The best books about elephants and birds

James Currie Author Of When Eagles Roar: The Amazing Journey of an African Wildlife Adventurer
By James Currie

Who am I?

I've had a life-long passion for birds and African wildlife that developed from a very early age, spending countless hours on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. At various times I've had a totally compulsive obsession for birds and have chased rare and endangered birds around the planet for my long-standing TV series Nikon’s Birding Adventures TV. My love for elephants is equally as strong and I produced an award-winning conservation film in 2018 entitled Last of the Big Tuskers that features the plight of the world’s last remaining 20 or so super-tusker elephants. I'm a conservation fanatic and love exploring the links between local people and wildlife.


I wrote...

When Eagles Roar: The Amazing Journey of an African Wildlife Adventurer

By James Alexander Currie, Bonnie J. Fladung, Margo Gabrielle Damian (illustrator)

Book cover of When Eagles Roar: The Amazing Journey of an African Wildlife Adventurer

What is my book about?

This is a riveting African adventure story told with passion and charm. But as the Zulus say, “There is no river without a shade.” Follow the daring safari of James Currie as his love of birds, fascination with wildlife, and craving for adventure lead him into humorous and life-threatening situations. James captures the essence of what it means to be African today, facing everything from the Big Five to the vestiges of apartheid to the AIDS epidemic. He provides authoritative information on African wildlife and illustrates hair-raising encounters with lions, buffalo, leopards, elephants, rhinoceros, and snakes through exciting and humorous stories.

The books I picked & why

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The Last Elephants

By Don Pinnock, Colin Bell,

Book cover of The Last Elephants

Why this book?

This is one of the most comprehensive books on African elephants I have ever read. It covers a huge variety of topics and is a compilation of stories and studies from a collection of authors, conservationists, and scientists. I particularly like the mixture of personal stories and scientific information. An absolute “must-read” for anyone with a deep interest in elephants and a desire to get involved in their conservation.


Sasol Birds - The Inside Story

By Rael Loon, Hélène Loon,

Book cover of Sasol Birds - The Inside Story

Why this book?

Sasol Birds – The Inside Story is a fantastic book for learning more about the life-histories of southern African bird species. As a life-long safari guide, I am particularly drawn to books that can enhance my ability to interpret nature for my guests. This is simply the best book for intriguing and fascinating stories about birds of southern Africa. I would highly recommend this book for anyone with a keen interest in African birds and also for budding safari guides and naturalists who want to develop their guiding skills to incorporate birds. 


The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild

By Lawrence Anthony, Graham Spence,

Book cover of The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild

Why this book?

The late Lawrence Anthony was not afraid to anthropomorphize about elephants and, if there is one creature on our planet where this could be justified, I think that this is deserving of elephants. This book is about a cross-species relationship between one man, his family, and a herd of elephants. It is witty, funny, and gives a fascinating insight into the fact that although elephants couldn’t look more different to us, it’s quite remarkable how similar they are to us. I would recommend this book to anyone with a love of Africa, its wildlife – particularly elephants – and anyone with a thirst for adventure.


Life List: A Woman's Quest for the World's Most Amazing Birds

By Olivia Gentile,

Book cover of Life List: A Woman's Quest for the World's Most Amazing Birds

Why this book?

This is the true story of Phoebe Snetsinger and her bizarre and often dangerous quest to see more birds on the planet than any other human. Her quest to hold the world record for most bird species seen is a great story in itself but it is the way the author delves into Snetsinger’s character and her relationships with her family and others that are equally as fascinating. I love learning about what drives people to have absolute obsessions in life that they place above all else – relationships, health, safety, etc. I have been to many of the locations in the book and seen many of the bird species mentioned as well. The author captures all of this in a fast-paced book that will be loved by birders everywhere and anyone who wants a compelling read about obsession!


Big Twitch: One Man, One Continent, a Race Against Time - A True Story about Birdwatching

By Sean Dooley,

Book cover of Big Twitch: One Man, One Continent, a Race Against Time - A True Story about Birdwatching

Why this book?

I love stories about obsessive birding characters, and this is, without doubt, the funniest!! The author details his quest to try and break the annual Australian birding record by seeing more than 700 birds in a year. He drops everything to try and complete this task and runs into incredibly humorous and sometimes unbelievable situations. I love the way the author uses his self-deprecating humor to drive this fascinating story. An excellent read for anyone with a keen interest in birds and a keen sense of humor!


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in birds, birdwatching, and the conservation movement?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about birds, birdwatching, and the conservation movement.

Birds Explore 121 books about birds
Birdwatching Explore 26 books about birdwatching
The Conservation Movement Explore 9 books about the conservation movement

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Elephant Memories, The Winter Horses, and The Memory of an Elephant if you like this list.