Need recommendations for a Bird Identification book.
November 24, 2014 12:50 PM   Subscribe

I am hoping to find the US equivalent to the Australian "What Bird is That?" book and my google fu is failing me.

I am an Aussie now living in the US and trying to find out more about the birds that visit my many feeders.

I am not looking for a basic pocket field guide I have those but I am looking for an indepth book that details more than the most common species. The book I am comparing it to, is my "What Bird is That?" book that served me well for years when I lived in Australia, it has pretty much every bird you could come across in the country and included information on juvenile colouring, colour variations etc as well as info on what the birds eat, call, nesting habits etc. As well as amazing drawings. I am looking for the US version.

Size is not an issue, the book I am comparing it to is huge, in fact the bigger & more info the better, hell multi volume if needed as long as it has a lot of info. I'd prefer a reputable source, and if the cost of the book helps a group that supports birding etc instead of just a publisher even better.

I am happy with drawings or photos of the birds.

The "What Bird is That?" book groups birds by location (swamp, grassland etc) not species to make it easier to find the bird you are looking for when you don't know much about birds. So it would be nice there was a US book set out the same way as I found it very intuitive to use.

If such a thing doesn't exist in the US, I live in the Midwest now, in Northern Indiana so an regional guide with the same sort of detail I'm after would also be good. Or if you can recommend any other books you think I might find interesting. I am not a birder per se, in that I don't go out hunting for birds to watch, I just love watching the ones that I see as I go about my daily life and like to know what they are up to.
posted by wwax to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'm looking for the same book, but in the meantime I've been using this website: Whatbird, which is also apparently an app (that I do not have). It might be a tolerable temporary fix until you find the book you're looking for.
posted by DGStieber at 12:56 PM on November 24, 2014

Best answer: I'm partial to the Sibley Guide to Birds. They also publish field guides, but it sounds like you want the big book.
posted by advicepig at 1:07 PM on November 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The Stokes field guide is pretty great. It's arranged by general type of bird and their appearance, so it's easy to just flip through until you find something that sorta-kinda looks like what you're looking for, then flip around in that bit of the book to find the exact bird. It's 800+ pages, full of excellent photographs.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:09 PM on November 24, 2014

Best answer: We love our Petersons.

And I know you said book, but I also dig the Merlin Bird ID app by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It plays sounds, too.
posted by slipthought at 1:12 PM on November 24, 2014

Best answer: Sibleys the bible but I use the what bird app a lot more. I like dichotomous keys better than flipping through photos and whatbird app is the closest you can get for north America.
posted by fshgrl at 1:22 PM on November 24, 2014

Best answer: Silbey's big guide is what most people want. I tend to use regional field guides since the US is so split up and I'm always checking the maps since some birds just never come out to where I am and vice-versa for the other coast. I also have the iBird Pro app for my phone which has a really great "birds like this" feature so you can say "It sort of looked like a seagull...." and get likely matches which is helpful to me for IDing. They have a really nuanced search feature also.
posted by jessamyn at 1:26 PM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I love Peterson's too. And the iBird Pro app is superb. Comprehensive, easy to use, and fun to browse. I prefer the book to the app for actual id-ing of birds because you see information concurrently. And nothing beats pen and paper for note taking. IBird has swallowed a lot of mine. Good luck with all those darn sparrows. Theyre the thornbills of the northrrn hemisphere.
posted by firstdrop at 1:27 PM on November 24, 2014

Best answer: In addition to a field guide, A Birder's Handbook has great details on nesting habitats, phenology, etc. No pictures and few drawings so you have to supplement. I'm fond of the NatGeo guide but Sibley is what most of my colleagues use.

OR! Birds of North America online. That's what we all use for reference. Lots of good pictures. Super detailed. Songs, calls, and video. Just amazing. Sometimes you can access it through your public library and definately through a university library.
posted by hydrobatidae at 1:31 PM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: (Man I miss my two volume Slater and the opportunity to use it.)
posted by firstdrop at 1:31 PM on November 24, 2014

Best answer: Check you local Audubon society as well, for useful links and lists of common birds by habitat, season, etc.
posted by rtha at 2:07 PM on November 24, 2014

Best answer: Sibley, iBird, and whatbird fan here too! (downstate Illinois)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:25 PM on November 24, 2014

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