We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
There are plenty of them on the market these days, and most people have their favorites. I still have my first Peterson. It's hard-bound. The pages are falling out, but I won't throw it away.
The newer guides are, in many ways, more useful than the original Peterson guides which did often did not include immature, molting, hybridized, or non-breeding plumages. Those things can often confuse the experts - but the experts rely on more than appearance. Experts rely on the gestalt of the bird - habitat, sound, flight pattern, posture, behavior, etc.
I am an amateur, not an expert. Mrs. BD remembers that, when I was first dating her and showing her birds, I told her that bird species behavior is like individual human behavior: they tend to do the same sort of thing all the time so if you see a behavior or habitat once, it's safe to assume that they do that all the time.
I own about five different field guides to birds and have used several more.
Eighty years after it was first published, Peterson's Field Guide to the birds remains the best bird guide for the beginner birder. Once it was neck and neck with the Golden guide for the best field guide, as in "the best guide to carry with you in the field." But the Golden guide hasn't been updated in a dozen years, which leaves the Peterson alone in front of the pack.
For the experienced birder, the Big Sibley guide is probably best, but it's hardly a field guide. Well, unless you have it on your smartphone or tablet.
Would have a been a better article without all the backhanded environmental screed and mistruths. Did FDR really try to "put a chicken in every pot?" And did Peterson's guide, along with Carson's "Silent Spring" REALLY launch environmentalism?