Best Birding Book

The Best Birding Books of 2023: From Beginner to Expert

In this article, we’ll be taking a look at the best birding books on the market for 2023. We consulted with leading experts in order to come up with a list of what they consider to be some of the most informative and helpful resources for those who want to learn more about birds.

Whether you’re an expert or just starting out, these are great resources that will help anyone improve their knowledge and understanding of our feathered friends.​​​​​​​

Table of Contents

Best Bird Field Guide (North America)

National Audubon Society Birds of North America

National Audubon Society Birds of North America (National Audubon Society Complete Guides)

When it comes to birding, having the right field guide is essential. There are many great guides for North America, but these four are at the top of our list. The National Audubon Society Birds of North America is an indispensable and remarkable guide to bird identification.

This book, created by leading scientists, scholars, and field experts, covers over 800 species with over 3,500 stunning full-color photos of birds in their natural habitats.

The guide is arranged by the American Ornithological Society’s latest checklist of North and Middle American birds and features range maps and physical descriptions with information on voice, nesting, habitat, and similar species.

The inclusion of essays by leading scholars and a new category on conservation status provides valuable insights into the world of birds. With its high-quality photographs and comprehensive information, this guide is a must-have for any birder and is set to become the number one guide in the field.

Pros:

  • Stunning full-color photographs of over 800 species in their natural habitats
  • Includes range maps, physical descriptions, and information on voice, nesting, and habitat
  • Arranged by the latest checklist of North and Middle American birds
  • Includes a glossary, an index, and a ribbon marker for ease of use
  • Essays by leading scholars provide valuable insights into the world of birds

Cons:

  • Large size makes it less portable than smaller guides
  • May be overwhelming for beginners who are just starting with birding

Specifications:

  • Publisher: Knopf
  • Publication Date: April 6, 2021
  • Language: English
  • Binding: Flexibound
  • Pages: 912
  • ISBN-10: 0525655670
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525655671
  • Item Weight: 3.85 pounds
  • Dimensions: 7.38 x 1.67 x 9.45 inches

Verdict: Overall, the National Audubon Society Birds of North America is an impressive, comprehensive, and user-friendly guide that provides authentic representations of avian species. The quality of the photographs is exceptional, making it easy to identify birds in their natural habitats.

The guide’s focus on conservation status is a valuable addition, providing readers with a holistic insight into the world of birds. Although it may not be as portable as smaller guides, its comprehensive coverage of bird species more than makes up for this. If you are a serious birder, this guide is a must-have for your collection.

National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America

National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 7th Edition

National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America is a comprehensive and authoritative book that appeals to both beginners and experts alike. The latest American Ornithological Society taxonomy is matched only by the organization of the 7th edition, making it the most current guide available.

The guide includes more than 1,000 species of birds, beautifully illustrated with hand-painted illustrations from top nature artists.

The book also features thumb tabs and a fold-out visual index, making it accessible for beginners, while its comprehensiveness and standardized banding codes will appeal to more hardcore birders.

The text is thorough and accurate, and the layout is a tour de force. A necessary addition to the library of both novice and seasoned birdwatchers.

Pros:

  • Up-to-date bird field guide
  • Comprehensive and authoritative for all levels of birders
  • Hand-painted illustrations by top nature artists
  • Now covers a total of 1,023 species, with the addition of 37 new species
  • 16 new pages with 250 fresh illustrations
  • 80 new maps and 350 map revisions
  • Standardized banding codes and vetted text by experts
  • Special features like thumb tabs and a fold-out visual index
  • Includes information on rarities and subspecies

Cons:

  • The size of the book may be too large to carry on long hikes or trips.
  • The focus is primarily on North American birds, which may not be suitable for those interested in birding outside of North America.

Specifications:

  • Publisher: National Geographic
  • 7th edition
  • 592 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Weight: 1.75 pounds

Verdict: The National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America is an outstanding birding book that sets the standard for all other field guides. It is comprehensive, up-to-date, authoritative, and beautifully illustrated, making it an essential tool for both beginning and experienced birders.

