The best bird books

34 authors have picked their favorite books about birds and why they recommend each book.

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Bird by Bird

By Anne Lamott,

Book cover of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Lamott recalls when her ten-year-old brother put off a three-month project on birds until the night before it was due. She describes him as immobilized. Their father sagely advised, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

Although these soothing words were indisputably not directed towards me, I cannot overstate how regularly they calm me in moments of thinly disguised hysteria. The metaphor is brilliant, plus I adore birds. Lamott frequently reminds the reader how quality writing requires—demands—full attention. So does deep reading. So does deep living. While this book is primarily about writing, it is equally about life—nestled atop a solid foundation of singletasking.

Bird by Bird

By Anne Lamott,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Bird by Bird as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • An essential volume for generations of writers young and old. The twenty-fifth anniversary edition of this modern classic will continue to spark creative minds for years to come. Anne Lamott is "a warm, generous, and hilarious guide through the writer’s world and its treacherous swamps" (Los Angeles Times). 

“Superb writing advice…. Hilarious, helpful, and provocative.” —The New York Times Book Review

For a quarter century, more than a million readers—scribes and scribblers of all ages and abilities—have been inspired by Anne Lamott’s hilarious, big-hearted, homespun advice. Advice that begins with the simple words of wisdom…


Who am I?

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” - Goethe. As Singletasking notes, we’ve become relentlessly disrespectful of the people and experiences right in front of us. Reversing this is a mission of mine. Nothing seems more important than redirecting our lifelong attention to what matters most. As an international author and speaker about both Singletasking and personality styles, I’m convinced paying attention to and honoring each other is the key to a meaningful life and deep relationships.


I wrote...

Singletasking: Get More Done one Thing at a Time

By Devora Zack,

Book cover of Singletasking: Get More Done one Thing at a Time

What is my book about?

Too many of us have become addicted to the popular, enticing, dangerously misleading drug of multitasking. But you can beat it, while improving your life in the process.

Singletasking marshals convincing neuroscientific evidence to prove that you really can’t do more by trying to tackle several things at once—it’s an illusion. There is a better way to deal with all the information and interruptions that bombard us today. Singletasking explains exactly how to clear and calm your mind, arrange your schedule and environment, and gently yet firmly manage the expectations of people around you so that you can accomplish a succession of tasks, one by one—and be infinitely more productive. Singletasking is the secret to success and sanity.

The Sibley Guide to Birds

By David Allen Sibley,

Book cover of The Sibley Guide to Birds

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.

The Sibley Guide to Birds

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…


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

Super Fly: The Unexpected Lives of the World's Most Successful Insects

By Jonathan Balcombe,

Book cover of Super Fly: The Unexpected Lives of the World's Most Successful Insects

What is my book about?

For most of us, the only thing we know about flies is that they're annoying, and our usual reaction is to try to kill them. In Super Fly, the myth-busting biologist Jonathan Balcombe shows the order Diptera in all of its diversity, illustrating the essential role that flies play in every ecosystem in the world as pollinators, waste-disposers, predators, and food source; and how flies continue to reshape our understanding of evolution. Along the way, he reintroduces us to familiar foes like the fruit fly and mosquito, and gives us the chance to meet their lesser-known cousins like the Petroleum Fly (the only animal in the world that breeds in crude oil) and the Chocolate Midge (the sole pollinator of the Cacao tree). No matter your outlook on our tiny buzzing neighbors, Super Fly will change the way you look at flies forever.

Birds as Individuals

By Len Howard,

Book cover of Birds as Individuals

A British musicologist opens the windows to her country home and lets wild birds come in and nest there. This unique study allows her (and us) to observe these feathered sprites up close and personal. Many befriend their human hostess, with remarkable revelations.

Birds as Individuals

By Len Howard,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

Super Fly: The Unexpected Lives of the World's Most Successful Insects

By Jonathan Balcombe,

Book cover of Super Fly: The Unexpected Lives of the World's Most Successful Insects

What is my book about?

