100 books like The Big Year

By Mark Obmascik,

Here are 100 books that The Big Year fans have personally recommended if you like The Big Year. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Why Peacocks?: An Unlikely Search for Meaning in the World's Most Magnificent Bird

Elizabeth Gehrman Author Of Rare Birds: The Extraordinary Tale of the Bermuda Petrel and the Man Who Brought It Back from Extinction

From my list on birds and life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I never had a particular interest in birds until I heard about David Wingate and the cahow; I’m just a reporter who was smitten by a compelling story. I often write about science and the environment, as well as travel and other topics, for publications including the Boston Globe, Archaeology, and Harvard Medicine, and while working on Rare Birds I got hooked on these extraordinary creatures and the iconoclastic obsessives who have become their stewards in the Anthropocene era. You don’t have to care about birds to love their stories — but in the end, you will.

Elizabeth's book list on birds and life

Elizabeth Gehrman Why did Elizabeth love this book?

GQ writer Flynn and his wife and two kids are minding their own business on their surburban Durham “faux farm” when a friend calls to ask if they want to add a peacock to the two chickens that wander their yard. They end up with three of the kaleidoscopic birds, and Flynn’s chronicle of the family’s first year with Carl, Ethel, and Mr. Pickle takes readers on an implausibly relatable journey from the bird’s place in history, culture, and myth through its evolutionary biology and breeding habits to its endangered status in the wild, offering sardonically hilarious and harrowingly poignant life lessons along the way.

By Sean Flynn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Why Peacocks? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An acclaimed journalist seeks to understand the mysterious allure of peacocks-and in the process discovers unexpected and valuable life lessons.

When Sean Flynn's neighbor in North Carolina texted "Any chance you guys want a peacock? No kidding!" he stared bewilderedly at his phone. He had never considered whether he wanted a peacock. But as an award-winning magazine writer, this kind of mystery intrigued him. So he, his wife, and their two young sons became the owners of not one but three charming yet fickle birds: Carl, Ethel, and Mr. Pickle.

In Why Peacocks?, Flynn chronicles his hilarious and heartwarming first…


Book cover of The Thing with Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal about Being Human

Elizabeth Gehrman Author Of Rare Birds: The Extraordinary Tale of the Bermuda Petrel and the Man Who Brought It Back from Extinction

From my list on birds and life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I never had a particular interest in birds until I heard about David Wingate and the cahow; I’m just a reporter who was smitten by a compelling story. I often write about science and the environment, as well as travel and other topics, for publications including the Boston Globe, Archaeology, and Harvard Medicine, and while working on Rare Birds I got hooked on these extraordinary creatures and the iconoclastic obsessives who have become their stewards in the Anthropocene era. You don’t have to care about birds to love their stories — but in the end, you will.

Elizabeth's book list on birds and life

Elizabeth Gehrman Why did Elizabeth love this book?

Packing a huge amount of research onto every page, Strycker, who in his 2015 big year logged a record-setting 6,042 bird species, engagingly analyzes the biology and behavior of penguins, magpies, hummingbirds, albatrosses, and more to explore how the lives of birds are simultaneously incredibly alien to and indelibly intertwined with those of humans in activities and emotions as diverse as altruism, dancing, seduction, and fear. His insights, delivered with a light touch, may well change the worldview of those who think that humans are somehow more worthy than any other animal on the planet.

By Noah Strycker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Thing with Feathers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"[Strycker] thinks like a biologist but writes like a poet." -- Wall Street Journal

An entertaining and profound look at the lives of birds, illuminating their surprising world—and deep connection with humanity.
 
Birds are highly intelligent animals, yet their intelligence is dramatically different from our own and has been little understood. As we learn more about the secrets of bird life, we are unlocking fascinating insights into memory, relationships, game theory, and the nature of intelligence itself.

The Thing with Feathers explores the astonishing homing abilities of pigeons, the good deeds of fairy-wrens, the influential flocking abilities of starlings, the…


Book cover of That Quail, Robert

Elizabeth Gehrman Author Of Rare Birds: The Extraordinary Tale of the Bermuda Petrel and the Man Who Brought It Back from Extinction

From my list on birds and life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I never had a particular interest in birds until I heard about David Wingate and the cahow; I’m just a reporter who was smitten by a compelling story. I often write about science and the environment, as well as travel and other topics, for publications including the Boston Globe, Archaeology, and Harvard Medicine, and while working on Rare Birds I got hooked on these extraordinary creatures and the iconoclastic obsessives who have become their stewards in the Anthropocene era. You don’t have to care about birds to love their stories — but in the end, you will.