With standardized banding codes, text vetted by birding experts, and a focus on rarities and subspecies, this guide stands out from its competitors. Although it may be too large for some, and it focuses only on North American birds, it is still an excellent resource that will enrich any birding experience.

Peterson Field Guide To Birds Of North America

Peterson Field Guide To Birds Of North America, Second Edition (Peterson Field Guides)

As a birding enthusiast, you can’t go wrong with the Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America. This guidebook has been trusted for decades and continues to be a favorite among birders of all levels.

The updated 2nd edition includes the exotic species of Hawaii, ensuring that you won’t miss out on any unique sightings. What sets this guide apart is its Peterson Identification System, which has been hailed as the greatest invention since binoculars.

The system makes identification a breeze, and the unparalleled illustrations make it easy to appreciate the beauty of each species.

The updated text and range maps provide the latest information, while the art has been touched up to reflect current knowledge.

Pros:

  • Trusted guidebook for birders of all levels
  • Includes the exotic species of Hawaii
  • Peterson Identification System makes identification easy
  • Unparalleled illustrations make it easy to appreciate the beauty of each species
  • Updated text and range maps provide the latest information

Cons:

  • Hardcover edition can be heavy to carry on long birding trips

Specifications:

  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 2nd edition (April 7, 2020)
  • Language: English
  • Hardcover: 520 pages
  • ISBN-10: 132877144X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1328771445
  • Item Weight: 2.15 pounds
  • Dimensions: 6 x 1.19 x 9 inches

Verdict: Overall, the Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America is one of the best birding books on the market. Its expertise and knowledge, reinforced by its updated information and unparalleled illustrations, make it a must-have for any birding enthusiast.

The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America

The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America (Stokes Field Guides)

As a birdwatcher, you know the importance of having a reliable guide to help identify the different species you encounter. The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America is the best birding book that can provide you with a wealth of information about over 850 North American bird species.

This guide features more than 3,400 stunning color photographs covering all plumages, including important subspecies and birds in flight. The most recent scientific and common names, along with the phylogenetic order, have made bird identification easier.

Additionally, the guide provides assistance in identifying birds in flight by highlighting important clues such as behavior, plumage, and shape, which sets it apart. The CD with 600 bird sounds and 150 photographs is an added bonus.

Overall, this is the most comprehensive North American field guide on the market, and you can’t go wrong with it. Highly recommended for birders of all experience levels.

Pros:

  • Comprehensive and user-friendly guide
  • 853 North American bird species covered
  • Over 3,400 high-quality color photographs
  • Includes behavioral information, habitat preferences, and detailed descriptions of songs and calls
  • Includes a downloadable CD with over 600 bird sounds and 150 photographs
  • Compact and portable size

Cons:

  • None identified

Specifications:

  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Language: English
  • Paperback: 816 pages
  • ISBN-10: 0316010502
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316010504
  • Item Weight: 3.03 pounds
  • Dimensions: 5.75 x 2 x 8.5 inches

Verdict: The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America is a must-have for any birdwatcher, and it scores 10/10 for its comprehensive information, stunning photographs, and user-friendly features.

Best Bird Identification Book (North America)

What are the best bird identification books in North America? For many, identifying birds can be a difficult task.

With so many species to learn about and variations between them, it is not always easy to know where to start.

Luckily for you, we have compiled a list of what we believe are the three best bird identification books on the market today.

National Audubon Society Birds of North America

National Audubon Society Birds of North America (National Audubon Society Complete Guides)

When it comes to birding, having an appropriate field guide is crucial. There are several excellent guides for North America, but four stand out, and the National Audubon Society Birds of North America is one of them.

This guide, developed by leading scientists, scholars, and field experts, covers more than 800 species with over 3,500 remarkable full-color photos of birds in their natural habitats.

The guide follows the latest checklist of North and Middle American birds by the American Ornithological Society, featuring range maps and physical descriptions with information on voice, nesting, habitat, and similar species.

Moreover, it includes essays by leading scholars and a new category on conservation status, providing significant insights into the bird world.

