Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.

18 books for your birding library

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird books Updated: June 9, 2014 - 9:29 AM

Eighteen books about birds that belong in a home birding library, in no particular order:

1. Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle, Thor Hansen, Basic Books. How and why.

2. Egg and Nest, Rosamond Purcell, Linnea S. Hall, and Rene´ Hall, Harvard University Press. The beauty and mystery of bird beginnings.

3. Avian Architecture: How Birds Design, Engineer, and Build, Peter Goodfellow, Princeton University Press. You should know this much about your home and how to build it.

4. Owls of the World: Their Lives, Behavior, and Survival, Dr. James R. Duncan, Firefly Books. A look at the world’s most fascinating birds.

5. The Unfeathered Bird, Katrina van Grouw, Princeton University Press. Bird mechanics and movements revealed.

6. Birds and People, Mark Crocker with photographs by David Tipling, Random House. An extraordinary look at people’s relationships with birds throughout history around the world.

7. A Guide to Bird Watching, Joseph Hickey, illustrated by Francis Lee Jaques, Oxford University Press, out of print. Find a copy if you can. This 1943 publication is timeless, as informative today as the year it was published, 1943. It contains many things you don’t know you should know.

8. Alex and Me, Irene M. Pepperberg, HarperCollins. Let a parrot show you just how smart birds can be.

9. The Beak of the Finch, Jonathan Weiner, Vintage Books. Two scientists spend 20 years studying Darwin’s finches on an island in the Galapagos archipelago. They see and document evolution in action.

10. Peacocks of Baboquivari, Erma J. Fisk, W. W. Norton Co. Possibly out of print. A widow moves to remote mountains in Arizona and more or less by accident becomes an award-winning naturalist, focusing on birds.

11. The Dictionary of American Bird Names, Ernest A. Choate, The Harvard Common Press. Bird names explained, common and Latin. Who, for example, is Poor Joe?

12. In the Company of Crows and Ravens, John M. Marzluff and Tony Angell, Yale University Press. These birds just might be the smartest neighbors we have.

13. The Birdwatcher’s Companion, Christopher W. Leahy, Princeton University Press. A single-volume encyclopedia, birds A to Z. Here are the answers to most of your questions.

14. National Geographic Complete Birds of North America, edited by Jonathan Alderfer, National Geographic Press. Six-hundred and sixty-two pages of informative text punctuated with illustrations. If Leahy can’t answer your question, the answer should be in this book.

15. Manual of Ornithology, Avian Structure and Function, Noble S. Proctor and Patrick J. Lynch, Yale University Press. Bird Biology 101, birds from the inside out.

16. The Atlas of Birds: Diversity, Behavior, and Conservation, Mike Unwin, Princeton University Press. An abbreviated and well-written look at everything bird. It moves from bird beginnings to conservation, which is about preventing bird endings.

17. Birds of the World, Les Beletsky, The John Hopkins University Press. Original paintings of 1,300 species from all the bird families of the world, with text explaining how and where.

18. The Birding Life: A Passion for Birds at Home and Afield, text by Laurence Sheehan, photos by William Stites, Clarkson Potter Publishing. Think “Architectural Digest” for people who love birds. 

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