Books for Birders
New & Noteworthy
Alfie & Me: What Owls Know, What Humans Believe by Carl Safina (available Oct 3)
When ecologist Carl Safina and his wife, Patricia, took in a near-death baby owl, they expected that, like other wild orphans they’d rescued, she’d be a temporary presence. But Alfie’s feathers were not growing correctly, requiring prolonged care. As Alfie grew and gained strength, she became a part of the family, joining a menagerie of dogs and chickens and making a home for herself in the backyard. Carl and Patricia began to realize that the healing was mutual; Alfie had been braided into their world, and was now pulling them into hers.
The continuing bond of trust following her freedom―and her raising of her own wild brood―coincided with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a year in which Carl and Patricia were forced to spend time at home without the normal obligations of work and travel. Witnessing all the fine details of their feathered friend’s life offered Carl and Patricia a view of existence from Alfie’s perspective.
Birding Under the Influence: Cycling Across America in Search of Birds and Recovery by Dorian Anderson (available Nov 2023)
At a personal and professional crossroads, a man resets his life and finds sobriety, love, and 618 bird species, cycling his way to a very Big Year. In Birding Under the Influence, Dorian Anderson, a neuroscience researcher on a pressure-filled life trajectory, walks away from the world of elite institutions, research labs, and academic publishing. In doing so, he falls in love and discovers he has freed himself to embrace his lifelong passion for birding.
Birding Under the Influence is a candid, honest look at Anderson’s double life of academic accomplishment and addiction. While his journey to recovery is simultaneously poignant and inspiring, it is ultimately his love of birds and nature that provides the scaffolding to build a new and radically different life.
As Dorian pedals across the country, describing the birds he sees, he confronts the challenges of long-distance cycling: treacherous weather, punctured tires, speeding cars, and injury. He encounters eccentric characters, blistering blacktop, dreary hotel rooms, snarling dogs, and an endless sea of smoking tailpipes. He also confronts his past struggles with alcohol, drugs, and risky behaviors that began in high school and followed him into adulthood.
The Comfort of Crows: A Backyard Year by Margaret Renkl (available Oct 23)
In The Comfort of Crows, Margaret Renkl, NY Times opinion writer, presents a literary devotional: fifty-two chapters that follow the creatures and plants in her backyard over the course of a year. As we move through the seasons—from a crow spied on New Year’s Day, its resourcefulness and sense of community setting a theme for the year, to the lingering bluebirds of December, revisiting the nest box they used in spring—what develops is a portrait of joy and grief: joy in the ongoing pleasures of the natural world, and grief over winters that end too soon and songbirds that grow fewer and fewer.
Along the way, we also glimpse the changing rhythms of a human life. Birdsong and night-blooming flowers evoke generations past. The city and the country where Renkl raised her family transform a little more with each passing day. And the natural world, now in visible flux, requires every ounce of hope and commitment from the author—and from us.
A Wing and a Prayer The Race to Save Our Vanishing Birds by Anders and Beverly Gyllenhaal
For the past year, veteran journalists Anders and Beverly Gyllenhaal traveled more than 25,000 miles across the Americas, chronicling costly experiments, contentious politics, and new technologies to save our beloved birds from the brink of extinction. Through this compelling drama, A Wing and a Prayer offers hope and an urgent call to action: Birds are dying at an unprecedented pace. But there are encouraging breakthroughs across the hemisphere and still time to change course, if we act quickly.
Better Living Through Birding: Notes from a Black Man in the Natural World by Christian Cooper
Central Park birder Christian Cooper takes us beyond the viral video that shocked a nation and into a world of avian adventures, global excursions, and the unexpected lessons you can learn from a life spent looking up at the birds. Equal parts memoir, travelogue, and primer on the art of birding, this is Cooper’s story of learning to claim and defend space for himself and others like him.
National Geographic Birder’s Life List and Journal; National Geographic
Every birder keeps a life list – a personal record of each new species as it is observed – and this beautiful blank book offers the perfect way to do so, with room for dates, locations, and personal notes, encompassing a lifetime of bird-watching adventures. Organized to match ornithological taxonomy, with graceful illustrations of common species, occasional text by renowned birding expert Noah Strycker, and an index for easy navigation, this journal makes the mission of keeping a life list all the more convenient and rewarding.
Church of Birds: An Eco-history of Myth and Religion by Ben H Gagnon
Across dozens of cultures, migratory birds held mythic roles that were incorporated into Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This is the long-forgotten story of the profound bond between people and birds and how humanity’s early eco-history ultimately shaped the world’s global religions.
Dawn Songs: A Birdwatcher’s Field Guide to the Poetics of Migration
Poetry and nature essays can be powerful ways for people to connect with the natural world. A new anthology edited by Jamie K. Reaser and J. Drew Lanham, features lyrical reflections on our relationships with birds.
