Birding reviews significant books, films, websites, and other publications of interest to our extremely varied readership.

Authors and publicists interested in having their book or other media reviewed should contact Rebecca Minardi at rminardi@aba.org. If the work is assigned for review, review copies should then be sent to the designated reviewer and editors (addresses will be provided). Do not send unsolicited review copies to the editors. Birding is not able to review each new bird book, but we gladly announce all new bird book publications in Rebecca’s Bird Book Bulletin, which appears in all regular issues of Birding magazine.

All Birding reviews before December 2019 are permanently archived at: http://blog.aba.org/category/bookreviews


Rebecca Minardi is the Books and Media Reviews Editor at Birding magazine. She is Vice President of Detroit Audubon and has been a mentor for the ABA’s Young Birder of the Year Mentoring Program since 2020. She resides in Peoria, Illinois with her family where she enjoys birding with her two young children.

  • Readers familiar with Margaret Renkl’s writing will face a dilemma with her latest publication, The Comfort of Crows: A Backyard Year. Should one read the book as a weekly nature devotional over the course of a year or...

  • Much has been written in recent years about pollinators, particularly bees and other insects. Jeff Ollerton is a noted international expert on plant and pollinator interactions; he has edited and written...

  • I’m lucky. My patch is my backyard. When we moved to the property almost two years ago, I quickly realized our yard attracted a wealth of birds, from woodpeckers to migratory warblers. I had never hosted...

  • We’re in trouble, and we know it. Bird numbers are decreasing at a scarily precipitous rate. Conservation, once as simple as convincing women not to wear feathers in their hats, has become a labyrinth of strategies for habitat restoration...

  • “The identification of Empidonax flycatchers and pewees can be a daunting challenge.” So begins, on the inside cover, the text of the latest contribution to ABA Area bird-ID challenges from the inveterate duo of Cin-Ty Lee and Andrew Birch...

  • What does it mean to say that I come from the Pelican State? I consulted Brown Pelican to find an answer, and writer Rien Fertel did not disappoint. Apparently, coming from coastal Louisiana means that I suffer from a savior complex...

  • Anticipating each sunrise, early birds chime in to build up a rousing and memorable soundscape of melodies and harmonies, cheeps and chatters, shouts and murmurs. Dawn Songs: A Birdwatcher’s Field Guide to the Poetics of Migration is a collection of poems and essays...

  • Owl fans, rejoice: Jennifer Ackerman’s latest book, What an Owl Knows: The New Science of the World’s Most Enigmatic Birds, is the ultimate guide to all things feathered and nocturnal. This popular science book sets out to...

  • Costa Rica is home to a large diversity of bird species in a small area that is easy to navigate. This and other factors have positioned the country as one of the world's favorite destinations for birding. Nine years since...

  • I remember opening my new Sibley guide to the warbler page as a beginner birder and feeling demoralized. How would I ever get the hang of birding if these warblers that I was supposed to adore...

  • Hot on the heels of Homo sapiens, Drosophila fruit flies, and now SARS CoV 2, birds might be the best-studied forms of life on the planet. So I was excited about reviewing this book, anticipating a deep dive...

  • In my profession, as in any, there are certain questions you get asked most frequently. Some of the questions I get include: “What’s your favorite bird?” “Is feeding birds bread bad or good?” “What do I do if...

  • If you ask a nonbirder to name a famous birder, they will probably say Audubon, perhaps Peterson if they are bookish, and then run out of steam. Birders themselves can do better of course...

  • These eight new titles from both new and veteran authors will encourage and inspire little ones to find joy outdoors while looking for birds. The first book, Timothy Musso’s gorgeous Chasing the Sun (The Creative Company) follows Arctic Terns as they spend their life on the wing. Musso’s woodcut illustrations...

  • Of all the places that I’ve visited in the world, none is more remarkable than the Galápagos Islands. It is the sort of place that every person with an interest in the natural world should visit. And birders certainly fit that definition...

  • One of my favorite parts of birding with other people is hearing their stories—as birders, we all have them. The time we spent an ungodly amount of time waiting for a rarity. The time we got our car stuck in the mud...

