Ringed Plover by Julian Bhalerao

Usability Icons

Another first from WildSounds...

Our unique system of icons is designed to make it easier for you to choose the right guide for you.

We've taken pains to identify only those titles that we would consider to be field-guides and to apply our unique Usability Icons to them. In some cases we've made some unusual choices based on personal experience in the field. For example, Mammals of Madagascar, by Nick Garbutt, is larger & more expensive than some would consider acceptable for a field guide but it is useful in the field and to date is still the best guide available.

We've also highlighted some key features in our Sound Guides, Atmosphere Recordings and Videos.


Distribution Maps

Distribution Maps
Besides the plates, we feel maps are the most important feature of any guide. While many guides have detailed text descriptions of distribution ranges, only those with an actual map or other easy to use feature have this symbol associated with them. Generally distribution maps are more useful when displayed with the plate.


It wouldn't be a guide without a picture of the animal. Most guides choose to illustrate creatures using images carefully drawn by leading artists, but an increasing number of guides make use of photographs or photo-collages. The days are long gone where photo-guides where considered to be the poor relation of the illustrated field guide and we make no distinction between the two. Generally the title or the description of the book indicates whether the book is a photo-guide or an illustrated field guide.

Long Description Short Description

Long/Short Description
We do not decide to what extent a description can be called a long or a short description. In some cases guides briefly describe a species alongside an image of that species, but provide a more comprehensive description elsewhere. In these cases the distinction of long or short is relative to the two types of descriptions in the guide. If a guide only presents one description of a species it is by default the longest description - even though this gives no indication of how comprehensive that description may be.

Information is not displayed in isolation. Many guides, for example, place illustrations of a species alongside a description of that species. We indicate spreads (i.e. what you can expect to see on a double page) by putting a square around icons representing items you can expect to see together. Some of the most frequent spreads are illustrated below:

Plates, Distribution Maps and Long Descriptions shown on same spread.Plates, Distribution Maps and Long Descriptions shown on same spread.Plates, Distribution Maps and Long Descriptions shown on same spread.

In our opinion this is one of the best spreads possible: distribution map, plate & description on the same spread.

Plates and Short Descriptions shown on same spread.Plates and Short Descriptions shown on same spread.
Distribution Maps and Long Descriptions shown on same spread.Distribution Maps and Long Descriptions shown on same spread.

Second best spread: plate with a short description and elsewhere in the book a distribution map with a more detailed account of the species.

Quick Index

Quick Index
For those not intimately familiar with every page in a guide, or totally up-to-date with the taxonomy used a guide is based on, some thoughtful publishers provide a quick visual index. These indices vary, some are achieved by means of coloured bars and/or bird silhouettes at the top of the page, or my personal favourite, a pictorial reference of one species per family on the inside front or back cover. Not an essential feature, but a particularly useful one in the field. Don't confuse this with a traditional text index found at the back of most books.

Atmosphere Recording

Atmosphere Recording
No music, no announcements, just pure natural sound. With an Atmosphere Recording, you can be guaranteed of a continuous stream of evocative sounds. Sometimes these sounds may be multi-level with birds and other creatures in the background.

Sound Guide

Sound Guide
Sound guides are traditionally used to familiarise oneself with the sounds of particular birds (or frogs or insects). They are also used to attract birds, although WildSounds would encourage anyone using sounds in this manner to act responsibly.

It is therefore important to be able to hear and identify one species at a time. This might be achieved by placing one call per track (on a CD) or by making an announcement before or after each species. In some cases an Atmosphere Recording might double up as a Sound Guide because particular species have been placed on specific tracks and can therefore be played in isolation.


Announced Sound Guides are particularly important to some people - it avoids the hassle of having to refer to a separate track index - while others feel a human voice can be disturbing. We've carefully identified those Sound Guides that have announcements.

Time Index

Time Index
A useful feature on traditional linear media, like video or audiotape is a time index. This offers quick, direct access to a particular species - but it depends on the machine playing the tape back having a time counter which is more or less in synch with the counter used to create the original index. We've been careful to ensure that only products that have indices pointing to a specific species (and which we therefore feel could be used as an "ID guide") have been marked with this icon.

Product Dimensions

Product Dimensions
Hover over this icon to display the size of the item : length, width and depth (where depth is the thickness of the book - a function of the number of pages contained in the book) measured in centimeters (cm).


We hope we have been diligent in our task of assigning these icons. If you feel the range of icons provided should be expanded (for example, include an icon indicating whether or not a guide is truly "pocket sized") then let us know. If we've marked anything incorrectly - don't hesitate to let us know either. E-mail us at webmaster@wildsounds.com.

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