Birding Books

The following list of bird books, or books about birds, is the culmination of the overwhelming response to the call to the NCAS membership to list their personal-favorite field guides and/or reference works. We’ve included 20 titles here but could add to the list as more titles come in. By clicking on the thumbnail for each book cover, the cover will be enlarged and a brief description of the contents will accompany the larger photo. If the book is available for purchase, you may also click on the accompanying link to order the book(s) from our favorite local bookseller, Village Books in Fairhaven. NCAS is a Village Books Affiliate and all books that are ordered via this link will earn dividends for the chapter.

Click on any cover image to see it enlarged.


Peterson Field Guides/Advanced Birding

This is the guide that takes the dedicated birdwatcher beyond the basics and gets into the fine-tuning details that separate similar species, which can be confusing at times. Learn to separate similar species of winter loons, accipiters, gulls, sandpipers, and many more.

A Birder's Guide to Coastal Washington

If you're interested in exploring the Washington coast and making the most of birdwatching opportunities, take along this helpful guide. There is useful information on geography and climate, campgrounds and accommodations, checklists of birds to be found on the coast, and maps to tell you how to get to them. Use this guide when you visit that exceptional part of the Evergreen State.

A Guide to Bird Finding in Washington

Co-authored by Terry Wahl and Dennis Paulson, this highly-portable guide offers introductions to the birds, regions, and habitats in the entire state. You'll also find lists of the mammals, amphibians, and reptiles of Washington. Seasonal occurrence charts and detailed maps and site descriptions are packed into this guide. The best way to use this guide is to keep it with your favorite field guide and just go!

National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America

Considered by many to be the best all-around field guide for birding throughout North America, this guide's new Third Edition is better than ever. The illustrations and maps are much improved and 80 new species have been included. The concept of having the range maps and text on the facing page makes for ease of handling, whether you're in Baltimore or Bremerton; on Plum Island or Lummi Island. By going to the National Geographic website, you can download an index to paste onto the inside cover of the guide; it's a real time saver.

Birds of Whatcom County

To learn more about birds, it's essential that you start close to home, and there's no better guide to local birds than Terry Wahl's Birds of Whatcom County. In this handy volume, you'll find information on seasonal occurrences, abundance, distribution, and habitat associations of 328 species recorded in Whatcom County. Read about the ornithological history of Whatcom County, summarized data from systematic population studies of breeding birds, marine birds, and Christmas Bird Counts.

The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds

At just under 8 pounds, this tome is the hands-down winner in the heaviest-book-in-the-bag contest. Nearly 6,000 entries and cross-references include major articles on bird life and biology; biographies of 847 birds in 78 families; 875 stunning photographs of almost every bird that nests in North America; and 800 black-and-white detail drawings, diagrams, and maps. If you own a bird reference shelf, this book should be included. Be careful lifting it, however!

Peterson Field Guides/Hawks

Continuing the standard of excellence of the Peterson Field Guides, this book is intended for those who wish to hone their hawk watching skills. All 39 species of North American raptors are covered in detailed descriptions with color plates and photographs. You'll find that the detailed drawings and photographs will help you to sort through those often-puzzling plumage variations, flight modes, and characteristic behaviors.

Hawks in Flight

Roger Tory Peterson had nothing but good things to say about this work by his heirs-apparent, Pete Dunne, Clay Sutton, and David Sibley. This is the book for the hawk lovers. Pete Dunne's always-entertaining text (as in his The Feather Quest) helps to solve some of the mystery of identifying raptors on the wing. Clay Sutton's photos and David Sibley's illustrations cover the 23 most-common diurnal raptors of North America.

Important Bird Areas of Washington

Back to a smaller book and easier reading, but equally enlightening and educational, this summary of the first phase of the Important Bird Areas (IBA) project in Washington state gives the details of the first 53 sites that were officially designated as IBAs in our state, and of the IBA process itself. The IBA project is international and this book represents thousands of hours of work by Audubon chapter volunteers and staff, scientists, government agencies, and conservationists under the leadership of Tim Cullinan, Audubon Washington's Director of Science and Bird Conservation. This is a handy book to guide you to some of the areas of our state that are essential to the health of our avian populations.

Lives of North American Birds

After a basic introduction into the lives of birds, sit back and enjoy this book that "goes beyond field guides." This book is intended more to promote the understanding of birds and is an essential companion to the other field guides. More than 900 bird species are accounted for with beautiful photographs, concise text, and range maps. Ken Kaufman is one of the world's best-known bird experts. You can enjoy his tales of the time when he was a wild and impetuous young birder in his memoir, Kingbird Highway.