The anthology contains works from 60 writers, some of whom are well-established in their field, and others who “have had fewer opportunities to voice their stories and sentiments,” One of the editor’s intentions in bringing Dawn Songs together was to “amplify such voices, to invite the lesser-known authors onto a perch from which they could be better heard.”
It is divided into four sections: “To Know,” “To Wonder,” “To Lament,” and “To Celebrate.” Each explores the intersection between nature and human nature through a different lens.
Proceeds from the book will go toward American Bird Conservancy’s Conservation and Justice Fellowship Program.
Flight Paths: How a Passionate and Quirky Group of Scientists solved the Mystery of Bird Migration by Rebecca Heisman
The compelling and fascinating story of how scientists solved the great mystery of bird migration, Flight Paths is an unprecedented look into exciting, behind-the-scenes moments of groundbreaking discovery. Heisman demonstrates that the real power of science happens when people work together, focusing their minds and knowledge on a common goal. While the world looks to tackle massive challenges involving conservation and climate, the story of migration research offers a beacon of hope that we can find solutions to difficult and complex problems.
How Birds Sleep by Sarah and David Obuchowski
For young bird enthusiasts: The sleep habits of birds from around the world are described, including ducks, kingfishers, pigeons, and motmots. This is a picture book with interesting facts about this underexplored aspect of birdlife. Adults may learn something, too!
What An Owl Knows by Jennifer Ackerman
Jennifer Ackerman is known for her bestselling bird books. In her latest book, she explores the world of owls and what scientists have discovered about these amazing birds, including their anatomy, hunting skills, communication and sensory abilities.
Our Favorite Books by Noted Authors (Alphabetical by Author)
The Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think (2020)
Scientists have taken a new look at bird behaviors they have, for years, dismissed as anomalies or mysteries. What they are finding is upending the traditional view of how birds conduct their lives, how they communicate, forage, court, breed, survive. They are also revealing the remarkable intelligence underlying these activities, abilities we once considered uniquely our own: deception, manipulation, cheating, kidnapping, infanticide, but also ingenious communication between species, cooperation, collaboration, altruism, culture, and play. Drawing on personal observations, the latest science, and her bird-related travel around the world, from the tropical rainforests of eastern Australia and the remote woodlands of northern Japan, to the rolling hills of lower Austria and the islands of Alaska’s Kachemak Bay, Jennifer Ackerman shows there is clearly no single bird way of being.
The Genius of Birds (2016)
Birds are astonishingly intelligent creatures. According to revolutionary new research, some birds rival primates and even humans in their remarkable forms of intelligence. In The Genius of Birds, acclaimed author Jennifer Ackerman explores their newly discovered brilliance and how it came about. As she travels around the world to the most cutting-edge frontiers of research, Ackerman not only tells the story of the recently uncovered genius of birds but also delves deeply into the latest findings about the bird brain itself that are shifting our view of what it means to be intelligent.
Arctic Autumn: A Journey to Season’s Edge (2011)
The book begins on Bylot Island in Nunavut, Canada, at the retreating edge of the seasonal ice sheet, then moves to Alaska, where the needs of molting geese go head to head with society’s need for oil. Then on to the Barren Lands of Canada and a search for the celebrated caribou herds that mean life and death for human and animal predators alike. A canoe trip down the John River is filled with memories, laughter, and contemplation. A caribou hunt with a professional trapper leads to a polemic on hunting. Dunne travels to an island in the Bering Sea, off the coast of Alaska, to look for rare birds and ponder the passionate nature of competitive bird listers. No trip to the Arctic would be complete without a trip to see polar bears, so Dunne and his wife visit Churchill, Manitoba, the polar bear capital of the world. These majestic but threatened creatures lead Dunne to think about his own life, our interactions with the natural world, and the importance of the Arctic, North America’s last great wilderness.
Bayshore Summer: Finding Eden in a Most Unlikely Place (2010)
Pete Dunne acts as ambassador and tour guide, following Bayshore residents as they haul crab traps, bale salt hay, stake out deer poachers, and pick tomatoes. He examines and appreciates this fertile land, how we live off it and how all of us connect with it. From the shorebirds that converge by the thousands to gorge themselves on crab eggs to the delicious fresh produce that earned the Garden State its nickname, from the line-dropping expectancy of party boat fishing to the waterman who lives on a first-name basis with the birds around his boat, Bayshore Summer is at once an expansive and intimate portrait of a special place, a secret Eden, and a glimpse into a world as rich as summer and enduring as a whispered promise.
Bird Droppings: Writings About Watching Birds & Bird Watchers (2016)
Pete Dunne shares 33 funny, poignant, whimsical, and informative tales about birders and birding in these birding essays.
Prairie Spring: A Journey Into the Heart of a Season (2009)
A portrait of a season in the heartland of North America as Pete Dunne and his wife travel through the country and share stories of all that they encounter: people putting their lives back in place after a tornado, volunteers giving their time to conservation efforts, and the drive of all species to move their genes to the next generation, which manifests itself so abundantly in spring.