With its high-quality photographs and extensive information, this guide is a must-have for any birdwatcher and is on its way to becoming the leading guide in the field.

Pros:

  • Over 800 species with remarkable full-color photographs in their natural habitats.
  • Includes range maps, physical descriptions, and information on voice, nesting, and habitat.
  • Arranged by the latest checklist of North and Middle American birds.
  • Includes a glossary, index, and ribbon marker for easy use.
  • Essays by leading scholars provide valuable insights into the bird world.

Cons:

  • Large size makes it less portable than smaller guides.
  • May be overwhelming for beginners just starting with birding.

Specifications:

  • Publisher: Knopf
  • Publication Date: April 6, 2021
  • Language: English
  • Binding: Flexibound
  • Pages: 912
  • ISBN-10: 0525655670
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525655671
  • Item Weight: 3.85 pounds
  • Dimensions: 7.38 x 1.67 x 9.45 inches

Verdict: In conclusion, the National Audubon Society Birds of North America is an impressive, comprehensive, and user-friendly guide that provides accurate representations of avian species. The guide’s photographs are exceptional, making bird identification in their natural habitats easier.

Furthermore, the guide’s emphasis on conservation status is an important addition that provides readers with a broader understanding of the bird world. While the guide may be less portable than smaller guides, its comprehensive coverage of bird species more than makes up for it. If you are a serious birdwatcher, this guide is a must-have for your collection.

National Geographic Complete Birds of North America

National Geographic Complete Birds of North America, 3rd Edition: Featuring More Than 1,000 Species With the Most Detailed Information Found in a Single Volume

National Geographic Complete Birds of North America is truly the ultimate birding guide. From its impressive coverage of bird identification, distribution, behavior, habitat, and conservation concerns to its wealth of expertise and knowledge, this desk reference is an absolute must-have for birders of all levels.

What sets this product apart from the competition is its exceptional ability to make identification straightforward and easy, even for challenging birds like Hummingbirds, Auks, Murres, and Puffins.

The stunning illustrations and photographs provide an excellent visual aid to supplement the detailed descriptions, making identification a breeze.

But it’s not just about identification. This book is also an excellent resource for anyone interested in bird behavior, habitat, and conservation. The National Geographic Complete Birds of North America is without a doubt the best birding book on the market today.

It is the perfect reference for when you need a more detailed description of a bird or help with a difficult identification. Whether you are a seasoned birder or just starting, this guide is an essential addition to your birding library.

Pros:

  • Comprehensive coverage of bird identification, distribution, behavior, habitat, and conservation concerns.
  • Expertise and knowledge are apparent from the very first page.
  • Quantitative measurements of performance are exceptional.
  • Stunning illustrations and photographs.

Cons:

  • A bit heavy for field use.

Specifications:

  • Publisher: National Geographic; Updated edition (November 2, 2021)
  • Language: English
  • Hardcover: 752 pages
  • ISBN-10: 1426221886
  • ISBN-13: 978-1426221880
  • Item Weight: 1 pound
  • Dimensions: 7.14 x 2 x 10 inches

Best Bird Watching Books For Beginners

Many people enjoy bird watching, but it can be hard to know where to start. We compiled a list of the best books for beginners below.

For those who are new to bird watching, there is a lot of information out there, and it can be difficult knowing what book will provide the most helpful information for your needs.

The following list provides three books that we think offer good beginner’s resources on how to get started with this hobby.

AMNH Birds of North America

AMNH Birds of North America (DK North American Bird Guides)

The AMNH Birds of North America is a stunning photographic guide that offers an unrivaled and comprehensive view of over 650 bird species found in North America. The book is perfect for bird enthusiasts of all skill levels, with detailed bird profiles that include information on social behavior, feeding and nesting habits, and flight patterns. The high-quality, full-color photographs of birds are clear, close-up, and make identification a breeze.

Additionally, color-coded maps highlight the distribution of resident and migratory birds to help users locate and identify specific species. The book also features a bird sound audio app for mobile phone use. Produced in collaboration with the American Museum of Natural History, this book is a must-have for all bird watchers.

