18 BEST Books About Birds (That Are Actually FUN To Read)
My list of the 18 BEST books about birds was designed to include books you WANT to read.
To make it onto this list, I had to be excited to sit down to read at night (and NOT immediately fall asleep)!
The list of the BEST bird books below offers something for everyone. Humor, fun, adventure, education, etc.
Quick Links: The 18 Best Bird Books
Education AND Entertainment (3 books)
Tips and Tricks (3 books)
Big Years and Listing (5 books)
“Feel Good” Bird Books (3 books)
Biographies of Great Birders (4 books)
Any list is subjective. And it’s also hard to keep up with every single new book that features birds.
So, I’d love it if you would share YOUR favorite books at the bottom of the post in the COMMENTS section. 🙂
Education AND Entertainment (#1 – #3)
I love learning about birds but also enjoy a good and entertaining story. These books do a great job of combining the two.
The author goes on a scientific exploration around the world to learn and explore bird intelligence. Anyone that reads this book will immediately question the assumption that birds are dumb or someone has a “birdbrain.”
This is a highly entertaining journey that touches on many stories and species of birds. Because it mixes science with entertainment, you don’t have to be obsessed with birds to enjoy this book.
This book explores the unknown intelligence of birds from all around the world. From the extraordinary homing abilities of pigeons to the fantastic memories of nutcrackers.
The author does an excellent job of educating readers and weaving in captivating stories and humor.
Crows have brains that are too big for their bodies, but this allows them to think, plan and consider their actions. The authors team up to tell wonderful stories of the high intelligence of crows. From gathering around their dead to recognizing people to even murdering other crows!
Best Bird Watching Books: Tips and Tricks (#4 – #6)
Are you just starting your birding adventure? Not sure what this crazy obsession is all about?
This is a great bird book for absolute birding beginners. I initially read this many years ago to try and get up to speed as quickly as possible. Even though it’s 20 years old, the information is still accurate and useful. It’s effortless to read and designed to skip around to the sections that are relevant to you.
This book is a perfect complement to the author’s field guides (Sibley’s Bird’s East and West) as it builds upon the necessary skills of bird identification. It has helped me immensely, both in the field and using my field guides.
Sibley gives excellent information to help make a positive identification. In addition, he offers advice on many topics, from sketching birds in the field to feather shapes to analyzing different birding gear.
This book is the sequel to “Good Birders Don’t Wear White.” It follows the same concept as the original, with birders sharing their wisdom and advice and what drives their passion for birds. It also covers a wide range of topics, and it’s an easy book to skip around to find your favorite articles.
Contributors include many well-known birders, such as Richard Crossley, Pete Dunne, Kenn Kaufman, Michael O’Brien, Bill Thompson, and Julie Zickefoose.
Best Birding Books: Big Years and Listing (#7 – #11)
I think most of us dream of the day we can drop everything and spend the year trying to see as many birds as possible. Warning! Reading any of these bird books will only make you want to pursue a “Big Year” even more!
#7. The Big Year
This book was turned into a movie a few years ago. It’s a great way to get introduced to the crazy annual competition of who can see the most birds in a year. Trust me; it will get you thinking about how you can accomplish your big year.
This book holds a special place in my birding heart. It helped propel me into the bird-watching fray.
I initially checked it out from the library as an audiobook many years and subsequently listened to it three times. It does an excellent job of introducing some of the birding subculture’s oddities and illustrates how bird watching can turn into an obsession. 🙂
#9. Kingbird Highway
Many of us have dreamed of completing our own “big year.” Now imagine hitting the road as a teenager without much money, mostly hitchhiking your way across the country and eating cat food to save money.
Kenn Kaufman has become one of the biggest names in birding, but it all started in the early 1970s when he tried to set the North American big year record.
I love this book for its adventure and insights into the birding subculture more than 40 years ago! Birding has come a long way.
#10. Lost Among the Birds
What do you do when you are at a life crossroads after quitting a high-paying job and a failed relationship?
Easy answer. Go birding! Or at least that is what author Neil Hayward did.