The Homing Instinct: Meaning & Mystery in Animal Migration (2014)
Every year, many species make the journey from one place to another, following the same paths and ending up in the same places. Every year since boyhood, Bernd Heinrich has done the same, returning to a beloved patch of western Maine woods. Which led him to wonder: What is the biology in humans of this primal pull toward a particular place, and how is it related to animal homing? In The Homing Instinct, Heinrich explores the fascinating mysteries of animal migration: how geese imprint true visual landscape memory; how scent trails are used by many creatures to locate their homes with pinpoint accuracy; and how even the tiniest of songbirds are equipped for solar and magnetic orienteering over vast distances. And he reminds us that to discount our human emotions toward home is to ignore biology itself.
Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds (2007)
Heinrich involves us in his quest to get inside the mind of the raven. But as animals can only be spied on by getting quite close, Heinrich adopts ravens, thereby becoming a “raven father,” as well as observing them in their natural habitat. He studies their daily routines, and in the process, paints a vivid picture of the ravens’ world. At the heart of this book are Heinrich’s love and respect for these complex and engaging creatures, and through his keen observation and analysis, we become their intimates too.
One Wild Bird at a Time: Portraits of Individual Lives (2016)
In One Wild Bird at a Time, Heinrich returns to his great love: close, day-by-day observations of individual wild birds. There are countless books on bird behavior, but, writes Heinrich, some of the most amazing bird behaviors fall below the radar of what most birds do in aggregate. Heinrichs passionate observations lead to fascinating questions and sometimes startling discoveries. A great crested flycatcher bringing food to its young acts surreptitiously and is attacked by its mate. Why? A pair of northern flickers hammering their nesthole into the sides of Heinrichs cabin offer the opportunity to observe the feeding competition between siblings, and to make a related discovery about nest-cleaning. One of a clutch of redstart warbler babies fledges out of the nest from twenty feet above the ground and lands on the grass below. It can’t fly. What will happen next?
Summer World: A Season of Bounty (2009)
Whether presenting disquisitions on ant wars, the predatory characteristics of wasps, the mating rituals of woodpeckers, or describing an encounter with a road full of wood frogs, Summer World never stops observing the beautifully complex interactions of animals and plants with nature, giving extraordinary depth to the relationships between habitat and the warming of the earth. How can cicadas survive—and thrive—at temperatures pushing 115°F? Do hummingbirds know what they’re up against before they migrate over the Gulf of Mexico? Why do some trees stop growing taller even when three months of warm weather remain? With awe and unmatched expertise, Heinrich explores hundreds of questions like these.
White Feathers: The Nesting Lives of Tree Swallows (2020)
Heinrich is sparked one early spring day by a question: Why does a pair of swallows in a nest-box close to his Maine cabin show an unvarying preference for white feathers—not easily available nearby—as nest lining? He notices, too, the extreme aggressiveness of “his” swallows toward some other swallows of their own kind. And he wonders, given swallows’ reputation for feistiness, at the extraordinary tameness and close contact he experiences with his nesting birds.
Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival (2009)
From flying squirrels to grizzly bears, and from torpid turtles to insects with antifreeze, the animal kingdom relies on some staggering evolutionary innovations to survive winter. Unlike their human counterparts, who must alter the environment to accommodate physical limitations, animals are adaptable to an amazing range of conditions.
Examining everything from food sources in the extremely barren winter land-scape to the chemical composition that allows certain creatures to survive, Heinrich’s Winter World awakens the largely undiscovered mysteries by which nature sustains herself through winter’s harsh, cruel exigencies.
Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder (2006)
At sixteen, Kenn Kaufman dropped out of the high school where he was student council president and hit the road, hitching back and forth across America, from Alaska to Florida, Maine to Mexico. Maybe not all that unusual a thing to do in the seventies, but what Kenn was searching for was a little different: birds. A report of a rare bird would send him hitching nonstop from Pacific to Atlantic and back again. When he was broke, he would pick fruit or do odd jobs to earn the fifty dollars or so that would last him for weeks. His goal was to set a record – most North American species seen in a year – but along the way he began to realize that at this breakneck pace he was only looking, not seeing. What had been a game became a quest for a deeper understanding of the natural world. Kingbird Highway is a unique coming-of-age story, combining a lyrical celebration of nature with wild, and sometimes dangerous, adventures, starring a colorful cast of characters.
A Season on the Wind: Inside the World of Spring Migration (2019)
Every spring, billions of birds sweep north, driven by ancient instincts to return to their breeding grounds. This vast parade often goes unnoticed, except in a few places where these small travelers concentrate in large numbers. One such place is along Lake Erie in northwestern Ohio. There, the peak of spring migration is so spectacular that it attracts bird watchers from around the globe, culminating in one of the world’s biggest birding festivals.
