Although birds are everywhere, too few people own an ornithological book. This particular genre owes much to The Birds of North America (1827-1839) by John James Audubon. It is the most famous of all ornithological works and in December 2010 a copy sold at auction for $11.5 million - a record price for a single printed book. Audubon’s paintings are considered a high point of book art and yet he also contributed much to the discipline of ornithology by discovering 25 new species.
Bird books cover every continent and every species, and the content matter ranges from tiny hummingbirds to nine-foot ostriches. These books include drawings, paintings and photography as well as guides to identification and descriptions of their habitats. Even a small collection of bird books can take you around the world from the hedgerow finches of Britain to the desert owls of Southern Africa and the soaring eagles of Western Canada.
Although birds play a major role in folklore, myths, and popular culture, this selection of books concentrates on their beauty and showcases mainly educational books from the past 120 years. Many copies are highly affordable.
Birds of Colorado
by Alfred M. Bailey & Robert J. Niedrach (1965)
Covers 420 species. Published by Denver Museum of Natural History.
by Edward A Armstrong (1955)
New Naturalist Series, 20 b/w photographs and 41 drawings and diagrams.
Birds and Men
by E.M. Nicholson (1951)
42 color photos by Eric Hosking and others.
Birds of Canada
by Earl Godfrey (1966)
Color illustrations by John A. Crosby and line drawings by S.D. MacDonald.
British Sporting Birds
by F.B. Kirkman & Horace G. Hutchinson
Curlew, duck, goose, grouse, mallard, partridge, pheasant, pigeon, plover & more.
Familiar Wild Birds
by Walter Swaysland (1883)
Four volumes. Reprinted several times. Illustrated by A. Thorburn.
The Folklore of Birds
by Edward A. Armstrong (1958)
New Naturalist series – an examination of ancient bird beliefs with photos and illustrations.
A Guide to the Birds of Colombia
by Steven L. Hilty & William L. Brown (1986)
Nearly 1,700 species and more than half of all the species of birds in South America.
The Book of Indian Birds
by Salim Ali (1941)
Published by the Bombay Natural History Society, 66 color plates, 22 b/w plates
The Living Bird
by Mary Heimerdinger Clench
An annual published by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology
Birds of the Bible
by Gene Stratton-Porter (1909)
81 full page photo illustrations by the author.
The Owls of Southern Africa
by Alan Kemp & Alan Calburn (1987)
A monograph on the 12 species that inhabit the southern African sub-region.
Bird Life in Cornwall
by B.H. Ryves (1948)
16 pen and ink drawings by R. A. Richardson. Took author 27 years of study to compile.