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by Thane K. Pratt and Bruce M. Beehler

A fully updated – and indispensable – field guide to New Guinea.

Read the full review »

Before we get started, I want to say that this is by no means a definitive list. I’ve seen a lot of bird books in 2014, but not nearly all of them. Two in particular – Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World, Volume 1 and H is for Hawk – have been highly regarded but I have not had the pleasure of reading. So consider this more as my favorite books of the year.


  • Penguins: The Ultimate GuidePenguins: The Ultimate Guide
    by Tui De Roy, Mark Jones, and Julie Cornthwaite

    Overflowing with gorgeous photographs and information, this is the best book for birders on these endearing birds . Divided into three sections – an overview of penguins, essays on science and conservation, and species accounts – it follows the same pattern as the authors’ previous book on albatrosses (which I consider one of the best family books that I’ve seen). This allows you to skip around and read what’s most interesting to you, which, if you’re like me, will be just about everything.

  • Ducks, Geese, and Swans of North AmericaDucks, Geese, and Swans of North America
    by Guy Baldassarre

    Two volumes. Over 1000 pages. Now this is a family monograph. It covers all 46 regularly occurring species in the US and Canada, and does so in great detail. Just about anything you want to know about ducks, geese, and swans – along with some great artwork and photographs – make this indispensable to birders, hunters, and anyone else who likes ducks.

  • National Geographic Complete Birds of North America (Second Edition)National Geographic Complete Birds of North America (Second Edition)
    by Jonathan Alderfer

    This is the National Geographic field guide on steroids – larger format, much more text, and updated with the latest species additions and splits. It’s a fantastic reference for when you need identification information beyond that found in field guides. [Initial Review]

  • Rare Birds of North AmericaRare Birds of North America
    by Steve N. G. Howell, Ian Lewington, and Will Russell

    This covers 262 species that are, well, rare for North America. Which pretty much means vagrants. Sadly, I haven’t had much cause to use this book as I live away from vagrant hotspots. But I’ve studied it, just in case, and it would be the first place I’d turn if I was going to chase any of these birds or if I was traveling to, say, Alaska to look for some awesome birds. The art and the text of this book would be worth getting separately. Together, they form a book that any serious birder would profit from. [Full Review]

  • Phillipps' Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo: Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei, and Kalimantan (Third Edition)Phillipps’ Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo: Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei, and Kalimantan (Third Edition)
    by Quentin Phillipps and Karen Phillipps

    This will work well as a field guide – it’s small, has nice artwork and informative text, and is generally user-friendly. But it’s the extra touches that set this guide apart. “Graphic indexes” illustrate Borneo’s habitats and its most common birds and a relatively extensive section details the island’s best birding sites. But the feature I like most are the “ecological notes” scattered throughout the book that deal with topics of interest to birders and naturalists, but aren’t usually mentioned in field guides because they are not directly related to identification. I wish that more field guides included enriching features like these. [Full Review]

  • The Sibley Guide to Birds (Second Edition)The Sibley Guide to Birds (Second Edition)
    by David Allen Sibley

    The Sibley Guide has been my field guide of choice since I started birding and, along with the Collins Guide for Europe, I consider it the best field guide for anywhere, period. And with this second edition, it’s now even better with more species, illustrations, and information. The first printing of the guide had some issues with color reproduction, but those have been fixed in a second printing. If you bird anywhere in the US or Canada, you want this book. [Initial Review]


Picking out just one book as “the best” of the year is even more subjective than coming up with this list as a whole. The Sibley Guide will undoubtedly be the most used book on this list, and I would concede that it’s the all-around best. However, there’s another that I want to highlight as the book of the year…



When Eagles Roar: The Amazing Journey of an African Wildlife Adventurer

When Eagles Roar: The Amazing Journey of an African Wildlife Adventurer

by James Alexander Currie and Bonnie J. Fladung

This is the story of James Currie’s infatuation with the natural world, from his work as a game ranger on a South African reserve to host of a nationally broadcast TV show on birding. The stories he tells are spell-binding, but it’s the way he connects them to a larger picture of conservation and people that really makes this book stand out. This was the most moving, compelling, and entertaining book that I read in 2014. [Full Review]

The Birds' WeddingThe Birds’ Wedding
by Bryna Hellmann and Leslie Browne

This is two books inside one cover. The story of The Birds’ Wedding is for reading aloud – perhaps at bedtime, since it ends with “Good Night!”. It’s a fantasy, of course, but even though the wedding guests are wearing hats and playing musical instruments, they look the way they do in real life.