Elizabeth's book list on birds and life

Elizabeth Gehrman Why did Elizabeth love this book?

Originally published in 1966, this charming illustrated tale continues to sell briskly. Written by the neighbor of a Cape Cod doctor who finds a quail egg abandoned in his yard and warms it with a table lamp until it hatches, it tells of how Robert, as the bird (later discovered to be female) is dubbed, imprints on “his” adopted family, who quickly realize that “far from having a bird in captivity, we were helplessly and hopelessly ensnared and enamored.” What follows is an interspecies love story between the “highly sociable,” housetrained, telephone-answering, sauerkraut-devouring fluffball and the humans she never ceases to beguile.

By Margaret Stanger,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked That Quail, Robert as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The acclaimed story of the little bird that won the nation’s heart

He’ll never live, the neighbors all said. But Robert, the abandoned quail chick would prove them wrong. Born on a kitchen counter in a house on Cape Cod, raised in a box surrounded by a lamb’s wool duster and a small lamp, Robert’s life began auspiciously.


Book cover of Aloft: A Meditation on Pigeons & Pigeon-Flying

Elizabeth Gehrman Author Of Rare Birds: The Extraordinary Tale of the Bermuda Petrel and the Man Who Brought It Back from Extinction

From my list on birds and life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I never had a particular interest in birds until I heard about David Wingate and the cahow; I’m just a reporter who was smitten by a compelling story. I often write about science and the environment, as well as travel and other topics, for publications including the Boston Globe, Archaeology, and Harvard Medicine, and while working on Rare Birds I got hooked on these extraordinary creatures and the iconoclastic obsessives who have become their stewards in the Anthropocene era. You don’t have to care about birds to love their stories — but in the end, you will.

Elizabeth's book list on birds and life

Elizabeth Gehrman Why did Elizabeth love this book?

Pigeons are the Rodney Dangerfield of birds. But these docile “rats with wings,” as they’re often called, have hidden depths, including a long and varied history with the human race, which domesticated them 10,000 years ago — around the same time as dogs. As a child, Bodio took up what would become a lifelong passion: training and racing homing pigeons, and this 1990 memoir-slash-natural history reveals why in practical and poetic detail. It’s a great companion to Andrew Blechman’s sweeping 2004 survey Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World’s Most Revered and Reviled Bird. Together the two books say as much about the insular community of pigeon fanciers as they do about the pigeons themselves.

By Stephen Bodio,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Aloft as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The humble pigeon is anything but "common" to those who know the true nature of these birds. This bird is so enamored by some that, for over six thousand years, people have devoted themselves to the art of pigeon flying and pigeon breeding. Across the world, from the cities of America to China, enthusiasts have lovingly nurtured their flocks, creating thousands of breeds from small to large, and admired their beauty in every shape and size: pigeons with crests and frills, those who fly and those who can't.

Stephen Bodio draws readers in with resounding prose and a captivating portrayal…


Book cover of Counting Birds: The Idea That Helped Save Our Feathered Friends

Peggy Thomas Author Of For the Birds: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson

From my list on for budding birders.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always loved birds, especially the red-winged black birds; their song was the first I learned to recognize as a kid. My first field guide was written by Roger Tory Peterson, and through that book and many others I’ve learned about the amazing world around us. Now, as a children’s nonfiction author, I get to share similar stories with young readers through my books and at school presentations. And as a writing instructor, I collect well-crafted and well-researched nonfiction, and use them to encourage budding children’s writers at workshops, in blog posts for the Nonfiction Ninjas, and as co-host of the annual Nonfiction Fest that celebrates true stories for children.

Peggy's book list on for budding birders

Peggy Thomas Why did Peggy love this book?

Believe it or not, a long time ago hunters would go out on Christmas day and shoot as many birds as they could. I know! What an awful tradition! Yikes! Fortunately, Frank Chapman thought it was awful, too. This book shows how he campaigned for bird lovers to count birds rather than shoot them. 

Today, millions of people participate in the Christmas Bird Count. Their data helps scientists keep track of bird populations. The best part is that anyone can participate. Counting Birds reminds us that one person really can make a difference.

By Heidi E. Y. Stemple, Clover Robin (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Counting Birds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, 5, and 6.

What is this book about?

Everyday kids learn how they can help protect bird species, near and far, with the award-winning book Counting Birds-the real-life story behind the first annual bird count.