  • Because hope springs eternal, I spend an inordinate—and so far unrewarded—amount of time each summer looking for a Mediterranean Gull here in northern New Jersey. It’s bound to happen: As this species continues to rapidly increase in numbers and in range...

  • Seabird addiction for many of us began with Peter Harrison’s Seabirds: An Identification Guide back in the 1980s and 1990s. This niche has grown in the last 30 years with pelagic trips now available from ports all over the world! As more birders...

  • Consider Winged Migration, the 2001 documentary that is still available for streaming more than two decades later; A World on the Wing, Scott Weidensaul’s bestseller of two years ago; and Wingspan, the wildly fashionable board and video game. The popular appetite...

  • Robert Bell spent 35 years as a successful mineral exploration geologist and as such traveled widely. Eventually Lyme disease made life so challenging that he had to, with much reluctance, retire early. Unsparingly and intensely personal...

  • Warblers of Eastern North America by Chris Earley is a welcome second edition to Warblers of the Great Lakes Region and Eastern North America, published 20 years ago, and is one book in a whole library of field guides by Firefly Books...

  • Much as with birds themselves, it is not uncommon for birders to feel a sense of Zugunruhe, or migratory restlessness. Birding is, in many ways, a travel-centric hobby, and it is natural to desire to see new birds in far-flung places. I’ll never forget...

  • As a reader of birding media, you might ask yourself, who are the prominent women in the history of bird conservation? Rachel Carson is one name among many, our sisters in the field whose work has not yet garnered...

  • “The thrill of quiet adventure. The constant hope of discovery. The reminder that the world is filled with wonder.” One would be hard pressed to come up with a better description of the essence of birding than this...

  • First off, let me be entirely clear: I am biased. I am extremely biased. In 2005, I attended a conference in Chicago where Dr. Klem gave a presentation to architects about bird mortality caused by windows. He was the frustrated voice...

  • Northern Cardinals are one of the most common birds in much of the U.S. They are a frequent, maybe even daily sight for many of us. Despite the males’ bright red showy appearance and their laser-beam songs...

  • Wildlife biologist, photographer, and filmmaker Tim Laman’s Bird Planet is a vibrant, richly detailed, highly captivating, and in-spirational photographic voyage through eight different geographic regions: Southeast Asia, Japan, North America, Africa, South America, New Guinea, Australia, and Antarctica...

  • Danielle Belleny’s charisma shines through in this lighthearted read that delivers substance as a beautifully illustrated page turner. About one-quarter of This Is a Book for People Who Love Birds acclimates you to the avian world...

  • Monty and Rose 2: The World of Monty and Rose is an efficiently paced, earnest documentary about two Piping Plovers in Chicago who became symbols of triumph. These two diminutive shorebirds changed a literal landscape for the better, offering hope to a community. With the odds against their survival, Monty...

  • “Travel is inherently harmful,” he declared. It was 2017, and I was sitting in a lively graduate class in the Community Sustainability program at Michigan State when a classmate made this wild statement. The rest of us were flabbergasted. “What about our research trips?” my friend retorted. “Traveling is how...

  • One of the best parts of watching birds is observing their behavior. Birds are rarely boring. They fly, forage, interact with each other and with their environment, court, raise young, deal with danger, and undertake mind blowing migrations, just to name a few of the fascinating things birds do...

  • You’ll be celebrating more than birds when you pick up a copy of Celebrating Birds: An Interactive Field Guide Featuring Art from Wingspan, by Natalia Rojas and Ana María Martínez. This illustrated, introductory guide to North American birds is the outcome of two innovative women-led projects within two distinct industries...

  • I have to admit, my first impression of Richard Pope’s Flight from Grace: A Cultural History of Humans and Birds was of its size: This is a hefty, almost textbook-sized tome, not a book suited to light bedtime reading. But as I flipped through it, admiring the full-color illustrations on each page...

  • I have had spectacular fails birding in New Mexico. They have often resulted because I simply couldn’t find where the bird was supposed to be. The remoteness of many parts of the state, the inadequacy of various maps, and my predilection to figure out things along the way have all...

