Whether we like it or not, birds are everywhere. From household pets, to the seagulls that steal our lunches at the beach, to the owls that we can hear on quiet nights, birds are all around us. Still, there’s so much more to birds than what we casually observe in our day-to-day lives.
If you’re a passionate bird lover or just want to learn more about them, this list of bird books has got you covered. You’ll find books about the many different species of birds and their unique personalities as well as the memorable (and sometimes eccentric) individuals who have dedicated their lives to them, and there’s even some romance too! Here’s a list of nine books about the fascinating world of birds.
A History of Birds
From mankind’s earliest days, we have had a strong relationship with birds. From the bird deities of ancient cultures to today’s avid birdwatchers, we have always had our eyes on our feathered friends. This history traces the centuries of connections between humans and birds in informative and often surprising ways. A History of Birds is a perfect introduction to the world of birds and the humans who love them.
Of a Feather
Since the first European explorers set foot on the shores of North America, people have been gushing about the striking array of birds on the continent. In Of A Feather, Weidensaul follows the history of this American interest in birds from the early European colonists to the tech-savvy teenage bird enthusiasts of the modern day.
In between, readers will learn about the ornithologists who joined excursions into the western frontier in search of new species, the early conservation efforts of high society women in the Victorian era, and the birth of the modern birding movement in the mid-1930s.
The beginning of notable ornithologist Kenn Kaufman’s birding career was unorthodox, to say the least. At just 16 years old, Kaufman dropped out of high school to set the record of most North American bird species seen in one year.
His memoir recounts his adventures hitchhiking from coast to coast following reports of rare birds, working odd jobs to make money, and developing a new and deeper understanding of the natural world. Kingbird Highway is a classic road trip story with an avian twist.
The Birds of Pandemonium
In Birds of Pandemonium, Michele Raffin outlines her life’s mission to save bird species that are on the brink of extinction. Through a series of stories set at Pandemonium Aviaries, the conservation organization that Raffin founded, she reveals the complex social lives of the exotic birds she cares for. They build relationships, fight with each other, and mourn each other in ways that will have any reader asking how different humans and birds really are.
Fastest Things on Wings
California Hummingbird rehabber Terry Masear is dedicated to saving the injured birds of Los Angeles. This memoir focuses on her four months with Gabriel, an Anna’s hummingbird who had collided with a limousine.
During his time with Masear, Gabriel is joined by 160 other hummingbirds, including the female Anna’s hummingbird Pepper who was injured on a film set. As they learn to fly again, Gabriel and Pepper also form a special bond.
The Grail Bird
Tim Gallagher’s story of his search for the elusive ivory-billed woodpecker in The Grail Bird feels like it came straight out of an Indiana Jones movie.
This native of the swamps of the Mississippi Delta is seen so rarely that scientists are often ready to declare the ivory-bill extinct. During his travels in the south to speak with people who have claimed to see the ivory-bill, Gallagher becomes a part of the story when he and his friend spot a woodpecker while out on the bayou, the first sighting by two qualified observers since 1944. As Gallagher’s sighting spawns the largest search for a rare bird in history, readers will be kept on the edge of their seats.
Falconer on the Edge
Steve Chindgren has dedicated his life to falconry. One of the most notable personalities in his field, this portrait of Chindgren makes clear the allure of falconry and the emotional highs and lows that go along with it. In addition to following Chindgren’s struggles to care for his birds, Falconer on the Edge also traces the growing threat industrial expansion in the American West poses to falconers and their craft.
Tuco and the Scattershot World
In Tuco and the Scattershot World, acclaimed memoirist and poet Brian Brett recounts his 30 years spent with his pet African grey parrot, Tuco. Having originally bought Tuco on a whim, Brett comes to appreciate the emotional complexities of life with a bird. He feels a connection between birds, so often “othered” by humanity, and himself having spent his life the target of bullies.
Brett’s memoir is ultimately a meditation on the relationship between humanity and nature, with a few bits of commentary from Tuco himself sprinkled in along the way.
A Guide to the Birds of East Africa
Avid birdwatcher Mr. Malik has spent many Tuesday morning bird walks quietly pining for Rose Mbikwa, who leads the walks sponsored by the East African Ornithological Society. Just as he’s worked up the courage to ask Rose to the Nairobi Hunt Cup Ball, a childhood rival arrives and also develops an affection for Rose.
The two men compete to be the one to ask Rose to the ball the only way they know how: birdwatching. Whoever can identify the most species of birds within a week will win. This charming story proves that love isn’t just for the birds.
Featured photo: Sid Balachandran / Unsplash