Biology 4242 - Ornithology: 

Resources for (fledgling) Ornithologists:

 Field Guides:

  • American Bird Conservancy. 1997. All the Birds of North America. Harper Perennial Books. This guide is in a non-standard format--birds are grouped by habitat and overall gestalt or some hook, like "tree-climbers" or "ground-walkers". If you're used to a book that follows the standard taxonomic sequence, this may be a bit of a bother.

  • Birds of North America, Revised and Updated: A Guide To Field Identification (Golden     Field Guide from St. Martin's Press) by Chandler S. Robbins, Bertel Bruun, Herbert S. Zim, and Arthur Singer. 2001. I really liked the previous edition--haven't seen this one.
  • Kaufman, K. Field Guide to Birds of North America. Turtleback Press. This is a guide illustrated by photographs worked over in Photoshop.
            Amazon.com Review: World-renowned birder Kenn Kaufman addresses a long-running paradox of bird field guides with his Focus Guide. While beginning birdwatchers prefer photographic guides like those by Donald Stokes, the physical traits that make identification easier are more readily discerned in the idealized paintings of illustrative guides like those by Roger Tory Peterson and National Geographic. Kaufman's groundbreaking work combines the best of both approaches by digitally enhancing photographic images to show the characteristics that are sometimes not apparent in photographs. .
  • National Geographic Society. 2002. Field Guide to the Birds of North America. 4th edition (1999). National Geographic Society.  A review from from Publishers Weekly: The fourth edition of this popular field guide adds some valuable features, including updated maps and taxonomic classifications. A new "quick-find" index of common groups refers experienced birders to the right page, fast, but won't be much use to novices. Nevertheless, the book's organization is clear, the illustrations are realistic and more colorful than ever, and the range maps are easy to understand. The guide covers all North American bird species, including seabirds. In his introduction to the new edition, Cornell ornithologist John W. Fitzpatrick motivates birders of all levels, extolling the virtues of this field guide in helping ordinary citizens add to the store of scientific knowledge. And he's right: marking the little checkboxes in the index as you spot each species is satisfying science that can be done by anyone, including kids. Another delightful feature is the phonetic spellings of bird calls, such as the "kakakowlp-kowlp" of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo or the "few-few-fawee" of the Western bluebird. This remains one of the best portable bird guides in publication, tough enough to take in the field, but detailed enough for hours of armchair browsing. 800 illustrations, 630 maps. Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

  • Peterson, R.T. Field Guide Series: Eastern Birds, Western Birds, Bird Nests, etc.  Houghton Mifflin. Always classic. Great for getting started.

  • The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America. Knopf. 2003. Sibley burst on the scene a few years back with a remarkably detailed field guide, which was a bit large to take in the field. In 2003 he published a pocket-sized version that has fantastic detail, text, and maps. You can't go wrong with this one.

  • Howell, S. N. G., and S. Webb. 1995. A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America.  Oxford Univ. Press. A must if you're going south of the border.


The Mecklenburg Audubon Society has a great summary of what you need to know before buying a pair of binoculars. Click here to read their info.

Another good source to read before buying binoculars: Binoculars101

 General Reference:

 The A. O. U. Checklist of North American Birds. 6th Ed. 1983. Published by A.O.U./Allen Press, Lawrence, KS. (Fifth Edition available in Atkins)

Bird Families of the World. C.F.O. Harrison, editor. 1978. Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, NY.

Birds of North America Project - Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA. Alan Poole, Managing editor. -- Available on-line at the Atkins Library

Birds of the World: A Checklist, 2nd Edition. J. F. Clements. 1978. The Two Continents Publishing Group, LTD, New York, NY.

A Dictionary of Birds. B. Campbell and E. Lack, eds. 1985. Buteo Books, Vermillion SD.

Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. J.A. Jobling. 1991. Oxford University Press. Oxford, UK.

Handbook of Birds of the World. Vols. 1-4. (4 more on the way) ($$$$). Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Handbook of North American Birds. Vols. 1-5: Loons - Diurnal Raptors. Yale Univ. Press, New Haven.

A. C. Bent’s Life Histories (Smithsonian Institution Bulletins ca. 1910- 1968). This was effectively replaced by the Birds of North America Project, but still is delightful to read.

The Birder’s Handbook. P. Ehrlich et al. Simon and Schuster.

Peters: Checklist of Birds of the World


A Sand-county Almanac. 1949. Aldo Leopold

Threatened Birds of the Americas: The ICBP/IUCN Red Data Book.  3rd Edition. 1992. Nigel Collar, et al. Smithsonian Inst. Press, Washington, DC

Birds to Watch 2: The World List of Threatened Birds. 1994. Nigel Collar, M. J. Crosby, and A. J. Sattersfield. Birdlife International, Cambridge, UK (1988 edition available in Atkins, 1994 edition available from Dr. Bierregaard)

Where Have All the Birds Gone. John Terborgh. 1992. Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, NJ.

The Condor's Shadow : The Loss and Recovery of Wildlife in America. 1999. David Wilcove. W. H. Freeman.

Technical Journals:

  • OSNA (Ornithological Societies of North America) Journals:

  •             Auk (AOU)

  •             Condor (Cooper Ornithological Society)

  •             Wilson Bulletin (Wilson Ornithological Society)

  •             J. Raptor Research

  •             J. Field Ornithology (Formerly Bird Banding)

  • Ibis (British Ornithological Union)

  • BBOC (Bulletin of British Ornithologists’ Club)

  • Emu (Australian)

Bird Songs:

 Animal Talk: Science and the Voices of Nature. 1992. E. S. Morton and J. Page. Random House, NY  

The Singing Life of Birds. Don Kroodsma.

 On CD and tape:

Guide to Bird Songs. National Geographic Society and the Library of Natural Sounds.

Birding by Ear series (different regions and introductory and advanced CDs) produced by the Peterson Field Guide Series. The best way to learn bird vocalizations.

 The ultimate source for Natural Sounds (there are a couple of other major collections, but this is the one I have contributed to and rely on:

The MacAuly Library (formerly the Library of Natural Sounds)
Laboratory of Ornithology
159 Sapsucker Woods Rd
Ithaca NY 14850




  • BIRDCHAT@LISTSERV.ARIZ.EDU - Miscellaneous bird chatter, and plenty of it (careful, this can flood your e-mailbox!)

  • BIRDEAST@LISTSERV.ARIZ.EDU - Updates on unusual sightings (also BIRDWEST, etc.)

  • CAROLINABIRDS@LISTSERV.DUKE.EDU. Send messsage “subscribe” to listserv@listserv.duke.edu

  • AOU-L@UMDD.UMD.EDU - Updates on conservation legislation (not just birds)