J Drew Lanham
The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature (2020)
By turns angry, funny, elegiac, and heartbreaking, The Home Place is a meditation on nature and belonging by an ornithologist and professor of ecology, at once a deeply moving memoir and riveting exploration of the contradictions of black identity in the rural South—and in America today.
Sparrow Envy: Field Guide to Birds and Lesser Beasts (2021)
Renowned naturalist and writer J. Drew Lanham explores his obsession with birds and all things wild in a mixture of poetry and prose. He questions vital assumptions taken for granted by so many birdwatchers: can birding be an escape if the birder is not in a safe place? Who is watching him as he watches birds? With a refreshing balance of reverence and candor, Lanham paints a unique portrait of the natural world: listening to cicadas, tracking sandpipers, towhees, wrens, and cataloging fellow birdwatchers at a conference where he is one of two black birders. The resulting insights are as honest as they are illuminating.
Among Penguins: A Bird Man in Antarctica (2011)
The year he graduated from college, 22-year-old Noah Strycker was dropped by helicopter in a remote Antarctic field camp with two bird scientists and a three months’ supply of frozen food. His subjects: more than a quarter million penguins. With wit, curiosity, and a deep knowledge of his subject, Strycker recounts the reality of life at the end of the Earth—thousand-year-old penguin mummies, hurricane-force blizzards, and day-to-day existence in below freezing temperatures—and delves deep into a world of science, obsession, and birds.
Birding Without Borders: An Obsession, a Quest, and the Biggest Year in the World (2020)
In 2015, Noah Strycker set himself a lofty goal: to become the first person to see half the world’s birds in one year. For 365 days, with a backpack, binoculars, and a series of one-way tickets, he traveled across forty-one countries and all seven continents, eventually spotting 6,042 species—by far the biggest birding year on record. Noah ventures deep into a world of chronic sleep deprivation, airline snafus, breakdowns, mudslides, floods, war zones, ecologic devastation, conservation triumphs, common and iconic species, and scores of passionate bird lovers around the globe.
The Thing with Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal About Being Human (2014)
Drawing deep from personal experience, cutting-edge science, and colorful history, Noah Strycker spins captivating stories about the birds in our midst and shares the startlingly intimate coexistence of birds and humans. With humor, style, and grace, he shows how our view of the world is often, and remarkably, through the experience of birds.
A World on the Wing by Scott Weidensaul (2021)
In the past two decades, our understanding of the navigational and physiological feats that enable birds to cross immense oceans, fly above the highest mountains, or remain in unbroken flight for months at a stretch has exploded. What we’ve learned of these key migrations–how billions of birds circumnavigate the globe, flying tens of thousands of miles between hemispheres on an annual basis–is nothing short of extraordinary. Drawing on his own extensive fieldwork, in A World on the Wing Weidensaul unveils with dazzling prose the miracle of nature taking place over our heads. See our book discussion with Scott Weidensaul here.
Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere With Migratory Birds (2000)
Bird migration is the world’s only true unifying natural phenomenon, stitching the continents together in a way that even the great weather systems fail to do. Scott Weidensaul follows awesome kettles of hawks over the Mexican coastal plains, bar-tailed godwits that hitchhike on gale winds 7,000 miles nonstop across the Pacific from Alaska to New Zealand, and myriad songbirds whose numbers have dwindled so dramatically in recent decades. Note: His new book, A World of the Wing, presents the latest scientific information on bird migration.
Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding (2007)
This book traces the colorful evolution of American birding: from the frontier ornithologists who collected eggs between border skirmishes to the society matrons who organized the first effective conservation movement; from the luminaries with checkered pasts, such as convicted blackmailer Alexander Wilson and the endlessly self-mythologizing John James Audubon, to the awkward schoolteacher Roger Tory Peterson, whose A Field Guide to the Birds prompted the explosive growth of modern birding. Spirited and compulsively readable, Of a Feather celebrates the passions and achievements of birders throughout American history.
Baby Birds: An Artist Looks into the Nest (2016)
This beautiful book is as much an art book as it is a natural history. More than 400 watercolor paintings show the breathtakingly swift development of 17 different species of wild birds. Sixteen of those species nest on the author’s Appalachian Ohio wildlife sanctuary, so she knows the birds intimately and writes about them with authority. To create the bulk of this extraordinary work, Julie would borrow a wild nestling, draw it, then return it to its nest every day until it fledged. Some were orphans she raised by hand, giving the ultimate insider’s glimpse into their lives. In sparkling prose, Julie shares a lifetime of insight about bird breeding biology, growth, and cognition.