  • Birders love learning about the life histories of birds: fascinating migration routes, unique ecological adaptations, bizarre exceptions to standard bird biology—we can never get enough. In a similar way, ABA Area birders enjoy learning about the life histories of birders from outside the ABA Area, how the ways other birders...

  • When I first hefted Bird: Exploring the Winged World, all 11 square inches and six pounds of it, I deemed it a coffee table book and braced myself for the kind of tome that is gorgeously illustrated but whose covers are rarely cracked. I was wrong. Bird is many things...

  • Like any great story, the scene is set early in the book. Marina Richie first spots the pair of Belted Kingfishers she grows to love while im-mersing the reader in her experience at Rattlesnake Creek in Missoula, Montana. “To visualize the watershed,” she writes, “cup two hands together. Rattlesnake Creek...

  • Have you ever had the experience of being absorbed in observing a bird and having a stranger ask, “What are you doing?” and “What do you see?” How to answer such questions? Famed Louisiana ornithologist Van Remsen counsels birders to treat birding as a “serious pursuit”; he suggests we describe...

  • Compared to Christopher W. Leahy’s earlier encyclopedic tome of 917 pages, the Birdwatcher’s Companion to North American Birdlife (first published in 1982), Birdpedia is indeed a brief compendium. But don’t let its small size and number of pages fool you. This book packs an astonishing amount of information into 272...

  • The title of this book might not immediately grab the attention of those who don’t delve much into taxonomy, but the cover image will. Indeed, the photograph of a Zebra Waxbill represents the indisputable visual appeal that many members of the family of estrildid finches hold. It is that beauty...

  • The first hint for many of us that something was going on was a throwaway line in Chandler S. Robbins’s Golden Guide, “Watch for them [migrating parulids] flying within 500 feet of the treetops in early morning.” Watching, I found, was easy—but actually identifying passerines in the air posed…

  • If field guides had gestation periods, then the long-awaited Birds of Argentina and the South–west Atlantic’s was elephantine. Since Mark Pearman and Juan Ignacio Areta started work on it almost two decades ago, rumors of the mythical guide circled like vultures on the now quiescent Birdforum. Yet it survived...

  • I have often commented that we’re living in the golden age of field guides. Many titles have been published in the past 10 years, from guides exploring new countries or focusing on previously ignored bird families, to apps bringing instant information gratification. And then I wonder, “What’s next?” My money...

  • As someone who has spent most of my birding hours in Texas and Georgia, I think of Merlins as a species of the winter. They are wide ranging, fast moving, and inconspicuous. An encounter with one is always unpredictable and any day that has them on the list is a...

  • A conversation with the Bird Brother: That’s what it felt like I was having as I read the words on the pages. It was as if I was sitting right across from him, bonding over a glass of ice-cold sweet tea. Like relatives catching up at the family reunion,...

  • In his new book, How Birds Evolve: What Science Reveals About Their Origins, Lives, and Diversity, Douglas J. Futuyma switches gears from writing textbooks to writing for the public, helping demystify the complexity of bird evolution. Futuyma is a renowned ecologist and evolutionary biologist, though, as he specifically mentions, he's...

  • The first time I heard about the California Gnatcatcher, it was 2015, and I had a part-time contract gig writing press releases to promote new ornithology research being published by the American Ornithological Society. That year, a series of dueling papers in one of their scientific journals debated whether or...

  • Bird migration has always been a fascinating topic for birders of all stages. Watching the tides of birds ebbing and flowing with different seasons. But how do they know where to go and when? And how do they pick the places that they travel so tirelessly to? Flights of Passage...

  • Rosemary Mosco opens A Pocket Guide to Pigeon Watching: Getting to Know the World’s Most Misunderstood Bird with one of my longtime favorite pigeon quotes—when Charles Darwin exclaimed to Charles Lyell in 1851: “I will show you my pigeons! Which is the greatest treat, in my opinion, which can...

  • Desde que era un niño, siempre he sentido curiosidad por las melodías de los pájaros que viven a mi alrededor. Incluso quise imitar algunas de las canciones que me animan cada mañana. Pero no fueron solo los cantos de los pájaros los que me llamaron la atención: También fue la...