For most of us, the only thing we know about flies is that they're annoying, and our usual reaction is to try to kill them. In Super Fly, the myth-busting biologist Jonathan Balcombe shows the order Diptera in all of its diversity, illustrating the essential role that flies play in every ecosystem in the world as pollinators, waste-disposers, predators, and food source; and how flies continue to reshape our understanding of evolution. Along the way, he reintroduces us to familiar foes like the fruit fly and mosquito, and gives us the chance to meet their lesser-known cousins like the Petroleum Fly (the only animal in the world that breeds in crude oil) and the Chocolate Midge (the sole pollinator of the Cacao tree). No matter your outlook on our tiny buzzing neighbors, Super Fly will change the way you look at flies forever.

Birdology

By Sy Montgomery,

Book cover of Birdology: Adventures with Hip Hop Parrots, Cantankerous Cassowaries, Crabby Crows, Peripatetic Pigeons, Hens, Hawks, and Hummingbirds

True to form, Montgomery advances our understanding of birds through stories and adventures from the field. An accessible book from a celebrated writer whose love of animals is infectious.

Birdology

By Sy Montgomery,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Synopsis coming soon.......


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

Super Fly: The Unexpected Lives of the World's Most Successful Insects

By Jonathan Balcombe,

Book cover of Super Fly: The Unexpected Lives of the World's Most Successful Insects

What is my book about?

For most of us, the only thing we know about flies is that they're annoying, and our usual reaction is to try to kill them. In Super Fly, the myth-busting biologist Jonathan Balcombe shows the order Diptera in all of its diversity, illustrating the essential role that flies play in every ecosystem in the world as pollinators, waste-disposers, predators, and food source; and how flies continue to reshape our understanding of evolution. Along the way, he reintroduces us to familiar foes like the fruit fly and mosquito, and gives us the chance to meet their lesser-known cousins like the Petroleum Fly (the only animal in the world that breeds in crude oil) and the Chocolate Midge (the sole pollinator of the Cacao tree). No matter your outlook on our tiny buzzing neighbors, Super Fly will change the way you look at flies forever.

The Thing with Feathers

By Noah Strycker,

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

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.

The Thing with Feathers

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…


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

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

By Elizabeth Gehrman,

Book cover of Rare Birds: The Extraordinary Tale of the Bermuda Petrel and the Man Who Brought It Back from Extinction

What is my book about?

Rare Birds is a tale of obsession, of hope, of fighting for redemption against incredible odds. For more than 300 years the cahow, or Bermuda petrel, was believed extinct, but by the early 1900s, tantalizing hints of the birds’ continued existence began to emerge, and in 1951, two naturalists mounted a last-ditch effort to find them, bringing 15-year-old David Wingate along for the ride. When the stunned scientists pulled a blinking, docile cahow from deep within a rocky cliffside, it made headlines around the world—and showed Wingate what he was put on Earth to do.
 
Starting with just seven nesting pairs of the birds, Wingate devoted his life to giving the cahows the chance they needed in their centuries-long struggle for survival, battling hurricanes, invasive species, DDT, the American military, and personal tragedy along the way. It took six decades of ardent dedication, but Wingate has seen his dream fulfilled as the birds have reached the 100-pair mark and returned to Nonsuch, an island habitat he hand-restored for them, plant by plant, in anticipation of this day. His story is an inspiring celebration of the resilience of nature, the power of persistence, and the value of going your own way.

Fledgling

By Hannah Bourne-Taylor,

Book cover of Fledgling

Here’s how an intense, almost obsessive focus on wildlife can bring solace from chaos and alienation. Young bird-lover Hannah Bourne-Taylor moves to Ghana as a ‘trailing spouse,’ and it’s the fauna that keeps her going as she struggles to rebuild her identity. Two stray dogs leap into her life; a pangolin needs saving from someone’s dinner table. But it’s the act of saving a swift and a mannikin finch, nurturing and releasing the birds back into the wild, that provides the key to this closely observed, touching story. At first, the finch doesn’t want to re-wild – and Hannah realizes with a shock that she’s humanized it. Explores interesting dilemmas about intervening on nature’s behalf, and whether one act of compassion can really make a difference. A book full of hope.

Fledgling

By Hannah Bourne-Taylor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Read the powerful account of one woman's fight to reshape her identity through connection with nature when all normality has fallen away.

When lifelong bird-lover Hannah Bourne-Taylor moved with her husband to Ghana seven years ago she couldn't have anticipated how her life would be forever changed by her unexpected encounters with nature and the subsequent bonds she formed.

Plucked from the comfort and predictability of her life before, Hannah struggled to establish herself in her new environment, striving to belong in the rural grasslands far away from home.