The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds (2012)
The Bluebird Effect is about the change that’s set in motion by one single act, such as saving an injured bluebird—or a hummingbird, swift, or phoebe. Each of the twenty five chapters covers a different species, and many depict an individual bird, each with its own personality, habits, and quirks. And each chapter is illustrated with Zickefoose’s stunning watercolor paintings and drawings. Not just individual tales about the trials and triumphs of raising birds, The Bluebird Effect mixes humor, natural history, and memoir to give readers an intimate story of a life lived among wild birds.
Letters From Eden: A Year at Home in the Woods (2006)
The paintings used here, of scenes from the author’s beloved home in southern Ohio, illuminate well-crafted essays based on her daily walks and observations. Wild turkeys, coyotes, box turtles, and a bird-eating bullfrog flap, lope, and leap through her prose. She excels at describing and exploring interactions between people and animals, bringing her subjects to life in just a few lines. The essays are arranged by season, starting with winter, providing a sense of movement through the year.
Saving Jemima: Life and Love with a Hard-Luck Jay (2019)
When Jemima, a young orphaned blue jay, is brought to wildlife rehabilitator Julie Zickefoose, she is a virtually tailless, palm-sized bundle of gray-blue fluff. But she is starved and very sick. Julie’s constant care brings her around, and as Jemima is raised for eventual release, she takes over the house and the rest of the author’s summer.
Other Favorites (Alphabetical by Title)
Avian Architecture: How Birds Design, Engineer & Build by Peter Goodfellow (2011)
Birds are the most consistently inventive builders, and their nests set the bar for functional design in nature. Avian Architecture describes how birds design, engineer, and build their nests, deconstructing all types of nests found around the world using architectural blueprints and detailed descriptions of the construction processes and engineering techniques birds use.
Backyard Birding for Kids: An Introduction to Ornithology by Erika Zambello (2022)
With bird facts, an identification guide, and how-to instructions, this is a perfect children’s introduction to bird-watching. You’ve seen birds in your backyard or at the local park. Now become a young ornithologist. Learn all about the scientific study of birds. Author, birder, and outdoors researcher Erika Zambello presents a kids’ introduction to birding. The children’s book, ideal for early and middle-grade readers, conveys fascinating information for beginners. Kids gain an understanding of such topics as bird anatomy, life cycles, and habitat.
The Bald Eagle: The Improbable Journey of America’s Bird By Jack E Davis (2022)
The bald eagle is regal but fearless, a bird you’re not inclined to argue with. For centuries, Americans have celebrated it as ‘majestic’ and ‘noble,’ yet savaged the living bird behind their national symbol as a malicious predator of livestock and, falsely, a snatcher of babies. Taking us from before the nation’s founding through inconceivable resurgences of this enduring all-American species, Jack E. Davis contrasts the age when native peoples lived beside it peacefully with that when others, whether through hunting bounties or DDT pesticides, twice pushed Haliaeetus leucocephalus to the brink of extinction.
Filled with spectacular stories of Founding Fathers, rapacious hunters, heroic bird rescuers, and the lives of bald eagles themselves – monogamous creatures, considered among the animal world’s finest parents – The Bald Eagle is a much-awaited cultural and natural history that demonstrates how this bird’s wondrous journey may provide inspiration today, as we grapple with environmental peril on a larger scale.
The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik (2004)
An unprecedented year of beat-the-clock adventures ultimately leads one man to a new record of finding and identifying an extraordinary 745 different species by official year-end count. Prize-winning journalist Mark Obmascik creates a rollicking, dazzling narrative of the 275,000-mile odyssey of three obsessives as they fight to the finish to claim the title in the greatest — or maybe the worst — birding contest of all time.
Bird Brother: A Falconer’s Journey and the Healing Power of Birds by Rodney Stotts (2022)
To escape the tough streets of Southeast Washington, D.C. in the late 1980s, young Rodney Stotts would ride the metro to the Smithsonian National Zoo. There, the bald eagles and other birds of prey captured his imagination for the first time. In Bird Brother, Rodney shares his unlikely journey to becoming a conservationist and one of America’s few Black master falconers. Eye-opening, witty, and moving, Bird Brother is a love letter to the raptors and humans who transformed what Rodney thought his life could be. It is an unflinching look at the uphill battle Black children face in pursuing stable, fulfilling lives, a testament to the healing power of nature, and a reminder that no matter how much heartbreak we’ve endured, we still have the capacity to give back to our communities and follow our wildest dreams.
Birds, Art, Life: A Year of Observation by Kyo Maclear (2017)
Birds Art Life celebrates the particular madness of chasing after birds in the urban environment and explores what happens when the core lessons of birding are applied to other aspects of art and life. Moving with ease between the granular and the grand, peering into the inner landscape as much as the outer one, this is a deeply personal year-long inquiry into big themes: love, waiting, regrets, endings. If Birds Art Life was sprung from Maclear’s sense of disconnection, her passions faltering under the strain of daily existence, this book is ultimately about the value of reconnection – and how the act of seeking engagement and beauty in small ways can lead us to discover our most satisfying and meaningful lives.
