21 Bird Books for the Birder in All of Us
by Joe Walters
Listen up! These bird books are calling you.
Birds are cooler than us, and it’s not even close. They can fly, they can sing, they can remember faces, they can survive longer than any of us. (Did you know that in 2021 we learned that birds are literally dinosaurs?)
And they’re everywhere! They share the world with us from close and afar, playing the soundtrack of our lives. They live in cities, rural areas, suburban areas, the deserts, the poles, the oceans. They’re around all year long, and they plant seeds that become trees and plants which sustain us. Some travel to be by our side even if only for a few moments in the exact moments we need it.
Have you fallen in love with birds yet, or are you already deep in the throes of adoration?
There are bird books for everyone and for every mood. In this list, I’ll be walking you through great field guides and reference books, birdwatching memoirs, bird books in relation to climate change, and even some fiction & poetry bird books. And fun fact? They’re all indie books.
Get your bird on with this all-indie list of top-notch bird books.
(Everything on Independent Book Review has been independently selected by a very picky group of people. We may earn a commission on items you purchase through our links.)
1. Birds of [Your Area]
An essential field guide series
When I first started birdwatching, I didn’t know what to do or how to start. I just liked what I saw and what I heard, and I wanted to know more about them.
That’s why I turned to Stan Tekiela’s Birds of Pennsylvania from Adventure Publications. And I’m so incredibly glad I did. Now it’s all worn-out in the window in front of my bird feeder. I’ve been able to identify and learn bird habits, tendencies, sounds, and more. If it’s a bird you saw in [your area], it’s this series that can teach you about it.
2. The Beginner’s Guide to Birding
Enter confidently into the world of birds despite knowing absolutely nothing about them. Maybe you’re a hiker or a dog walker or a mail-carrier whose primary companion is birds, or maybe you’ve just been waiting for the right time. This book is an easy and fun intro that you’ll be glad you picked up.
3. The Backyard Birdwatcher’s Bible
Sometimes you need a weighty tome to discover a big, illustrious world. The Backyard Birdwatcher’s Bible from Abrams Books is a beautiful full-color coffee table book that’s chock full of tips for understanding and attracting birds.
I love so many bird books, but my favorites are always the ones that provide unique information. There are so many cool things about birds that you just won’t get in other field guides and reference books.
But this book from Princeton University Press manages to unload a flurry of cool facts like, “Which birds’ nests can you eat?” and “What’s twitching?”
(Does this cover look familiar? Fungipedia was featured in our Must-Read Books About Mushrooms!)
5. The Field Guide to the Dumb Birds of North America
I’m not gonna lie. The first time I saw this, I hated it.
I didn’t yell, “Birds aren’t dumb!” but I thought it pretty loud.
And then I opened the book.
And it’s great. It’s silly, fun, uniquely illustrated, and packed with good info even if it does poke some fun at some of my little flying friends. This is a funny yet useful gift for birders and anti-birders.
6. Bird Trivia
Stan Tekiela & Adventure Publications are on the list yet again! And how couldn’t they be with this fun-filled adventure of bird facts and anecdotes? This one is tremendously easy to flip through. With full-color photography and easy-to-read headings and subheadings of funny weirdness, this book is a great gift AND a top-notch bathroom companion.
7. Birds and Us
This bird history book from Tim Birkhead & Princeton University Press discusses how birds have caught our fancy for thousands of years. Ancient Greece & Rome, the Middle Ages and today, this book covers a whole lot of land and time, and it would be a fascinating read for those interested in how humans’ understanding of birds has changed over time.
8. Feed the Birds
It’s one experience to watch & listen to birds; it’s another to feed them. Birds can come to your backyard (or hand) for nourishment on a daily basis. It’s a way of giving back to those who give so much to it.
Also, it’s genuinely fun to do. The surprises who come to your feeder will have you always peering out there, hoping to see the hawk you haven’t seen yet or the woodpecker’s shiny red head. Feed the Birds from Firefly Books covers a wide range of bird-feeding topics including foiling squirrels, involving children, and hand-feeding.
