Seventeen Books About Birds
Suggested by Bird Lovers and Ecologists
If winter’s here, can birds be far behind? As the days lengthen the cold strengthens, my grandmother is said to have said. Nevertheless, we’re heading towards the migration season. So, looking forward, here are seventeen books about birds. This list is collected from various friends and aficionados. It is in alphabetical order. Please feel free to add more!
Cities in the Wilderness: A New Vision of Land Use in America, by Bruce Babbitt. (Island Press, Canada/UK; Shearwater Books, US) Secretary of the interior from 1993 to 2001, Babbitt advocates for a balance between development and conservation — smart growth— so that we retain the ecological functioning of the land.
A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson. (Seal Books, Canada; Anchor, US; Black Swan, UK) A very funny personal memoir and delightful chronicle of the trail, the people who created it, and the places it passes through.
The Peregrine: The Hill of Summer; & Diaries: The Complete Works of J. A. Baker. Introduction by Mark Cocker & Edited by John Fanshawe. (Harper Collins) Cited as one of the most important books in 20th century nature writing, J.A. Baker meticulously documents a long winter observing peregrines and their surroundings.
The Bedside Book of Birds, by Graeme Gibson. (Doubleday Canada; Bloomsbury, UK; Nan A. Talese, US) Writings and images that celebrate the many ways people have engaged with birds over the centuries.
Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds, by Bernd Heinrich. (Ecco, Canada; Harper Perennial, US/UK) Heinrich involves the reader in his quest to get inside the mind of the raven. At the heart of this book is Heinrich’s love and respect for these complex and engaging creatures.
Ravens in Winter, by Bernd Heinrich. (Vintage Books) A charming, in-depth study of these very smart and sociable birds.
The Snoring Bird: My Family’s Journey Through a Century of Biology, by Bernd Heinrich. (Ecco, Canada; Harper Perennial, US/UK) An extraordinary memoir making science accessible and awe-inspiring.
Grass, Sky, Song: Promise and Peril in the World of Grassland Birds, by Trevor Herriot. (Harper Collins Canada) Herriot draws on twenty years of experience as an observer of nature to reveal the spirit of the grassland world and the uniqueness of its birds, discovering why birds are disappearing and what can be done to save them.
Findings: Essays on the Natural and Unnatural World, by Kathleen Jamie. (Gray Wolf Press, Canada/US; Sort Of Books, UK) Explores the value and vulnerability of an ancient yet ever new world now threatened by technology and human carelessness.
A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold. (Ballantine Books; Oxford University Press USA) A classic of nature writing, the almanac mixes essay, polemic, and memoir, and elaborates on the basic premise that nothing that disturbs the balance of nature is right.
Birding, or Desire, by Don McKay. (McClelland & Stewart; poetry) A celebration of nature’s abundance and the deep rhythms of family life.
The Sparrowhawk, by Ian Newton. (Harrell Books, Canada; Tarquin, US; Poyser, UK) A detailed account of this often elusive bird of prey and the impact of humans and the environment on the species in recent times.
Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions, by David Quammen (Scribner, Canada/US; Pimlico, UK) Applies the lessons of biogeography to modern ecosystem decay, offering insight into the origin and extinction of species, our relationship to nature, and the future of our world.
Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, by Janisse Ray. (Milkweed Editions) A blend of memoir and nature study, Ray argues powerfully for the virtues of establishing a connection with one’s native ground.
Portrait Of An Island, by Mildred Teal & John Teal. (University of Georgia Press) Based on the authors’ own four-year stay on the virtually undeveloped Sapelo Island with its unique marine ecology and varied flora and fauna.
Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds, by Scott Weidensaul. (Fsg Adult, Canada; Henry Holt & Co. Inc., UK; North Point Press, US) Weidensaul examines the miracle of bird migration — that without temperature or hunger as triggers, birds migrate, sometimes more than 5,000 miles in one uninterrupted flight.
The Goshawk, by T.H. White. (New York Review Books Classics) Chronicling the battle of wills between the author and the hawk he is trying to train, this book opens the door into the natural life of the hawk.