Every Penguin in the World: A Quest to See Them All by Charles Bergman (2020)
Both a love letter and a call to action, this narrative and photographic book chronicles the author and his wife in their quest to see every penguin species on the planet. In the process, he muses about adventure, conservation, and what it is about penguins that captures our hearts.
The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk Wallace Johnson (2018)
In 2009, Edwin Rist, an American student at London’s Royal Academy of Music, stole 299 rare and scientifically significant bird skins from the Natural History Museum at Tring, in Hertfordshire, England, plucked their feathers, and sold them for top dollar to men who shared his obsession with the Victorian art of salmon-fly tying. Johnson explores the expensive and exotic hobby of salmon-fly tying that emerged in the 19th century and uses that context to frame Rist’s story, including his trial. In the book’s final section, Johnson goes deep into the exotic bird and feather trade and concludes that their obsession and greed know no bounds.
Flyaway: How A Wild Bird Rehabber Sought Adventure and Found Her Wings by Suzie Gilbert (2009)
In this captivating memoir, Suzie Gilbert tells the rollicking story of how she turned her family life upside down to pursue her unusual passion for rehabilitating wild birds.
The Glitter in the Green by Jon Dunn (2021)
Traveling the full length of the hummingbirds’ range, from the cusp of the Arctic Circle to near-Antarctic islands, acclaimed nature writer Jon Dunn encounters birders, scientists, and storytellers in his quest to find these beguiling creatures, immersing us in the world of one of Earth’s most charismatic bird families. See our book discussion with Jon Dunn here.
The Hawk’s Way: Encounters with Fierce Beauty by Sy Montgomery (2022)
When Sy Montgomery went to spend a day at falconer Nancy Cowan’s farm, home to a dozen magnificent birds of prey, it was the start of a deep love affair. Nancy allowed her to work with Jazz, a feisty, four-year-old, female Harris’s hawk with a wingspan of more than four feet. Not a pet, Jazz was a fierce predator with talons that could pierce skin and bone and yet, she was willing to work with a human to hunt. From the first moment Jazz swept down from a tree and landed on Sy’s leather gloved fist, Sy fell under the hawk’s magnetic spell.
The Hummingbirds’ Gift: Wonder, Beauty, and Renewal on Wings by Sy Montgomery (2021)
As one of the most beautiful and intriguing birds found in nature, hummingbirds fascinate people around the world. The lightest birds in the sky, hummingbirds are capable of incredible feats, such as flying backwards, diving at speeds of sixty-one mph, and beating their wings more than sixty times a second. Miraculous creatures, they are also incredibly vulnerable when they first emerge from their eggs. That’s where Brenda Sherburn comes in. With tenderness and patience, she rescues abandoned hummingbirds and nurses them back to health until they can fly away and live in the wild.
Life List: A Woman’s Quest for the World’s Most Amazing Birds by Olivia Gentile (2010)
Phoebe Snetsinger had planned to be a scientist, but, like most women who got married in the 1950s, she ended up keeping house, with four kids and a home in the suburbs by her mid-thirties. Numb and isolated, she turned to bird-watching, but she soon tired of the birds near home and yearned to travel the world. Then her life took a crushing turn: At forty-nine, she was diagnosed with cancer and told that she had less than a year to live. Devastated, she began crisscrossing the globe, finding rare and spectacular birds that brought her to the heights of spiritual ecstasy. But as it turned out, she beat the cancer. She eventually went to more than a hundred countries, had frequent brushes with danger, became a hero in the birding world, and set a record for the most species seen. Life List is a powerful portrait of a woman who found refuge from society’s expectations in a dangerous and soul-stirring obsession.
The Life of the Skies: Birding at the End of Nature by Jonathan Rosen (2008)
Today, forty-six million Americans are bird-watchers. The Life of the Skies is a genre-bending journey into the meaning of a pursuit born out of the tangled history of industrialization and nature longing. Jonathan Rosen set out on a quest not merely to see birds but to fathom their centrality—historical and literary, spiritual and scientific—to a culture torn between the desire both to conquer and to conserve.
A Most Remarkable Creature by Jonathan Meiburg (2021)
Jonathan Meiburg takes us through South America, from the fog-bound coasts of Tierra del Fuego to the tropical forests of Guyana, in search of striated caracaras, which still exist, though they’re very rare. He reveals the wild, fascinating story of their history, origins, and possible futures. And along the way, he draws us into the life and work of William Henry Hudson, the Victorian writer and naturalist who championed caracaras as an unsung wonder of the natural world, and to falconry parks in the English countryside, where captive caracaras perform incredible feats of memory and problem-solving. A Most Remarkable Creature is a hybrid of science writing, travelogue, and biography. See our book discussion with Jonathan Meiburg here.