What can you do to help endangered animals and make a positive change in our environment? Get counting! Counting Birds is a beautifully illustrated book that introduces kids to the idea of bird counts and bird watches. Along the way, they will learn about Frank Chapman, an ornithologist who wanted to see the end of the traditional Christmas bird hunt, an event in which people would shoot as many birds as possible on…


Book cover of Finding a Dove for Gramps

Peggy Thomas Author Of For the Birds: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson

From my list on for budding birders.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always loved birds, especially the red-winged black birds; their song was the first I learned to recognize as a kid. My first field guide was written by Roger Tory Peterson, and through that book and many others I’ve learned about the amazing world around us. Now, as a children’s nonfiction author, I get to share similar stories with young readers through my books and at school presentations. And as a writing instructor, I collect well-crafted and well-researched nonfiction, and use them to encourage budding children’s writers at workshops, in blog posts for the Nonfiction Ninjas, and as co-host of the annual Nonfiction Fest that celebrates true stories for children.

Peggy's book list on for budding birders

Peggy Thomas Why did Peggy love this book?

This is a fictional story about a boy searching for his Gramps’s favorite bird during the Christmas Bird Count. 

I’m sure there are many young readers who don’t think they know enough to participate in something so grand as the Christmas Bird Count. But I’m confident that this book will reassure them that they know more than they think as they confidently identify the birds deftly illustrated by Maria Luisa Di Gravio. Lisa Amstutz, the author, has also included in the backmatter a birding checklist to get little bird nerds started. I think this story will inspire a lot of families to start their own birding tradition.

By Lisa J. Amstutz, Maria Luisa Di Gravio (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Finding a Dove for Gramps as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A heart-warming story about nature, birds, and a family tradition.

A boy and his mom continue the family tradition of participating in the annual bird count. Since Gramps went South for the winter, the boy hopes to spot Gramps's favorite bird for him—a dove! But with so many different birds in the nature preserve, will he be able to spot one? This heart-warming family story about nature celebrates a holiday census that was first started in 1900 and happens every year.


Book cover of The Sibley Guide to Birds

Jonathan Balcombe Author Of Super Fly: The Unexpected Lives of the World's Most Successful Insects

From my list on understanding birds.

Why am I passionate about this?

I started watching animals as soon as I could walk. That eventually led to a PhD in animal behavior and a career in animal protection. I now focus my energies on writing books that seek to improve our understanding of, and most importantly our relations with, other animals. I've written four previous books: Pleasurable Kingdom, Second Nature, The Exultant Ark, and What a Fish Knows (a New York Times best-seller now available in fifteen languages). I live in Belleville, Ontario where I enjoy biking, baking, birding, Bach, and trying to understand the neighborhood squirrels.

Jonathan's book list on understanding birds

Jonathan Balcombe Why did Jonathan love this book?

This beautifully illustrated, comprehensive book is a must-have for bird enthusiasts. It is not only a useful guide to identifying birds, but also an illuminating source on little-known aspects of bird behavior.

By David Allen Sibley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sibley Guide to Birds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Undoubtedly the finest guide to North American birds.”—Guy McCaskie, Birding


The publication of The Sibley Guide to Birds, First Edition quickly established David Allen Sibley as the author and illustrator of the nation’s supreme and most comprehensive guide to birds. Used by millions of birders from novices to the most expert, The Sibley Guide became the standard by which natural history guides are measured. The highly anticipated second edition builds on this foundation of excellence, offering massively expanded and updated information, new paintings, new and rare species, and a new, elegant design.


The second edition of this handsome, flexibound volume…


Book cover of Backpack Explorer: Bird Watch: What Will You Find?

Danna Smith Author Of The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry

From my list on for children about birds.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father was a life-long falconer. When I was a child, spending time with my father meant spending time with a menagerie of winged friends like goshawks, peregrine falcons, parrots, owls, and even vultures. I didn’t know it back then, but as I went hawking with my dad and helped him care for his beautiful birds, I was gathering a nest of passion and ideas for the writer and poet I would become. Today, I enjoy sharing my love of birds, nature, and books with children (and children at heart).

Danna's book list on for children about birds

Danna Smith Why did Danna love this book?

Oh, how I wish I had this book when I was a child! Each brightly illustrated page is rich with close-up photos of various birds to look for, field guides, and tips to follow. It’s jam-packed with every activity bird-loving littles could hope for—games, crafts, a birding log for sightings, sticker badges, and a real magnifying glass! Bird Watch is an excellent book for school field trips, family nature adventures, and the perfect gift for young explorers.