  • What hobbyist birder has not imagined leaving a current job or career to pursue their passion for birds? Gretchen N. Newberry’s book The Nighthawk’s Evening: Notes of a Field Biologist provides an in-depth look at the experience that can await someone who does just that. An employee for the city...

  • My first impression of The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in West Virginia was that this was a substantial tome with striking cover art by Julie Zickefoose. The Cerulean Warbler was a perfect choice for the cover, as was the artist. Editor Richard Bailey calls this blue avian gem the...

  • What is it like to be a bird? This is a question inevitably asked by those who watch, study, and/or love birds for long enough. It is a query that Tim Birkhead explicitly explored in his book Bird Sense: What It’s Like to Be a Bird, and which many other...

  • Birders love discussing bird names: whether they’re accurate, whether they’re useful, what an unusual word means, who did the naming, whom the names honor, and if they should honor anyone at all. Bird name buffs of all types will enjoy and benefit from Gary H. Meiter’s Bird is the Word...

  • Growing up in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains stood to the east, beckoning me toward them with dramatic snow-capped peaks on clear winter and early spring mornings. Just as enticingly, early autumn evenings hosted ominous congregations of colossal thunderheads looming above the highest...

  • When the world shut down in March of 2020, many of us were no longer able to do the things we enjoyed and took for granted. Squirreled away in our homes (unless we were those brave essential workers), people everywhere pondered what it was we could do to fill our...

  • If you’re a kid interested in birds, you’re in luck. Birding has exploded as a pastime in the U.S. and Canada for both adults and children, and authors are responding to the interest with books for practically every age level and birding region. Karen DeWitz’s new book, Look at That...

  • Broadly speaking, coffee table books are not a highly regarded genre by literary scholars or even birders: When was the last time you heard someone cite a coffee table book as their favorite book? But, I confess, I love them. The photos have to be really, really good to justify...

  • Almost a decade ago, I wrote a book review for Birding that included a field guide from Colombia and another that covered the Cerrado of Brazil. I started the review by noting that there was a revolution in South America, and it was a good one. Birding in the “Bird...

  • The last thing birders and nonbirders alike expect from James Bond is that Ian Fleming named the most famous spy in popular culture after teponymous ornithologist. The real, earthly James Bond (1900-89) went by the name of Jim rather than 007 and made history (ornithologically speaking) with his groundbreaking...

  • We’ve just about all had the thought: Every bird in the world. Pretty much impossible in one birder’s lifetime, but Lynx has found a way to do it, at least in book form. All the Birds of the World is the first book to feature illustrations of all the world’s...

  • It is difficult to imagine any birder who doesn’t get excited by migration. But many may primarily appreciate it for the pulses of birds that pass by each spring and fall. While A World on the Wing celebrates these spectacles, it also delves deeper into their underlying biology. Author Scott...

  • Susan Cerulean’s I Have Been Assigned the Single Bird opens with a description of the view from the window of her father’s room in a Florida nursing home. Kudzu, she notes, is slowly strangling the pines outside the facility. “I saw that those smothering lianas were like the tangles and...

  • Representatives in Washington are no doubt accustomed to unusual mail from their constituents, but I am hard pressed to think of anything that might rival one peculiar delivery made to the Capitol in the autumn of 1912. Every single one of the ninety-six United States senators received a slightly bulging...

  • At first glance, there may not appear to be much commonality between a collection of deeply personal short essays about Helen Macdonald’s lifelong experiences with wildlife and Carl Safina’s scientific deep-dive into how wildlife acquires critical survival skills. In fact, the common denominator of these two engaging books by award-winning...

  • If one appealed to our sense of fairness, a mindful and generous bird lover would acknowledge that all birds are intrinsically interesting. However, some honest introspection might inevitably reveal a preference or inclination for one species or a particular group. In the title of his debut book, A Most Remarkable...

  • We are living in an age of loss. In 2019, news headlines lamented the loss of 3 billion birds in North America in less than 50 years. Europe lost an estimated 421 million birds between 1980 and 2009. And we are seeing similar trends in other plant and animal groups.