The Narrow Edge: A Tiny Bird, an Ancient Crab, and an Epic Journey by Deborah Cramer (2016)
This book offers unique insight into how, on an increasingly fragile and congested shore, the lives of red knots, horseshoe crabs, and humans are intertwined. She eloquently portrays the tenacity of small birds and the courage of many people who, bird by bird and beach by beach, keep red knots flying.
The Nature of Oaks by Doug Tallamy (2021)
With Bringing Nature Home, Doug Tallamy changed the conversation about gardening in America. His second book, the New York Times bestseller Nature’s Best Hope, urged homeowners to take conservation into their own hands. Now, he turns his advocacy to one of the most important species of the plant kingdom—the mighty oak tree. Oaks sustain a complex and fascinating web of wildlife. The Nature of Oaks reveals what is going on in oak trees month by month, highlighting the seasonal cycles of life, death, and renewal. From woodpeckers who collect and store hundreds of acorns for sustenance to the beauty of jewel caterpillars, Tallamy illuminates and celebrates the wonders that occur right in our own backyards. He also shares practical advice about how to plant and care for an oak, along with information about the best oak species for your area. See our book discussion with Doug Tallamy here.
Ornitherapy by Holly Merker (2021)
Ornitherapy, or the mindful observation of birds, benefits our mind, body, and soul. Through observation, we can learn not only about birds but gain insight into our own lives while exploring our connection to the world around us. This fosters stewardship and bolsters conservation. Holly Merker delves into our connections to birds, how to practice Ornitherapy for optimal benefits, and learn about the latest research on the power of nature for overall wellbeing. See our book discussion with Holly Merker here.
Owls of the Eastern Ice by Jonathan Slaght (2020)
Owls of the Eastern Ice offers a glimpse into the everyday life of a field scientist and conservationist. Jonathan Slaght and his devoted team set out to locate the Blakiston’s fish owl and craft a conservation plan that helps ensure the species’ survival. This quest sends them on all-night monitoring missions in freezing tents, mad dashes across thawing rivers, and free-climbs up rotting trees to check nests for precious eggs while avoiding run-ins with bears and Amur tigers. See our book discussion with Jonathan Slaght here.
Peterson Reference Guide to Bird Behavior by John Kricher (2020)
Both casual and serious birdwatchers can take their skills to the next level with this detailed consideration of bird behavior. This book makes it possible to move beyond identifying birds to understanding some of the underpinning and meaning to what birds do, how they do it, and why they do it. Written in an easy-to-understand style, with an abundance of photos illustrating the behaviors, the book shows how flight, molt, migration, feeding, predation, social behavior, courtship, and nesting shape birds’ behaviors. See our book discussion with John Kricher here.
Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World’s Most Revered and Reviled Bird by Andrew Blechman (2007)
Pigeons have been worshipped as fertility goddesses and revered as symbols of peace. Domesticated since the dawn of man, they’ve been used as crucial communicators in war by every major historical superpower from ancient Egypt to the United States and are credited with saving thousands of lives. Charles Darwin relied heavily on pigeons to help formulate and support his theory of evolution. Yet today they are reviled as “rats with wings.” Author Andrew D. Blechman traveled across the United States and Europe to meet with pigeon fanciers and pigeon haters in a quest to find out how we came to misunderstand one of mankind’s most helpful and steadfast companions.
Project Puffin: The Improbable Quest to Bring a Beloved Seabird Back to Egg Rock by Stephen W. Kress and Derrick Z. Jackson (2016)
Project Puffin is the inspiring story of how a beloved seabird was restored to long-abandoned nesting colonies off the Maine coast. As a young ornithology instructor at the Hog Island Audubon Camp, Dr. Stephen W. Kress learned that puffins had nested on nearby islands until extirpated by hunters in the late 1800s. To right this environmental wrong, he resolved to bring puffins back to one such island—Eastern Egg Rock. Yet bringing the plan to reality meant convincing skeptics, finding resources, and inventing restoration methods at a time when many believed in “letting nature take its course.” Today, Project Puffin has restored more than 1,000 puffin pairs to three Maine islands. But even more exciting, techniques developed during the project have helped to restore rare and endangered seabirds worldwide.
Season at the Point: The Birds and Birders of Cape May by Jack Connor (1994)
Cape May Point, New Jersey, is home to a natural phenomenon of stunning proportions. Each autumn millions of migrating birds converge here on their annual flight to wintering grounds as far away as Brazil and Peru. Season at the Point, the rich and telling story of the birds and birders of Cape May, evokes the sense of mystery and excitement that pervades the Cape as birders gather to count owls by the hundreds, hawks by the tens of thousands, and shorebirds and songbirds by the hundreds of thousands.
A Short Philosophy of Birds by Phillipe Dubois and Elise Rousseau (2019)
This charming volume on bird behavior invites us to take a step back from our busy lives and to listen to the tiny philosophers of the sky. From the delicate sparrow to the majestic eagle, birds are among the most fascinating species on earth, and there is much to be learned from these paragons of beauty and grace that can be applied to our lives, including:
- Independence: what it means to be “pushed out of the nest.”
