually helps you to understand what the birds look at in the real world, if you spot a distant buzzard for example the inexperienced may well struggle to identify it from other large raptors, but as there are representations in the book, you stand a better chance of recognising what you saw.

It is quite possibly a Marmite type of book. You’ll either love it or hate it. And it isn’t likely to go down in history as one with great works of bird art. But for functionality I actually think it is great. Although when it comes to sea birds I love the fact that some of the images are tiny, really representative of how they are most often seen.

Who is The Crossley ID Guide Britain & Ireland aimed at?

I’d hazard a guess that the main target of this book is the newer birdwatcher. Those who are still struggling to get their ID skills to a level they are pleased with. And there will definitely be people who deride the book as rubbish. Although I may harshly say they are being snobs. For personal choice I would still go with a classic drawn ID guide (Like the magnificent Collins book) but I have certainly encouraged my kids to use this book a little as it gives more of an “in the field” impression of the birds you will see.

The Bad Side

I do see a few small issues in The Crossley ID Guide Britain & Ireland though. Firstly is its size. Due to the nature of each page having multiple images of the birds you need a decent sized book to fit them in. And this does kind of make it a hard book to slip into your bag.

Secondly the accompanying text is rather limited. I think the idea is the images are more for identification; while the text is there as support. Where in many guides they are far more complimentary to each other. Although I do quite like having the 5 digit BTO shorthand code. Not something I know so that’s nice.

Thirdly is the order of the book. Now while I understand that: a) the order of families does change; and b) this book is supposed to show species in a size related order. It totally throws off your ability to use the book if you have become used to more conventional ID guides. Or in the reverse if you become used to this guide you may struggle to locate species in other guides. Something that could be off putting.

The final issue is that while it covers a good number of species anything rare (requiring BBRC submission) is not included, which could leave you wanting a little. It’s only a slight gripe really though.


It’s a hard one to call on this book. I like it for the way it is styled, but I also dislike elements. It will be a god send to some (My step mother loves it, it is now constantly in use). While other people will hate it with a passion and deride the way the images are somewhat randomly positioned on the page. I think you really need to pick up a copy and take a look for yourself. You may fall in love or you may not.

2018 Update

This book has grown on me. While I still use the Collin’s guide more (well it’s on my phone), this does make similar species easy to compare. Direct side by side images help in many cases. Although the order still confuses sometimes.

You can read more of my reviews here

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DISCLAIMER: I and my family were gifted a free copy of this book for review purposes. This review is our honest opinion of the product.
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  • holdingmoments

    Great review Ashley.
    I recently bought this guide, and although very different to the 'normal' guide books, I found it an excellent addition to the library.
    I loved the many pictures of the same species, and also in their main habitat; certainly helps with a few of the birds that can be tricky.

    • AshleyBeolens

      When I first saw the style (was in the raptors guide) and I initially just thought what a bloody mess! but the more I looked the more it made sense and really works as a guide.

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