9. Birdhouses, Boxes & Feeders for the Backyard Hobbyist
Want to know which types of feeders & houses work for which birds? This book from Fox Chapel Publishing is a must-read resource. It teaches you how to build them too, so I like this for retired birdwatchers and people who like birds & to work with their hands. Want a special bond with your birds? Build them a house!
10. Conversations with Birds
This 2022 birding memoir from Priyanka Kumar and Milkweed Editions has been such a wonderful addition to my home library. I’ve got the beautiful cover displayed, so I’m always reminded of how I could soon be swept up in florid and personal nature writing. This book’s infatuation with the “cosmic serendipity” of bird arrivals speaks to what I love most about birds: the surprises.
11. An Old Man Remembering Birds
“As long as you remain alive and human, the closer you get to birds, and the more time you spend among them, the more you love them.“
This senior birding memoir published by Oregon State University Press explores how birds have influenced Baughman’s life over the years as well as the ways in which birdwatching has changed with the climate.
12. Woman, Watching
After surviving the Russian Revolution, Louise de Kiriline Lawrence lived in a log cabin in the North Bay in Ontario Canada, where she studied the birds who nested in her forest. This biography from Merilyn Simonds and ECW Press tells the story of a truly fascinating and influential birder. It was the winner of the Editor’s Choice Prize in Nonfiction in the Foreword Indies, too!
If you look closely, you’ll see birds doing mundane things, doing new things in new places, and adapting in whichever ways they need to in order to survive.
Fledgling is a personal memoir published by Aurum about Hannah Bourne-Taylor adapting to a new home with a little help from birds and nature. We liked this one so much we included it in our round-up of impressive indie books of 2022.
14. The Wise Hours
Perched in a tree hollow, hoo-hoo-ing at the stars, owls have made a home on this planet for millions of years. There’s a reason they’re billed as both mysterious and wise. Want to know why? Turn to Miriam Darlington’s The Wise Hours if you’re looking for something akin to H Is for Hawk–but for owls.
15. In the Company of Crows and Ravens
Corvids are among the world’s most intelligent bird families, capable of using and constructing tools. To top it off, they’re connected with humans in more ways than you’d think. This book from Yale University Press has such unique information packed in it about these smarties, including plenty of cool drawings of them too.
16. The Private Lives of Public Birds
Your neighbors are birds. This book from Heyday pays homage to the common bird–the ones who are populating your feeders everyday and the ones perching on telephone poles and city buildings. It’s also got some great info for listening to birds and investigating what they might be saying.
The robin (or European robin) is a little songbird with a big natural and cultural history. In this book, Author Helen F. Wilson discusses the robin–its stature, its song, its role as a sort of national treasure in the UK, an icon of Christmas–and gives answers to common questions like “Is it just me, or does that bird sound sad?”
18. Halcyon Journey
The kingfisher is all around the world, and there are a number of different species. But Marina Richie has her eye on–or is trying to get her eye on–the Belted Kingfisher in North America. Join Marina on her journey to find this mysterious halcyon bird through multiple adventures in this book from Oregon State University Press.
19. Flight Ways
Some birds are directly threatened by our changing climate. Written by a leading expert in extinction studies, Flight Ways is a game-changing resource about the specific birds at risk of extinction and the impact it’s having on the world they’re leaving behind. This book from Columbia University Press is a must-read for those seeking more info on albatrosses, penguins, and more.
20. I, Parrot
When I read fiction bird books, I want there to be a lot of birds. I want the pages to be bursting with their wings and feathers and hear (in this case) their cooing and squawking each time they grace the page. I, Parrot is a graphic novel that does just that, featuring pigeons, parrots, and humor.
21. Bright Wings
Billy Collins has gathered up more than one hundred contemporary and classic poems to pair with beautiful & ornithologically precise paintings, making this anthology from Columbia University Press something of a beautiful, celebratory field guide of birds’ incredible nature.
Which books about birds would you recommend? If you enjoyed this list, check out some of our other nature book lists like Must-Read Mushroom Books and Buzzworthy Books About Bees.
About the Author
Joe Walters is the founder and editor-in-chief of Independent Book Review. When he’s not doing editorial, promoting, or reviewing work, he’s working on his squirrel novel or looking out for a great blue heron. Find him @joewalters13 on Twitter.
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