- Vulnerability: what the mallard teaches us about giving up our old feathers for new ones in order to fly.
- Gender equality: what happens when a papa Turtledove sits on the nest.
- Hierarchy and power: what the raven and the vulture know about the pecking order.
This book celebrates our friends in the sky and what they can teach us about the rhythms of life.
Sightings: Extraordinary Encounters with Ordinary Birds by Sam Keen (2007)
In Sightings, a collection of essays, bird watching forms the basis for observations spiritual and soulful, witty and wise. The author describes his childhood ramblings in the silence of the Tennessee wilderness as feeling distinctly more spiritual than the hard pews of his grandmother’s church. Later in life, the presumed extinction and subsequent rediscovery of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker prompts a meditation on the nature of the sacred. Blessed with moments of beauty and the insight to recognize them as such, Keen translates the marvels of nature into the language of heart and soul.
Slow Birding: The Art and Science of Enjoying the Birds in Your Own Backyard by Joan Strassman (2022)
A one-of-a-kind guide to birding locally that encourages readers to slow down and notice the spectacular birds all around them. Many birders travel far and wide to popular birding destinations to catch sight of rare or ‘exotic’ birds. In Slow Birding, evolutionary biologist Joan E. Strassmann introduces readers to the joys of birding right where they are. Slow Birding is the perfect guide for the birder looking to appreciate the beauty of the birds right in their own backyard, observing keenly how their behaviors change from day to day and season to season.
Solid Air: Invisible Killer. Saving Billions of Birds from Windows by Daniel Klem, Jr PhD (2022)
Birds behave as if sheet glass is invisible to them. They kill themselves striking clear and reflective panes in all types and sizes of human-built structures the world over. The killing is indiscriminate, taking the fit and unfit species, of any age category- both common and of conservation concern. Window-kills occur in the billions worldwide annually. The victims are always unintended, unnecessary, harmless, and have no voice or other means to protect themselves. The science documenting this significant scale of loss has been known for decades, but only recently have meaningful efforts to address the problem occurred. Here, Dr. Daniel Klem, Jr., describes and summarizes the challenges and solutions to this important conservation issue for birds and people that can be used by, among others, architects and developers, legislators, legal professionals, urban planners, and homeowners alike.
Songbird Journeys: Four Seasons In the Lives of Migratory Birds by Myoko Chu (2006)
This book explores the remarkable lives of migratory birds and answers such questions about songbirds as where do they go, how do they get there, and what do they do in the places that they inhabit throughout the year.
Welcome to Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife by John Marzluff (2015)
Populations and communities of a great variety of birds, as well as other creatures, are adapting to the conditions of our increasingly developed world. In this fascinating and optimistic book, John Marzluff reveals how our own actions affect the birds and animals that live in our cities and towns, and he provides ten specific strategies everyone can use to make human environments friendlier for our natural neighbors. By practicing careful stewardship with the biological riches in our cities and towns, we can foster a new relationship between humans and other living creatures, one that honors and enhances our mutual destiny.
What It’s Like to be a Bird by David Sibley (2020)
In What It’s Like to Be a Bird, David Sibley answers the most frequently asked questions about the birds we see most often. This special, large-format volume is geared as much to nonbirders as it is to the out-and-out obsessed, covering more than two hundred species and including more than 330 new illustrations by the author. While its focus is on familiar backyard birds—blue jays, nuthatches, chickadees—it also examines certain species that can be fairly easily observed, such as the seashore-dwelling Atlantic puffin. See our book discussion with David Sibley here.
Wilted Wings: A Hunter’s Fight for Eagles by Mike McTee (2022)
In this groundbreaking work, McTee, a hunter and wildlife researcher in western Montana, exposes a terrifying link between humans and eagles, while building the framework for how to safeguard these iconic raptors. When two raptor biologists unexpectedly walk into Mike McTee’s kitchen with a golden eagle, the bird’s penetrating stare redirects his life. After years of research and speaking with dozens of raptor experts, McTee discovers eagles across the United States have toxic lead lacing their veins, often from scavenging hunting remains peppered with bullet fragments. Armed with a background in chemistry and a deep knowledge of hunting, McTee latches to the issue, becoming an ambassador for eagles and lead-free bullets.
Drawing from historical records, wildlife research, and expert opinions, McTee illuminates the braided natural histories of humans and eagles, framing a path that would strip lead from the diets of these soaring icons. McTee has conducted ballistics studies and hunted extensively with non-lead ammunition.
Zen Birds by Vanessa Sorensen (2010)
Experience the beauty, essence, and character of thirty North American bird species. Inspired by traditional Asian brushwork and haiku, the artwork and text capture the quirky traits peculiar to each species.