The second part, Looking at Birds, is about lots of other birds, how they look, sing and make their nests, what they eat, where they live and what we call them. This part is for children who can read for themselves and for parents who want to answer their kids’ questions. We hope it’s fun to read and will encourage children to look for the birds where they live, recognize them, know their names and care about their well-being.

Because we “have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth”, we’re responsible for the well-being of all the living creatures we share our planet with. We depend on them as much as they depend on us. A world without birds would be a sad place.


This is a cute, short story for kids about a bird wedding. It’s illustrated with some beautifully distinctive drawings. The second part is an overview of birds with a plea for conservation.

You can buy this book by emailing the author at The cost is $25, which includes shipping to the US.


The Birds’ Wedding
by Bryna Hellmann and Leslie Browne
Paperback; 46 pages
Calbona Publishing; July, 2014

The Birds of Costa Rica: A Field Guide (Second Edition) My review of The Birds of Costa Rica: A Field Guide is now up on Nature Travel Network.

Here are the last of the bird book reviews from 2014. Looking forward to many more in 2015.

When the second edition of The Sibley Guide was published earlier this year, there were clearly some issues with it. The most serious of those was color reproduction on some plates and a light text font that could make it hard to read. But a recently released second printing has corrected those issues. The text is darker, making it easier to read now. The colors also look much better. The most often cited offender was the male Scarlet Tanager, which was clearly not “brilliant red”, as the text notes. The second printing is clearly redder, although not quite as much as it had been in the first edition.

Scarlet Tanager comparison between Sibley Guides

Scarlet Tanager in The Sibley Guides: 1st edition on left; 2nd edition, 1st printing center; 2nd edition, 2nd printing right

So if you’ve held off getting this new Sibley Guide, it’s now safe to buy. The 2nd printings can be identified by locating the text “Second printing, July 2014″ on the page after the title page. I haven’t yet seen the new ones in a store, but you can get one now from Buteo Books.

The Warbler Guide appThe Warbler Guide app is now available on iTunes for Apple devices. Check out the recent blog tour for the app for a closer look at it.

Princeton University Press is also hosting a huge giveaway that includes a copy of the app, the book, the companion sound package for the book, and even binoculars! Enter here.

by Tim Birkhead, Jo Wimpenny, and Bob Montgomerie

An excellent summary of what we know about birds and the people who discovered it.

Read the full review »

The Birds of Costa Rica: A Field Guide (Second Edition)The Birds of Costa Rica: A Field Guide (Second Edition)
by Richard Garrigues and Robert Dean

From Cornell University Press:

This is the one compact, portable, and user-friendly field guide the novice or experienced birder needs to identify birds in the field in the diverse habitats found in Costa Rica. It features descriptions and illustrations of all 903 species definitely known from Costa Rica, including pelagics and species regular to Cocos Island. Fifty-six of these species are placed in a “Rarities” section that includes accidentals, rarer pelagics, and species that have not been reported in more than twenty years.

The detailed full-color illustrations show identifying features—including plumage differences among males, females, and juveniles—and views of birds in flight wherever pertinent. Robert Dean has supplied more than 360 new illustrations, including sixty-four species that are illustrated for the first time in this edition. These include recent additions to the country list, pelagic species, Cocos Island species, and all accidentals recorded from the Costa Rican mainland. Range maps and nomenclature have been updated for this edition, which also has a new user-friendly organizational scheme and an alphabetical quick-find index of groups on the inside back cover.


This is the best field guide available for this wonderfully birdy country.


The Birds of Costa Rica: A Field Guide (Second Edition)
by Richard Garrigues and Robert Dean
Paperback; 440 pages
Comstock Publishing Associates (imprint of Cornell University Press); December 4, 2014
ISBN: 978-0801479885

Searching for Pekpek: Cassowaries and Conservation in the New Guinea Rainforest

I reviewed this book earlier this year – it’s a great story and even more important message about conservation. The author is offering free shipping to the US and Canada until the end of the year. Even better, a portion of sales are donated to support conservation in Papua New Guinea. Order here


Save 25% on a single book at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Both expire on 12/14.