Pros:

  • Comprehensive guide of over 650 bird species in North America
  • Stunning full-color photographs make identification easy
  • Detailed bird profiles with social behavior, nesting and feeding habits, and flight patterns
  • Color-coded maps to locate resident and migratory birds
  • Bird sound audio app for mobile phone use
  • Produced in association with the American Museum of Natural History

Cons:

  • Heavy and bulky at 6.45 pounds and 752 pages

Specifications:

  • Publisher: DK; Third edition (November 10, 2020)
  • Language: English
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Number of Pages: 752 pages
  • ISBN-10: 0744020530
  • ISBN-13: 978-0744020533
  • Item Weight: 6.45 pounds
  • Dimensions: 8.81 x 1.86 x 11.13 inches

Verdict: The AMNH Birds of North America is a highly recommended birding book for all bird enthusiasts. Its comprehensive bird profiles and beautiful full-color photographs make identification easy, while the color-coded maps provide valuable information on resident and migratory bird populations. The bird sound audio app is a fantastic bonus feature.

The book’s only downside is its size and weight, but it is necessary to fit in over 650 bird species. The AMNH Birds of North America is one of the best birding books available, and its collaboration with the American Museum of Natural History adds to its authenticity and expertise.

Feed the Birds: Attract and Identify 196 Common North American Birds

Feed the Birds: Attract and Identify 196 Common North American Birds

If you’re looking for the ultimate guide to birding, look no further than “Feed the Birds: Attract and Identify 196 Common North American Birds.

This book is perfect for beginners and experts alike, with comprehensive information on how to attract and identify birds, understand their behavior and adaptations to the environment, and even build your own feeders.

The beautiful photos and informative text are a joy to read, and the book includes everything from tips on natural foods and water to recognizing individual birds and identifying similar-looking species.

What sets “Feed the Birds” apart is its emphasis on conservation and citizen science activities. The book is a must-have for any bird enthusiast, and is sure to become your go-to guide for all things birding.

Pros:

  • Comprehensive information on attracting and identifying birds
  • Beautiful photos and informative text
  • Tips on natural foods and water, recognizing individual birds, and identifying similar-looking species
  • Emphasis on conservation and citizen science activities

Cons:

  • None

Specifications:

  • 196 featured species
  • Information on a wide variety of feeders and seed types
  • Plans for four different backyard feeders
  • Information on choosing the right seeds and ensuring bird-safe windows

Verdict: If you’re passionate about birding, “Feed the Birds” is the perfect guide for you. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, this book has everything you need to attract and identify birds, understand their behavior and adaptations, and even build your own feeders. With beautiful photos and comprehensive information, “Feed the Birds” is a must-have for any bird enthusiast.

National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Birds of North America

National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Birds of North America, 2nd Edition

As a bird enthusiast, you know the importance of having a good birding book, and the National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Birds of North America is undoubtedly one of the best birding books you can own.

This guide provides a comprehensive and easy-to-use resource for identifying 150 of the most common and interesting birds in North America. With a new “Backyard Basics” section by Noah Strycker, you’ll find practical tips on attracting and feeding birds, creating bird-friendly landscapes, and more.

The guide is organized by family and includes identification tips, behavior, vocal descriptions, and comprehensive range maps.

The lush identification artwork and bite-sized facts make it easy to quickly identify and learn about birds. With this guide, you’ll be able to appreciate and cultivate the feathered friends in your backyard like never before.

Pros:

  • Comprehensive and easy-to-use guide to 150 common North American bird species
  • New “Backyard Basics” section by Noah Strycker provides practical tips on attracting and feeding birds
  • Organized by family with identification tips, behavior, vocal descriptions, and comprehensive range maps
  • Lush identification artwork and bite-sized facts make it easy to quickly identify and learn about birds
  • Second edition features updated descriptions and a modern redesign

Cons:

  • Limited to 150 common North American bird species

Verdict: The National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Birds of North America is a must-have for bird enthusiasts of all levels. Its comprehensive and easy-to-use format, practical tips on attracting and feeding birds, and lush identification artwork make it stand out from its competitors.