  • As a person who reads often but tends to reach for a novel or self-help book, I found Owls of the Eastern Ice a fresh taste of how exciting a work of narrative nonfiction can be. My broad interest in birds, along with an intangible personal connection to owls, is...

  • For most British birders, the Ring Ouzel is a creature of mystery. We may glimpse it on spring or autumn migration, perched on a thorn bush or feeding on ripe berries. Otherwise, we must venture into the hills and mountains where it breeds—mostly in northern England and Scotland...

  • Ed Drewitt’s Raptor Prey Remains: A Guide to Identifying What’s Been Eaten by a Bird of Prey begs to be judged by its cover, where the intense yellow eyes of a Eurasian Sparrowhawk gaze into the throat of a European Starling pinned down and agape. Underneath, a grid of uncompromising...

  • Mountaineer Books, a Seattle-based book publisher specializing in outdoor and conservation titles, has recently produced a slew of exciting bird books, including Paul Bannick's Snowy Owl and Great Gray Owl, Kim Long's What Birds Eat, and Molly Hashimoto's Birds of the West.

  • National Audubon Society's Birds of North America and Trees of North America are surprising, impressive, scholarly, and worthy additions to any naturalist's library.

  • Two new nonfiction titles join the ranks of the already formidable canon of New England bird and nature writing: John R. Nelson’s Flight Calls: Exploring Massachusetts through Birds and Robert Tougias’s Birder on Berry Lane: Three Acres, Twelve Months, Thousands of Birds.

  • This is a beautifully written book that speaks to the extraordinary wonder of discovering birds, the elation yet trepidation of being part of a new community, and the emotional growth birds and birding may bring.

  • Kricher’s book is a gold mine of information for the curious bird enthusiast. There is little that birders won’t find in this wide-ranging volume; in particular, there is plenty to keep the interested reader abreast of the diversity of knowledge and research about birds.

  • How Birds Work is filled with solid, detailed information delivered in a way that allows for comprehension without loss of valuable content.

  • Parking Lot Birding is a fun guide loaded with must-see locations in Texas, with up to 15 birding destinations to choose from in each chapter.

  • While a children’s book about an extinct genus may not sound uplifting, Loebel-Fried manages to deftly tell the story of the enigmatic ʻōʻō while giving us reason to rejoice in the wonder of Hawaiian birds.

  • Well organized to assist readers in finding what’s most important to them, the book covers what and how to feed, how to create a bird-friendly backyard, bird feeder building plans, a quite extensive section on bird behavior and biology, and identification of the 196 species covered.

  • A review by Adrienne and Frank Izaguirre Wingspan (2019), Wingspan European Expansion (2019), Wingspan Digital Edition (2020), Wingspan read more >>

  • Reading New Guinea: Nature and Culture of Earth's Grandest Island during the quasi-lockdown phase of a global pandemic may make this distant location feel even more unattainable, but if it's the best one can do for now, it is an impressive second best.

  • Pelagic Publishing's new Where to Watch Birds in France and the Crossbill Guides Foundation's Provence and Camargue are two major new additions to the birding literature of France, both sure to whet the traveling appetite.

  • Anyone who loves birds, travel, or the idea of Big Year birding will enjoy Falcon Freeway.

  • This book is a testament to recognizing and saluting avian diversity in all of its forms. And above all, Ackerman relishes the pursuit of knowledge and the possibilities it uncovers: The more you learn about birds, the more they promise to astonish you.

  • Here is a highly anecdotal, engaging story of the quest by Bergman and his wife to see the world’s 18 penguin species. Intensely personal, his quest is full of adventure, challenges, serious medical issues, danger, and descriptions of some of the most remote areas anywhere.

  • This book drives home from multiple angles just how pervasively winter influences almost all parts of the life cycle. Birders of all backgrounds are likely to find that Birds in Winter greatly expands their appreciation of the season's influence, and will no doubt enjoy learning more about the lives of both familiar species and those they may have never heard of before.

