Sibley Guide to Birds
David Allen Sibley/Knopf
This is the newest and simply the best of the fieldguides
listed here. It is also available in smaller,
editions that are more pocket friendly but the illustrations
are smaller and compartively cramped.
Field Guide to North American Birds (4th Edition)
National Geographic Society
Prior to Sibley, this was the field guide of choice for
serious birders. It is still preferred by many because of
it's smaller format and more lively illustrations.
Peterson Field Guides: Western Birds (3rd Edition)
Roger Tory Peterson/Houghton Mifflin Co.
This is the old standard, but still a valuable reference
with good illustrations even if they are a bit stiff.
All the Birds of North America
American Bird Conservancy's Field Guide Harper Perennial/Harper
This is a strangely organized, but useful cross reference
with good supplemental information on conservation.
Note: Avoid the photographic fieldguides
such as the Audubon Society guides or the Stokes guides.
They are perfectly fine for cross reference, but are not
the best for field identification. However, if you feel
you would like to refer to actual photographs, the new Kaufman
Focus Guide to Birds of North America is easily
at the Bottom of the Bay: South San Francisco Bay
A birder's site guide from Santa Clara Audubon Society
Francisco Peninsula Birdwatching
A guide to San Mateo County birding spots by the Sequoia Audubon
Northern California: A Falcon Guide
in the American West: A Handbook
Kevin J. Zimmer/Cornell University Press
Cooper Ornithological Club maintains an online archive
of their out of print editions. Valuable resources such as
the famous The Distribution of the Birds of California
by Grinnell and Miller (1944) are available here (in pdf format),
as well as other seminal editions that will interest the research-birder.
All of these were published by the Cooper Ornitholigical Club
and printed by the University Press in Berkeley, CA. Once
considered essential, now they are almost impossible to find.
Simply scroll down the list to find the titles and download
options, but beware, these are large files! The Directory
to the Bird-Life of the San Francisco Bay Region by
Grinnell and Wythe (1927) and A Distributional List
of the Birds of California by Grinnell (1915) are
also of great interest to local birders.
Guide to Bird Life and Behavior
David Allen Sibley/Knopf
If you're going to add one more book to your bird library
to compliment your field guide, this should be it. Richly
illustrated, thorough and accessible, not to mention a good
text book for class.
Complete Birds of North America
Edited by Jonathan Alderfer/National Geographic
All bird families are introduced with generous articles, each species illustrated or photographed, and in many cases it borrows detailed migration maps from the 2003 NGS Atlas of birds. Very similar in concept to the Kaufman "Lives of North American Birds" but a superior and more up to date volume.
of North American Birds: Peterson Natural History Companion
Ken Kaufman/Houghtin Mifflin Co.
A wonderful, species-by-species account of American birds.
It goes a long way toward filling in the blanks left by
the more clinical identification guides.
Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion:
A Comprehensive Resource for Identifying North American Birds
Pete Dunne/Houghton Mifflin Co.
This monumental work describes each North American Bird in detail, emphasizing behavior and the general impression of size and shape, or "GISS" in great detail, as opposed to dwelling on tradiitional field marks. It's not a field guide, in fact there are no illustrations at all. It is simply an indepth account of each bird's being, and takes great efforts to describe how, for example, Chimney Swifts and Vaux's Swifts differ in size, shape and flight style. It is already on my top shelf and should be required reading for any serious birder.
David Allen Sibley/Knopf
Imagine this as an extended introduction to the Sibley Guide
to Birds. It's gives valuable background information on
how to observe birds and recognize the most important
features. Plumage, molt pattern, vocalizations and structure
are discussed in general terms to familiarize birders, both
new and experienced, with how to be better observers. Highly
Tracks and Sign:
A guide to North American Species
by Mark Elbroch, Eleanor Marks, C. Diane Boretos/Stackpole
This great new book gives you the detective tools to recognize
the presence of numerous bird species without actually seeing
them. Evidence such as Owl pellets, Woodpecker holes, footprints,
dropped feathers, skulls, etc. all indicate the presence
of specific birds. It's a very good reference for those
who want to "read" the forest like a tracker.
Randall T. Cox/Falcon Publishing, Inc.
ABA Checklist: Birds of the Continental
United States and Canada
American Birding Association
(Only available through ABA. Visit the ABA Sales site at
or call 800.850.2473)
Note: Most state and national parks
have checklists available for a small fee at their headquarters.
County checklists, like the Santa Clara County checklist
I will distribute in class, are often the most useful for
birders. They are available through local Audubon chapters.
For contact information of local Audubon chapters, refer
to the Links portion of this site.
ANNOTATED FIELD LISTS
Birds of Northern California: An Annotated
Golden Gate Audubon Society (Only available through GGAS.
Visit the GGAS site at: http://www.goldengateaudubon.org/
or call 510.843.2222)
Bird Songs of California
This Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology 3-cd set is similar
in format to the Stokes set, but is a marked improvement.
It covers only California species, presenting longer samples
of each and only one species per track. As well, many documented
subspecies are treated separately to present a thorough
examination of all vocalizations. An excellent book describes
each song at lenght to aid in learning. Highly recommended!
Field Guide to Bird Song: Western Region
This is the one I use in class for our song lessons. It
has 4 cds with longer samples and more species found in
Western U.S. than the Peterson, but I actually own both.
Field Guides: Western Birding by Ear
Richard K. Walton & Robert W. Lawson (available through
ABA or at the Discovery Shop). I recommend it highly for
people who have no prior experience with bird song. It familiarizes
the listener with the necessary vocabulary to describe (and
identify) the many songs they may hear in the Western U.S.
It is a series of short lectures on various kinds of bird
vocalizations. It's fun to listen to during the morning
commute and after a few listens, you'd be surprised how
much you remember. Highly recommended.
Field Guides: Western Bird Song
Most of the birds west of the Rockies are represented here,
and it is organized to follow the Peterson Field Guide to
Audubon Society Interactive CD-ROM Guide to North American
(both PC and MAC)
Note: There are many software programs
available, being a MAC person, I can only speak for this
one title. It seems to be the only one which works on both
platforms. Others, especially the Thayer's CD are supposed
to be wonderful. They are all available through the ABA.
Attenborough's Life of Birds
Wow! I can't recommend this BBC series enough! Available
on both DVD and Video this will certainly be a cherished
addition to any birder's media library. Organized thematically:
The decision to fly, Breeding and courtship, The trials
of egg laying, Survival, Communication etc. David handles
complicated biological issues with his casual English flair.
Rent it, buy it or steal it from a friend, but watch this
Audubon Society's Video Guide to Birds
of North America
This fantastic, five video set provides a rare opportunity
to "watch" a field guide as it takes you through the various
identification points of more than 500 North American Birds.
It can be ordered by calling Audubon Magazine/MasterVision