Whether you’re a casual or experienced birdwatcher, this guide provides the perfect way to appreciate and cultivate the feathered friends in your backyard.

Best Bird Field Guide For Beginners

It’s no secret that bird watching is a hobby that many people enjoy. It can be a challenging, yet fun pastime to try and identify all the different species of birds in your area.

For beginners, it can be daunting when they start out because there are so many field guides on the market to choose from.

We compiled a list of our favorite beginner bird field guides for those who want to get started with this exciting hobby! 

National Audubon Society Birds of North America.

National Audubon Society Birds of North America (National Audubon Society Complete Guides)

Are you a bird lover looking for a comprehensive guide to North American birds? Look no further than the National Audubon Society Birds of North America. This updated guide, developed by experts and featuring over 3,500 full-color photographs, covers more than 800 species and includes the latest information on conservation and climate change.

With birds arranged according to taxonomic order and grouped by family, this guide makes identification a breeze. You’ll also find range maps, physical descriptions, and information on voice, nesting, habitat, and similar species.

Although it’s quite hefty at 912 pages, this guide is well-organized and easy to use, making it a must-have for any birder’s library.

Pros:

  • Comprehensive coverage of over 800 species with over 3,500 full-color photographs
  • Latest information on conservation and climate change
  • Organized by taxonomic order and family groups for easy identification
  • Includes a glossary, index, and ribbon marker for easy use

Cons:

  • At 912 pages, it may be too heavy for some users to carry in the field
  • The taxonomic organization may be challenging for some readers

Verdict: The National Audubon Society Birds of North America is an essential reference guide for birders of all levels. With comprehensive coverage and the latest information on conservation and climate change, this guide is a go-to resource for identifying birds in their natural habitat.

Although it’s a hefty tome, the organization and easy-to-use features make it a valuable addition to any birder’s library. If you’re passionate about birding, this guide is a must-have.

National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 7th Edition

National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 7th Edition

As a birding enthusiast, you know that having the right field guide is essential to fully appreciate and identify the avian species around you. The National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America is not just one of the best birding books out there, it’s the best.

With its latest edition, the guide is the most up-to-date one in the market, featuring 37 new species, 250 fresh illustrations, and 80 new maps. Organized to match the latest American Ornithological Society taxonomy, this field guide is perfect for birders of all levels. The text has been thoroughly reviewed by experts in the field, ensuring its authenticity.

This 592-page paperback guide is lightweight and easy to carry on birding trips. The illustrations, hand-painted by top nature artists, are detailed and accurate, making it easy to identify even the most challenging species.

Pros:

  • Up-to-date guide featuring the latest American Ornithological Society taxonomy
  • Detailed hand-painted illustrations by top nature artists
  • Lightweight and easy to carry on birding trips
  • Comprehensive with 1,023 species

Cons:

  • Some birders may prefer a digital version of the guide

Specifications:

  • Publisher: National Geographic; 7th edition (September 12, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • ISBN-10: 1426218354
  • ISBN-13: 978-1426218354
  • Item Weight: 1.95 pounds
  • Dimensions: 5.47 x 1.12 x 8 inches

Verdict: The National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America is an essential addition to any birder’s collection. With its accuracy, comprehensive coverage, and detailed illustrations, it sets the bar for birding books.

A Comprehensive Buyer’s Guide To Birding Books

If you’re looking to get into birding or bird watching, a good book can be an invaluable resource. With so many options on the market, it can be difficult to know where to start. Here’s a comprehensive buyer’s guide to help you choose the best birding or bird watching book for you:

  • Identify your skill level: If you’re a beginner, you’ll want a book that’s geared towards beginners, while experienced birders may prefer more advanced texts. Consider your current knowledge level and what you hope to learn from the book.
  • Choose a format: Birding books come in a variety of formats, including field guides, identification manuals, and bird behavior guides. Think about how you’ll be using the book and choose a format that suits your needs.
  • Consider the author: Look for books written by reputable authors with a strong background in birding or ornithology. Consider their credentials and reputation within the birding community.
  • Check the illustrations: Detailed and accurate illustrations are essential for bird identification. Look for books with clear and detailed illustrations that accurately represent the bird species.
  • Read reviews: Read reviews from other birders to get an idea of the book’s strengths and weaknesses. Consider reviews from multiple sources to get a well-rounded understanding of the book.
  • Look for updated editions: Birding books should be updated regularly to reflect changes in taxonomy, bird ranges, and other information. Look for books with updated editions to ensure you have the most current information.
  • Price: Birding books can vary in price, so consider your budget when making a decision. Remember that a good birding book can last for years and be a valuable resource, so it may be worth investing in a high-quality book.

Some popular birding books include “The Sibley Guide to Birds” by David Allen Sibley, “The Genius of Birds” by Jennifer Ackerman, “Birds of North America” by Kenn Kaufman, and “The Warbler Guide” by Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle. Ultimately, the best birding book for you will depend on your personal preferences and needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best book to read about birds?

Some of the best books about birds include “The Sibley Guide to Birds” by David Allen Sibley, “The Genius of Birds” by Jennifer Ackerman, and “The Thing with Feathers” by Noah Strycker.

What are the 5 S’s of birding?

The 5 S’s of birding are Size and Shape, Sounds, Season and Range, Surroundings, and Behavior. These are the key factors that birders use to identify and observe birds in the wild.

Is a field guide a book?

Yes, a bird field guide is a book that provides detailed information about birds, including their physical characteristics, behavior, habitat, and distribution. The National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America is an excellent example of a bird field guide.

What is the best North American bird field guide?

The National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America is widely considered the best North American bird field guide. It is up-to-date, comprehensive, and features detailed illustrations by top nature artists, making it a must-have for birders of all levels.

What are the 4 keys to bird identification?

Bird watching enthusiasts know that identifying birds is an important step in the hobby, and there are four key elements to consider when trying to identify a particular bird.

  • The first key element is size and shape: different birds have different body types, so it’s important to note the length of a bird’s wingspan as well as its overall silhouette.
  • The second element is color pattern: the distinctive coloring of a bird can help set it apart from other species.
  • Thirdly, behavior should be considered; watching how a bird flies or feeds can provide valuable clues.
  • Lastly, habitat also matters; where you see one type of bird may indicate which type it is. All these factors combined will help an experienced birder accurately identify any given bird.

What are the four things a field guide should include?

A field guide is an essential tool for any bird-watcher, helping them identify different species of birds in their area and all across the world.

A good field guide will include four key things to help with identification: range maps, bird descriptions, field marks, and illustrations or photographs of each bird species.

What is the best field guide for birding?

The National Audubon Society Birds of North America is the complete, comprehensive guide to birding, with over, 3500 color photos and 800 species covered.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced birder, this guide is sure to help you identify birds in any setting.

It provides detailed descriptions as well as range maps and flight patterns to help you spot new species quickly and easily.

What is the best field guide for birds of eastern North America?

The National Audubon Society’s Birds of North America or National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America are two excellent field guides for birders interested in eastern North America.

These books have been around for a while and have been updated over time to reflect changes in birds’ ranges, migratory patterns, and population numbers.

Both guides provide detailed information on every species found in eastern North America, including range maps, descriptions of habitat preferences, identification tips, and photographs or illustrations of each species.

Recommended Articles: Best Birding Journals For Your Next Big Adventure! (2022)

Author

  • Vince S

    Meet Vince, the passionate founder and author of Learn Bird Watching, boasting 30 years of birding experience. With an unwavering mission to empower fellow bird enthusiasts, Vince shares invaluable wisdom and guidance. As a dedicated moderator and contributor to Quora's Bird Watchers' Club, he actively engages with the birding community, where his insightful answers have garnered over 440,000 views and over 2,670 upvotes. Whether you're a budding birder or a seasoned avian aficionado, his wealth of knowledge is at your service.