Recommended Books

Birding Northern California by John Kemper - Extensive guide to birding locations throughout Northern California. Maps, directions, habitats, bird lists, and general information for each location. Status and distribution charts in the rear of the book as well as a good list of references.

Discovering Sierra Birds by Ted Beedy - Good descriptions of birds typically found in the Sierra Nevada. Discusses the various habitats found in the Sierras. Species accounts include a record of sightings in Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. Currently out of print.

Hawks in Flight by Pete Dunne, David Sibley, and Clay Sutton - Guide to identifying migrant raptors in flight. Emphasis is on identifying birds by shape, size, and flight behavior. Drawings are in black and white to de-emphasize reliance on plumage colors as an identification method.

Birder's Handbook by Paul R. Ehrlich, David S. Dobkin, and Darryl Wheye - Large reference containing species treatments and essays on a wide range of topics relating to birds. Species accounts address breeding, displays, nesting, eggs, chick development, diet, and habitat.

Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior by David Allen Sibley - Extensive collection of information on bird life. Includes essays on biology, behavior, evolution, habitat, and conservation. Additional chapters cover these topics as they relate to bird groups (Hawks and Allies, Pigeons and Doves, etc.). Illustrated with Sibley's artwork.

Birds of North America by American Bird Conservancy - Nicely illustrated field guide that shows birds in panoramas. Range, size, abundance, identification information, and brief description of vocalizations. Birds are grouped by behaviors. The book's smaller width makes it easy to fit in your pocket.

Birds of Northern California by David Fix and Andy Bezener - Informative guide to birds found in Northern California. Introduction contains descriptions of Northern California bio-regions. Each species given an entire page. Large illustrations. Identification, size, status, habitat, nesting, feeding, and vocal information included as well as brief notes about similar species. Its focus on the region's birds aids in identification.

Sibley Guide to Birds by David Allen Sibley - Extensively illustrated guidebook that includes many juvenile and alternate plumages. Includes range, size, identification information, and descriptions of vocalizations.  More complete than the other guide books as far as illustrations and number of species are concerned, but larger size makes it more cumbersome to use than most guides. Recently published in separate Western and Eastern editions that are smaller and easier to handle in the field.

Field Guide to the Birds of North America by National Geographic - Another well done field guide. Good compromise between size and completeness. Often the choice of serious birders in the field.

Source of the Thunder by Roger A. Caras - Moving story of the birth, life, and death of a California Condor coincident with its decline in modern times. Natural history of the bird is included as well as Native American legend.

Kingbird Highway by Ken Kaufman - Biographical account of Kaufman's big year. The author dropped out of high school and repeatedly hitchhiked around the continent in a quest to see as many different bird species as possible in a single year.

The Singing Life of Birds by Donald Kroodsma - Fascinating accounts of field experiments investigating the how, what, where, and why of birdsong.  The author is the acknowledged authority in his field.  His writing is a rare combination of science and art.  Sonograms (visual representations of birdsong) are scattered throughout the book and are keyed to the accompanying CD.

Letters from Eden: A Year at Home, in the Woods by Julie Zickefoose - Four seasons worth of the author's (and her family's) interactions with birds and other wildlife on her Southern Ohio farm.  The author also did the beautiful paintings and sketches that illustrate the accounts in the book.

Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds by Scott Weidensaul - Fascinating accounts of bird migration in the Western Hemisphere that include stunning feats of avian endurance, how migrating birds are tracked, as well as the author's experiences in studying the phenomenon.

The Owl and the Woodpecker: Encounters with North America's Most Iconic Birds by Paul Bannick - Beautiful photos and informative essays on North American Owls and Woodpeckers.  The species accounts are arranged by habitat.  Includes an audio CD from Martyn Stuart.

The Birds of Towhee Lane by Betty Shannon - Retired bird rehabber for Sierra Wildlife Rescue has compiled decades of fascinating stories about nesting birds on her  property.  Each chapter is chock full of bird behavior as interesting as it is educational.


H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald - The story of how a woman dealt with the loss of her father by re-connecting with her childhood falconry experiences while training a Goshawk.


Birding without Borders by Noah Strycker - Noah's account of his record breaking big year.  The target was 5000 birds but Noah managed over 6000.  Noah relates detailed and fascinating accounts of his birding quest in specific locations and summaries for many other locales.  In this reader's opinion the book could have easily been split into two books: one on the western hemisphere and new world birds and one on the eastern hemisphere and old world birds.


A Californian's Guide to the Birds Among Us by Charles Hood - Not an extensive field guide but has species accounts of the more common birds in our state.  The well written accounts are full of information and details while being fun and entertaining to read.  Many of the accounts have quotes that reflect the intersection of art and the environment.  The photographs are well done and plentiful.  The author is a birdwatcher and poet as well as a teacher of writing and photography.


Recommended Movies

The Big Year

A dramatization of three birders competition to see the most North American birds in one year.


The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

A documentary about Parrots living wild in San Francisco and one man's stewardship.


The Million Dollar Duck

A documentary about the Federal Duck Stamp art competition.  Several artists are profiled.


A Birder's Guide to Everything

A dramatization about several young birders chasing a rare bird.


Fly Away Home

A dramatization of a father and daughter helping geese migrate with an ultralight aircraft.


Winged Migration

A documentary about bird migration the world over with stunning photography and videography.


Project Passenger Pigeon

A documentary about the life and extinction of the Passengar Pigeon and the lessons to be learned.


The Lost Bird Project

A documentary about a sculptor who memorializes extinct birds.


The Messenger

A sobering documentary about the role of songbirds as an indicator species.

Recommended Apps

Merlin Bird ID

Free app from Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  In addition to the typical features of bird apps such as photos, sounds, range info, and id info this app has a photo recognition engine.  The app accepts your photo and asks you to draw a box around the bird.  As long as the photograph is of decent quality and the bird is in its database the app is remarkably accurate.  In the last few years a bird sound identification feature has been added.


Audubon Birds

Free app from Audubon.  Has the typical features of a bird apps such as photos, sounds, range info, and id info.  Also has a 'similar' function that lists birds similar to the one selected as well as a sightings feature.


eBird Mobile

Free app that has a subset of the eBird website functionality that is geared towards data entry in the field.  Requires wifi connectivity or cell service to submit a real time checklist otherwise it will save it as an offline checklist on the mobile device for submission later.  Accepts four letter bird codes for list lookup.  The user can count birds with taps or select for a numeric entry.



Free app that uses birdnet from Cornell Lab of Ornithology to listen and identify birds based on sound.  The same app also can interface with a PUC which is small battery powered unit that listens for birds.  The same company also provides instructions for a DIY (do it yourself) listening station based on the small Rasperry Pi hobbyist computer.  This can be found here.


Raptor ID

Free app from Hawk Watch International.  In addtion to description and range information this app has lots of reference images for all of North America's raptor species grouped by subspecies, sex, or maturity.


Other Recommendations

Ray Brown's Talkin' Birds

A weekly podcast from Ray Brown (based in the Boston area).  This podcast is well produced, entertaining, and deals with a wide range of topics related to birds.  If you are listening live (6:00 AM PST) it has a weekly mystery bird contest where you can call in and try to identify it based on clues.  There is also a weekly chat with Ray's buddy Mike who owns a bird store on Cape Cod and offers advice on bird feeding and yard birding.




Have you found an injured bird or other animal?

For El Dorado County contact

Sierra Wildlife Rescue

(530) 621-4661.

For the Sacramento area contact Wildlife Care Association

(916) 965-WILD.

Have you found a bird band?

Please report the number to the USGS Bird Banding Lab.

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