Northwest Birds in Winter

This small volume is a seasonal guide to the birds that winter in the Pacific Northwest; i.e., Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Winter status and distribution information can be found on the nearly 380 regularly-occurring species in the region. With the increasing popularity of winter birding in our moderate climate, this book will aid in those challenging situations when the birds are not in their brighter, more-recognizable plumage.


Let me be perfectly clear up front; this is a textbook, and that implies that the material found between the covers is intended for the edification of the reader. This is a comprehensive volume that covers ground into which field guides rarely venture. Use this book as a companion to the previously mentioned encyclopedia and the world of birds will enlighten and entertain you like never before. This masterpiece, elegantly written and illustrated, offers a complete understanding of the birds that we enjoy every day.

Shorebirds of the Pacific Northwest

Dennis Paulson, co-author of the Guide to Bird Finding in Washington, has created a masterpiece for shorebirders. He has compiled the latest information about the characteristics of 61 documented and 18 potential shorebird species based on exhaustive research of the literature, museum collections, and photographs, as well as his own and Jim Erckmann's extensive field experience. Detailed drawings, photographs, and seasonal-occurrence graphs enhance this unique reference work.

The Sibley Guide to Birds

One of the more recent guides to hit the bookstores, The Sibley Guide has been hailed far and wide as THE field guide to birds. With more than 6,600 illustrations and descriptions of 810 species, plumage variations, range maps, voice descriptions, flight illustrations, etc., the Sibley has certainly raised the standard for bird guides. The only drawback, if it could be considered that, is its size. It's larger than most field guides and would best be left at home on the reference shelf.

The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior

Simply stated, this book is the natural companion to the previous volume. Well-written, -designed, and -organized, this is another book for the reference shelf. The first section covers the basic overview of bird biology, including physiology, evolution, behavioral characteristics, etc. The second section is divided into bird families and delves into an overview of, among other things, taxonomy, foraging and breeding biology, and conservation status.

Smithsonian Handbooks/Birds of North America/Western Region

The Smithsonian Institution is synonymous with quality in all its myriad projects and this field guide is no exception. At one species per page, this guide has some heft to it and might stay on my reference shelf. Nonetheless, the quality of this handbook requires closer inspection in this age of user-friendly products. Each full-page species profile is filled with precise descriptions, photographs, vocalizations, behavior, etc. Make room for this one.

The Birder's Handbook

This reference guide to the natural history of North American birds is the essential companion to your identification guides, filled with fascinating information about birds, their nests, eggs, food preferences, foraging habits, etc. There are also 250 short essays covering all aspects of avian natural history; sort of a collection of little- known bird facts. This is a portable guide that makes for good after-hours reading on those extended birding jaunts to distant hotspots, or even Mt. Vernon.

Peterson Field Guides/Warblers

For the warbler aficionado , this volume is a must. All 60 North American warblers are represented in detailed text with large color maps to show the range of each species. While this guide is "field guide-sized," this volume begins the section on reference books that you might consider leaving at home or in the car when you're far afield. Just as with photo equipment, scopes, and such, weight is a prime consideration when on foot.

Peterson Field Guides/Western Birds

Roger Tory Peterson literally wrote the book on field guides. For many years, this has been the guide by which all others have been measured. The Peterson Identification System has never been surpassed as a tool for field identification. By separating birds into visual categories, Peterson simplified the learning process for birders everywhere. The third edition has been completely revised and enlarged and the map section, by Virginia Marie Peterson, is better than ever. The illustrations and concise text are classic Peterson.

Where the Birds Are

A lot of work went into this compilation of the best places to find birds in all 50 states and Canada. If you're planning a long, cross-country road trip and want to see a few birds, this book is indispensable. You can use this book to include wildlife refuges in your itineraries and use the site-by-site bird chart to see which birds might be there when you are. This is a valuable resource of contact information as well.


There are many other bird books out there; this is merely a sampler. Keep calling and/or e-mailing (Pam Borso) with other titles and we’ll keep up with new arrivals as they come in. Enjoy the wonderful world of bird….books; and, just for fun, go birding and leave your field guides at home or in the car. This exercise is sure to improve your birding skills.

Order books through Village Books in Historic Fairhaven:  Village Books in Historic Fairhaven