The following are my picks for the best bird books of 2021:
1) Harrison, Peter, Martin Perrow, and Hans Larsson. Seabirds: The New Identification Guide. 2021. Lynx Edicions. Hardbound: 600 pages. Price: $90.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: This is the first comprehensive guide to the world’s 434 species of
seabirds, to be published since the 1983 publication of Harrison’s Seabirds: An Identification Guide.
It covers all known seabirds, beginning with seaducks and grebes and
ending with cormorants and pelicans. Lavishly illustrated and detailed
throughout the 600 pages, this guide gives full treatment to all known
seabird species including recently rediscovered and rarely seen species.
- The essential new field guide to the seabirds of the world.
- 239 superb, full-colour plates with extensive captions and detailed facing-plate identification texts and maps, to enable identification at a glance.
- More than 3,800 full-colour figures with illustrations of distinct subspecies, sexes, ages and morphs, are further supported by in-text identification keys and figures.
- Comprehensive and definitive, the text covers status and conservation, geographic range, movements and migration, breeding biology and feeding habits, plus identification and latest taxonomic treatments.
- The only seabird guide to cover all known seabird groups and species. Seabirders worldwide will find this to be an authoritative, one-of-a-kind publication for use around the globe.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for all pelagic birders! This book will be the standard seabirds reference for years to come!
1) Estrildid Finches of the World: A Photographic, Descriptive and Factual Guide to All 34 Genera of Estrildidae. 2021. Self-published. Hardbound: 396 pages. Price: about $120.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Estrildid Finches of the World was written over a period of
nine years and is intended for a wide audience, not only bird lovers and
bird watchers, but also ornithologists and other scientists. Estrildid
finches are among the most fascinating bird families of the Old World
with surprising and special characteristics. The family of Estrildidae
comprises 34 genera with 145 species and 239 subspecies, each having its
All 145 species and their subspecies are described in detail and the unique distribution maps present the spread of all subspecies in different colours. The descriptions of the species are supported by beautiful photographs of the birds in their natural habitats.
These photos represent the work of close to 300 photographers from 40 countries around the world, whose achievements were vitally important to this huge project. Not only did they afford the author permission to use their photos, but they also provided valuable information on the species directly through their first-hand field experience. In fact, some species have never been illustrated photographically before. In addition, the author was very fortunate in that several renowned universities, such as Cambridge and Yale, were extremely helpful.
The reader will also be treated to photos of nestlings at different stages of their development, which were taken by bird breeders so as not to unnecessarily disturb the breeding birds in their natural habitats. Estrildid Finches of the World depicts the largest number of mouth markings ever published, with 111 species being illustrated. Original photos show nestling mimicry of estrildid finches and their parasitic whydahs and indigobirds, making this a fascinating resource for evolutionary biologists.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for anyone with an interest in Estrildid Finches and/or collect bird family monographs! The book can be ordered here.
2) Cofta, Tomasz. Flight Identification of European Passerines and Select Landbirds: An Illustrated and Photographic Guide. 2021. Princeton University Press/WILDGuides. Flexibound: 496 pages. Price: $45.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Opening up new frontiers in birdwatching, this is the first field guide to focus specifically on the identification of European passerines and related landbirds in flight. Showcasing 850 stunning and remarkably lifelike colour illustrations from acclaimed bird artist Tomasz Cofta, produced using the latest digital technology, backed up with more than 2,400 photographs carefully selected to show typical flight profiles, it provides detailed and unsurpassed coverage of 205 European passerines and 32 near-passerines. This cutting-edge book brings a new dimension to birdwatching, the concise and authoritative species accounts presenting novel yet essential information on the flight manner of individual birds and the structure and behaviour of flocks―features that are key to identification. It also includes precise transliterations of flight calls, supported by sonograms, and links to a unique collection of hundreds of online audio recordings. Beautifully designed and written in an accessible style, this book will appeal to birdwatchers of all abilities. It presents the latest knowledge on flight identification of a group of birds that is poorly covered in the literature and is therefore a must-have for all professional ornithologists and scientists involved in migration studies.
- The first field guide to flight identification of European passerines and related landbirds
- Covers 205 European passerines and 32 near-passerines
- Features 850 stunning colour illustrations
- Includes more than 2,400 photos showing typical profiles of each species in flight
- Provides detailed information on flight calls, with links to online recordings
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for anyone birding Europe! I wish there was something like this for North America!
3) Meiburg, Jonathan. A Most Remarkable Creature: The Hidden Life and Epic Journey of the World's Smartest Birds of Prey. 2021. Knopf. Hardbound: 366 pages. Price: $30.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: An enthralling account of a modern voyage of discovery as we meet
the clever, social birds of prey called caracaras, which puzzled Darwin,
fascinate modern-day falconers, and carry secrets of our planet's deep
past in their family history.
In 1833, Charles Darwin was astonished by an animal he met in the Falkland Islands: handsome, social, and oddly crow-like falcons that were "tame and inquisitive . . . quarrelsome and passionate," and so insatiably curious that they stole hats, compasses, and other valuables from the crew of the Beagle. Darwin wondered why these birds were confined to remote islands at the tip of South America, sensing a larger story, but he set this mystery aside and never returned to it.
Almost two hundred years later, Jonathan Meiburg takes up this chase. He takes us through South America, from the fog-bound coasts of Tierra del Fuego to the tropical forests of Guyana, in search of these birds: striated caracaras, which still exist, though they're very rare. He reveals the wild, fascinating story of their history, origins, and possible futures. And along the way, he draws us into the life and work of William Henry Hudson, the Victorian writer and naturalist who championed caracaras as an unsung wonder of the natural world, and to falconry parks in the English countryside, where captive caracaras perform incredible feats of memory and problem-solving. A Most Remarkable Creature is a hybrid of science writing, travelogue, and biography, as generous and accessible as it is sophisticated, and absolutely riveting.
RECOMMENDATION: Fans of Owls of the Eastern Ice should enjoy this book!
4) Peterson Field Guide to North American Bird Nests. 2021. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Paperback: 500 Pages. Price: $24.99 U.S.
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: A comprehensive field guide to the nests and nesting behavior of North American birds.
Beyond being a simple reference book, the Peterson Field Guide to North American Bird Nests is a practical, educational, and intimate doorway to our continent’s bird life. The diversity of nests and nesting strategies of birds reflect the unique biology and evolution of these charismatic animals. Unlike any other book currently on the market, this guide comprehensively incorporates nest design, breeding behavior, and habitat preferences of North American birds to provide the reader with a highly functional field resource and an engaging perspective of this sensitive part of a bird’s life cycle.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for anyone with an interest in the breeding biology of North American birds!