  • Wenfei Tong’s new book, Bird Love: The Family Life of Birds, is important in bringing to popular attention some of the diversity in avian family organization and for placing that diversity in a contemporary explanatory framework.

  • A review by Daphne Gemmill  Mrs. Pankhurst’s Purple Feather: Fashion, Fury, and Feminism—Women’s Fight for Change, by read more >>

  • A review by Carrie Laben Vulture: The Private Life of an Unloved Bird, by Katie Fallon Brandeis read more >>

  • With this book, Floyd emphatically proves that he is the best sort of gatekeeper—one who takes the gate right off the hinges so that everyone has equal access to the wealth of knowledge and richness of experience that lies beyond.

  • The wisdom to be gained from Browning’s story relates to a preoccupation confronted by many birders: Once we have acknowledged our love of birds and bird-study, what contribution can we make?

  • The Doyle compendium makes an excellent addition to the audio library of intermediate to advanced birders who wish to boost their knowledge of and expertise with rare and local birds specific to the Arizona borderlands and northern Sonora.

  • These books are very valuable additions to any bird library and essential companions should you visit these countries.

  • A successful novelist may be no better than the rest of us at finding and identifying birds, but we can expect him to write about these activities better than the rest of us.

  • Like his Peterson Field Guide to Bird Sounds of Eastern North America, author Nathan Pieplow presents an impressively comprehensive overview of the sounds of over 500 western North American birds.

  • Whether you’re an experienced birder or just starting out, this book will be a valuable resource for your next Ontario birding adventure.

  • If you have any interest in dragonflies and damselflies, this book is a superb primer on the things that field guides don’t cover about this amazing group of beautiful and powerful creatures.

  • The 21 chapters of text encompass all of ornithology and address the obvious topics, covering the evolution of birds, anatomy and flight, physiology, brain structure, social behavior, genetics, the annual cycle, migration, courtship, vocalizations, nesting, population and community dynamics, and speciation.

  • Howell and Zufelt have undertaken a monumental task. Not only have they compiled a worthwhile collection of striking photographs of our global assortment of seabirds, they have also taken the time to wade through the most vexing taxonomy and put it all into a sensible, useful format.

  • Birds of the Pacific Northwest is a comprehensive field guide that all users can enjoy, from casual birders and backyard birders to hardcore enthusiasts. The details specific to the region make it a valuable resource to study at home, toss in a backpack, or keep in the car while on a birding trip.

  • Birdsong is one of the most enchanting aspects of avian behavior, and birders especially love the times of year when birds can’t help but sing from dawn until dusk and even through the night. The impulse to sing seems just as strong in two passionate birders who are also talented and prolific musicians.

  • In her ambitious new Mastering Bird Photography: The Art, Craft, and Technique of Photographing Birds and Their Behavior, Marie Read has distilled decades of experience into a beautiful, well-organized reference on the topic.

  • Beyond its well-crafted essays and lovely photographs, a beauty of Bringing Back the Birds: Exploring Migration and Preserving BirdScapes throughout the Americas is its compositional richness and diversity. One can either pick it up off the bookshelf for a good educational read or lift it from the coffee table for the avian eye candy.

  • For every birder who faithfully devotes a half-shelf or more to global listing chronicles like Noah Strycker’s Birding without Borders or Phoebe Snetsinger’s Birding on Borrowed Time, Fisher’s book is an instant must-own.

  • Taking us through a journey of landfill visits with some of Europe’s most prominent gull-watchers, the book unfolds in southern Britain, and it is here that the author experiences the subculture of gull obsession, taking part in capturing and banding gulls.

  • Finding and appreciating birds in cities is fun. But there is one other major benefit to birding an urban area, namely, the people you meet. If you are wearing a pair of binoculars on public transportation, you will probably meet other birders on the way.

  • Birding in the city highlights the opportunities to bird close to home and to explore more accessible places.

  • When it comes to us and Ospreys, it’s deep and personal. Around 1970, a neighbor took an adolescent Carl to a secret fishing spot on an eastern Long Island pond. He saw a huge stick nest, and from what he’d been reading he knew some things: it was an Osprey nest, abandoned, and Ospreys were nearly extinct.