He started his “Big Year” in 2013 mostly as a distraction, but ended up breaking the longstanding ABA Big Year record…. sort of accidentally 🙂 This book is very entertaining with lots of great stories and explores the human element of birding.
Wow! Talk about an extremely big year. In 2015, Noah Strycker broke the global big year record. He spent an entire year traveling across the globe trying to see as many birds as possible and ended up seeing over 6,000 different species!
This book details his many adventures along the way. I loved that he partnered with locals at every step of the journey to help. I was amazed at how popular birding seemed throughout the world and that most people genuinely want to conserve these wild places.
Best “Feel Good” Bird Books (#12 – #14)
If you loved the movie “Marley and Me,” then check out these bird books. They all show what a profound effect birds can have on humans.
#12. Wesley the Owl
This book details the charming story of Wesley, the Barn Owl, that the author and biologist Stacey O’Brien adopted because of a severely injured wing.
As the author raises Wesley, she develops a language of communication with him and continues to discover all sorts of things about owl behavior and intelligence.
The book has a lot of interesting facts about owls, but more than anything, it reads like an entertaining novel with great stories of their relationship. From learning how to feed Wesley thousands of mice to Wesley helping O’Brien through her illness, this book is highly recommended for a fun read.
#13. The Penguin Lessons
I am always a sucker for anything penguin-related, and this book is no exception.
The author, Tom Michell, rescues a baby penguin covered in oil from a spill on the beaches of Uruguay. He tries to set him free, but the penguin keeps returning to his side.
“That was the moment at which he became my penguin, and whatever the future held, we’d face it together.” – Michell.
The rest of the book is the charming and funny story of raising the penguin named Juan Salvador in an apartment as the assistant master of a boarding school. Great book for all ages!
#14. Alex and Me
This bird book chronicles the 30-year relationship between Alex, an African Grey Parrot, and the author Irene Pepperberg. She was able to teach Alex over 100 words and answer questions about colors, shapes, and the number of objects. As a result, Alex changed how scientists and people have viewed the cognitive abilities of birds.
Pepperberg wrote this book after Alex died in 2007. I think it’s a wonderful tribute to a bird that was so special to her. She does a great job of telling many great stories about Alex but interweaving all of the ground-breaking work they accomplished together.
Biographies Of Birders and Ornithologists (#15 – #18)
Told in her own words, Phoebe Snetsinger set out after a cancer diagnosis gave her one year to live to see as many birds as possible. Somehow she managed to live 17 more years and be the first person to document seeing over 8,000 different species of birds!
Additional Reading about Phoebe Snetsinger:
- Life List: A Woman’s Quest for the World’s Most Amazing Birds by Olivia Gentile
- This biography written about Phoebe explores her obsession with birds and listing at all costs. If you read one of these books, you need to read the other!
The man, the myth, the legend. Any new bird watchers should ground themselves and respect one of the founding fathers of birding! It’s a long read but worth the effort.
Tory Peterson is the architect who made bird watching what it is today. He is known for many things, including his landmark field guides, illustrations, and most notably, his dedication to birds and conversation.
This book details many aspects of his life as the author interviewed 116 people who knew Peterson.
Here are two other Roger Tory Peterson books worth reading:
- All Things Reconsidered: My Birding Adventures by Roger Tory Peterson
- Peterson wrote a column for Bird Watchers digest from 1984 to 1996. This is a collection of his best essays that appeared during that time.
- Wild America by Roger Tory Peterson and James Fisher
- In 1953 Peterson and Fisher set off on a 30,000 miles trip around America, documenting what they saw. An epic road trip book that will instantly inspire you to hit the road!
Birding is considered a fun activity enjoyed by millions, but it was once just an eccentric hobby. This is a great book to learn about the evolution of birding throughout the years to see how it became what it is today.
Instead of reading the full biographies listed above, this book hits on all of the key figures and “forefathers” of American birding and recognizes the achievements of birders throughout history.
Now it’s your turn!
What are your favorite birding and bird watching books?