By Editors of Storey Publishing, Oana Befort (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Backpack Explorer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The third book in the Backpack Explorer series from the Editors of Storey Publishing invites budding naturalists to head outside for a walk - in the woods, a park, or right in their backyard - to spot feathered friends. Backpack Explorer: Bird Watch leads kids aged 4 and up through the basics of birding, from identifying common birds to learning about habitat and migration and listening for bird songs. The pages are packed with prompts and activities, including 12 interactive field guides (for common birds, nests, eggs, tracks, and more), sensory scavenger hunts, activities such as building a bird nest,…


Book cover of Look Up!: Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard

Jennifer Ward Author Of How to Find a Bird

From my list on for budding young birders.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m the author of more than 25 award-winning books for children, including Mama Built a Little Nest, illustrated by Steve Jenkins, and I Love Birds! 52 Ways to Wonder, Wander and Explore Birds with Kids, illustrated by Alexander Vidal. When not writing, I help rehabilitate injured and orphaned songbirds, I study bird behavior, and I further my knowledge about birds through books and scholarly journals. Birds offer a constant source of discovery and wonder. I hope the books I’ve recommended offer a source of discovery and wonder for your young readers, too!

Jennifer's book list on for budding young birders

Jennifer Ward Why did Jennifer love this book?

What can I say? I am an adult who’s an avid birder (I take joy in observing them daily), I work with wild bird rehabilitation (sounds like a sweet job, but it’s actually quite taxing), I photograph birds (I try!), I count the bird species in my backyard (over 100 species and know many of them personally), and I write professionally about birds - - and I learned so much about birds from this clever children’s book!  It’s a must-have for any budding birder and birding family. I love the quirky design (speech bubbles!) -and most importantly, the cleverly presented facts about birding and the bird world. Check it out.


By Annette LeBlanc Cate,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Look Up! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A 2014 Robert F. Sibert Honor Book

You don’t have to own binoculars and know a bunch of fancy Latin names to watch birds! No matter where you live, they’re in your neighborhood — just look up.

This conversational, humorous introduction to bird-watching encourages kids to get outdoors with a sketchbook and really look around. Quirky full-color illustrations portray dozens of birds chatting about their distinctive characteristics, including color, shape, plumage, and beak and foot types, while tongue-in-cheek cartoons feature banter between birds, characters, and the reader (“Here I am, the noble spruce grouse. In a spruce grove. Eatin’ some…


Book cover of How to Find a Bird

Maria Gianferrari Author Of Whoo-Ku Haiku: A Great Horned Owl Story

From my list on read aloud bird books for kids.

Why am I passionate about this?

I may not be an expert ornithologist, but I am an avid “birdologist” to borrow a term from Sy Montgomery—one who is awed and fascinated by all things bird. Bird-watching is meditative—it helps me to be present and to feel joyful. I love reading, learning, and writing about birds too! I am the author of these bird books: Hawk Rising, illustrated by Brian Floca, Whoo-Ku Haiku, illustrated by Jonathan Voss, and the forthcoming You and the Bowerbird, illustrated by Maris Wicks. I love writing about the natural world and its inhabitants as well as dogs—another love of mine!

Maria's book list on read aloud bird books for kids

Maria Gianferrari Why did Maria love this book?

Both Jennifer Ward and Diana Sudyka are two of my favorite kid lit creators, and this brilliant collaboration begs to be read aloud. Ward’s lyrical text sings as an introductory guide for the littlest bird watchers, showing them where to look for birds: up to see them fly and roost—but not just up—down on the ground where birds nest, straight ahead where they blend with bark, on and under the water. And if you put out a birdfeeder, all you need is a window-view. But what’s the best way to find a bird? To listen—birdsong is all around us! Sudyka’s gorgeously intricate art paints the avian details of all the found birds. Don’t miss the back matter for bird-watching tips.

By Jennifer Ward, Diana Sudyka (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Find a Bird as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

A joyful and informative guide to birdwatching for budding young birders from an award-winning author-illustrator duo.

How do you find a bird? There are so many ways! Begin by watching. And listening. And staying quiet, so quiet you can hear your own heartbeat. Soon you’ll see that there are birds everywhere—up in the sky, down on the ground, sometimes even right in front of you just waiting to be discovered!

Young bird lovers will adore this lushly illustrated introduction to how to spot and observe our feathered friends. It features more than fifty different species, from the giant whooping crane…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in birdwatching, counting, and birds?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about birdwatching, counting, and birds.

Birdwatching Explore 34 books about birdwatching
Counting Explore 22 books about counting
Birds Explore 168 books about birds