In this challenging situation, she was forced to turn inwards and…


Who am I?

I’m an investigative journalist and social historian who’s obsessed with ‘invisible’ women of the 19th and early 20th century, bringing their stories to life in highly readable narrative non-fiction. I love the detective work involved in resurrecting ordinary women’s lives: shop girls, milliners, campaigning housewives, servants. . . The stories I’ve uncovered are gripping, often shocking and frequently poignant – but also celebrate women’s determination, solidarity and capacity for reinvention. Each of my two books took me on a long research journey deep into the archives: The Housekeeper’s Tale – the Women Who Really Ran the English Country House, and Etta Lemon – The Woman Who Saved the Birds.


I wrote...

Etta Lemon: The Woman Who Saved the Birds

By Tessa Boase,

Book cover of Etta Lemon: The Woman Who Saved the Birds

What is my book about?

Etta Lemon is the formidable woman who built the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Her surname suited her. She was bitter in her opposition to the plumage trade, acid in her scorn for women’s vanity. Her RSPB colleagues called her ‘The Dragon’, but to the public, she was simply ‘Mother of the Birds.’ Where she led, the Audubon Society would follow. Her legacy is Britain’s biggest conservation charity. But she has not been remembered by history.

Etta’s bird protection crusade was eclipsed by the more glamorous campaign for the vote, led by the elegantly plumed Emmeline Pankhurst. This fast-paced book shines a light on the interlinked (and often fractious) movements for women's rights and animal rights, showcasing two formidable heroines and their rival, overlapping campaigns.

Backpack Explorer

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

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

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.

Backpack Explorer

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,…


Who am I?

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).


I wrote...

The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry

By Danna Smith, Bagram Ibatoulline (illustrator),

Book cover of The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry

What is my book about?

Gentle verse and sweeping, majestic artwork set imaginations soaring in a handsome and illuminating ode to the ancient art of falconry.

Join a young girl and her father, the falconer at a medieval castle, as they experience the joys of taking a goshawk out for a training flight. The girl leads readers through all the preparations and equipment needed for the flight — from the hawk’s hood and bells to the falconer’s gloves — culminating in a dramatic demonstration of the hawk’s hunting skill. Bagram Ibatoulline’s masterful illustrations capture the vivid details and beauty of a day spent hawking, while Danna Smith’s poetic storytelling will make readers long to experience the art and sport of falconry firsthand.

Snow Birds

By Kirsten Hall, Jenni Desmond (illustrator),

Book cover of Snow Birds

I adore books that introduce a subject through the magic of poetry. Rhyme, rhythm, meter, and brevity are all appealing factors that keep a young audience engaged. In Snow Birds, the author and illustrator take us on a snowy poetic journey through mountains, forests, and backyards to give us a glimpse of the birds that don’t migrate but stay and brave the harsh climate of wintertime. This book fits the bill for all bird-loving, word-loving kids and adults alike.

Snow Birds

By Kirsten Hall, Jenni Desmond (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Discover birds who survive winter against all odds in this poetic, gorgeously illustrated picture book

Snowflakes whirling, snow-flocks swirling, streaks of white twirl through the night . . .
You've heard of birds who migrate to warmer climates in the wintertime-but what about those who persevere through snowy weather and freezing temperatures? With elegant verse and striking illustrations, Snow Birds salutes the brave and resourceful birds who adapt to survive the coldest months.


Who am I?

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).


I wrote...

The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry

By Danna Smith, Bagram Ibatoulline (illustrator),

Book cover of The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry

What is my book about?

Gentle verse and sweeping, majestic artwork set imaginations soaring in a handsome and illuminating ode to the ancient art of falconry.

Join a young girl and her father, the falconer at a medieval castle, as they experience the joys of taking a goshawk out for a training flight. The girl leads readers through all the preparations and equipment needed for the flight — from the hawk’s hood and bells to the falconer’s gloves — culminating in a dramatic demonstration of the hawk’s hunting skill. Bagram Ibatoulline’s masterful illustrations capture the vivid details and beauty of a day spent hawking, while Danna Smith’s poetic storytelling will make readers long to experience the art and sport of falconry firsthand.

Hello, World! Birds

By Jill McDonald,

Book cover of Hello, World! Birds

It's never too early to introduce children to the world of birds! This colorful board book with simple information about our feathered friends is a perfect choice. "Peck Peck Peck, the noisy woodpecker is looking for food inside a tree trunk."—curious babies and toddlers will learn animal names, behaviors, and habitats in this sturdy take-along book that is just the right size for little hands!

Hello, World! Birds

By Jill McDonald,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?



Young children love watching birds. Now here’s a Hello, World! board book that teaches toddlers all about our feathered friends—with colors, shapes, sizes, and super-simple facts. 

Hello, World! is a series designed to introduce first nonfiction concepts to babies and toddlers. Told in clear and easy terms (“Peck, peck, peck! This noisy woodpecker is looking for food inside a tree trunk”) and featuring bright, cheerful illustrations, Hello, World! makes learning fun for young children. And each sturdy page offers helpful prompts for engaging with your child. It’s a perfect way to bring science and nature into the busy world of…


Who am I?

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).


I wrote...

The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry

By Danna Smith, Bagram Ibatoulline (illustrator),

Book cover of The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry

What is my book about?

Gentle verse and sweeping, majestic artwork set imaginations soaring in a handsome and illuminating ode to the ancient art of falconry.

Join a young girl and her father, the falconer at a medieval castle, as they experience the joys of taking a goshawk out for a training flight. The girl leads readers through all the preparations and equipment needed for the flight — from the hawk’s hood and bells to the falconer’s gloves — culminating in a dramatic demonstration of the hawk’s hunting skill. Bagram Ibatoulline’s masterful illustrations capture the vivid details and beauty of a day spent hawking, while Danna Smith’s poetic storytelling will make readers long to experience the art and sport of falconry firsthand.

Sightings

By Sam Keen,

Book cover of Sightings: Extraordinary Encounters with Ordinary Birds

In Sightings, Sam Keen lays a gentle hand on your shoulder and invites you to share in his love affair with birds. From the Indigo Bunting to the Lord God bird, he describes his various encounters, weaving bits of his own history with illuminating glimpses into the avian realm. This slim volume is beautifully illustrated with paintings by Mary Woodin and venerable quotes, reminding us that the world, viewed up close, is a sacred place designed for those with open hearts.

Sightings

By Sam Keen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In twelve interwoven essays, Sam Keen, the "New York Times" best-selling author of "Fire in the Belly", shares moments of spirituality and insight that he's experienced while bird watching. Keen has been blessed with moments of beauty that he interprets with wit, wisdom, and a bit of down-home philosophy. From his childhood ramblings in the Tennessee wilderness to a heartbreaking drive through Arizona to a stroll on the shore of Lake Michigan on his 70th birthday, here are meditations on such universal ideas as friendship, the nature of the soul, and the disappointment that comes with getting exactly what you…


Who am I?

Ever since I was a child, sitting on fallen logs in the forest and making notes on the wildlife, I have been an admirer of animals and their mysteries. That animals feel pain, fear, and affection is obvious, and while we are warned against anthropomorphism, I think the greater mistake is in limiting them to the range of human feelings. I am especially intrigued with the subject of consciousness, believing that all creatures possess their own version of it. In studying the cognizance of other beings, we become better humans, more aware of the unity of all living things. While we have no idea how far we can go in our understanding of animal behavior, it is thrilling to consider the possibilities of this frontier.


I wrote...

Survival Skills: Stories

By Jean Ryan,

Book cover of Survival Skills: Stories

What is my book about?

The characters who inhabit Jean Ryan’s graceful, imaginative collection of stories are survivors of accidents and acts of nature, of injuries both physical and emotional. Ryan writes of beauty and aging, of love won and lost—with characters enveloped in the mysteries of the natural world and the animal kingdom.

In “Greyhound,” a woman brings home a rescued dog for her troubled partner in hopes that they might heal one another—while the dog in “What Gretel Knows” is the keeper of her owner’s deepest secrets. In “Migration,” a recently divorced woman retreats to a lakefront cabin where she is befriended by a mysterious Canada goose just as autumn begins to turn to winter. As a tornado ravages three towns in “The Spider in the Sink,” a storm chaser’s wife spares the life of a spider as she anxiously waits for her husband to return. And in “A Sea Change,” a relationship falls victim to a woman’s obsession with the world below the waves.

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