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|General field guides are excellent. However,
to go beyond these guides. While guides to various bird
don't necessarily make identifying birds easier they can provide
welcome additional information. For example, if you have a
painting of a bird, an actual picture is useful for seeing specific
details of field marks such as subtle colors, sharpness (vs fuzziness)
These guides can provide additional life history information. They may also help you identify these birds from various angles, different plumages, birds in flight, juveniles, etc. So these books may help you to not only identify tricky birds but identify them correctly more often.
A possible danger of using these books is using them before you are ready. If you use them too soon you will make the task of identification more difficult because they provide you with too much information. Stay focused on the most important field marks first. It is my opinion that the Peterson and Sibley guides for birds are so good that you will need these other books only occasionally.
Regional Series on Specific Bird Families
Hawks & Owls of the Great Lakes Region & Eastern North America GB
Sparrows & Finches of the Great Lakes Region & Eastern North America GB
Warblers of the Great Lakes Region & Eastern North America GB
Waterfowl of Eastern North America GB
Warblers of Ontario GB Pub
Sparrows & Finches of Ontario GB Pub
This is the only series of books geared to specific bird families in our region. This series of four books are photographed based. The photographs are useful for illustrating certain plumages but many of the desired plumages are not in these books. Warblers of Ontario and Sparrows & Finches of Ontario are essentially identical except its scope is more limited, the two books are smaller and include a fold out chart.
The challenge with waterfowl is recognizing the females, the immatures and the eclipse males. When you usually see ducks the males and females are usually together. It is not often you see a female on its own so you don't learn them quickly. The most challenging time is when the males are in eclipse. At this time all the ducks seem to look the same
The most detailed and comprehensive book on waterfowl.
Downy Waterfowl of North America GB
An identification guide to baby ducks. You rarely see baby birds away from their parents though.
Field Guide to Upland Birds and Waterfowl GB
May be useful for its information on upland birds.
Wetland Birds of North America: A Guide to Observation, Understanding and Conservation GB
More of a reading book but does have information on all birds associated with wetlands including rails, shorebirds and a selection of species from other bird groups
Ducks of North America and the Northern Hemisphere Am
Waterfowl: An Identification Guide to the Ducks, Geese, and Swans of the World GB
An identification that includes extensive information on plumages and subspecies.
Ducks at a Distance A Waterfowl Identification Guide
While written with hunters in mind, this guide should still be of use for naturalists.
Hawks are difficult group that require more than any other group the ability to identify them in flight.
The primary field guide to hawks.
A Photographic Guide to North American Raptors Am GB
Suppliments the Peterson's guide with a lot of photos.
Hawks in Flight GB
The Mountain and the Migration GB
Hawks from Every Angle: How to Identify Raptors In Flight Am
Hawks in flight books. The first two compliment each other and the third shows a wide variety of postures for species in flight
Very detailed and includes subspecies.
Hawk Watch: A Video Guide to Eastern Raptors Am
“LOOKING SKYWARD” A Passion for Hawkwatching Pub
Hawks of Holiday Beach, 2nd Edition GB Pub
A local hawk guide.
How to Spot Hawks and Eagles GB
Eastern Massachusetts Hawk Watch has reviews for most of the hawk books listed here.
XXXHawk Watch Site Selection Various hot spots for hawk viewing in Ontario. While these are the best spots in Ontario, good hawk watches are possible around an large lake in your area. From HMANA.
XXXHawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA)
Greater Toronto Hawk Watch
Niagara Peninsula Hawk Watch
Hawk Cliff Hawkwatch
Holiday Beach Migration Observatory (HBMO)
Shorebirds are challenging because they are seen so infrequently and species are very similar in appearance. When you do see them you can study them at your leisure with a spotting scope. The suitable habitats for shorebirds is very sparse in most of Ontario. Sewage lagoons, if you can get access, are excellent places to look providing the water level is low. Hillman Marsh is an outstanding location. Other places to check out are muddy shorelines of shallow lakes. Good luck.
This field guide takes an interesting approach. The photographic section has plenty of photographs arranged from juvenile plumage to adult plumage for each species with identification tips for each photo. The text section section is fairly comprehensive with information on status, taxonomy, behavior, migration, molt and vocalizations.
Shorebirds of North America, Europe and Asia GB
A strong standard illustrated field guide to shorebirds.
Shorebirds of North America: The Photographic Guide GB
A photographic field guide to shorebirds.
Stoke's Beginner's Guide to Shorebirds Am
Makes shorebird identification easier, especially for beginners
Shorebirds of North America, Europe and Asia GB Pub
A new photographic guide
Shorebird Watcher Features a variety of information on shorebirds including a quiz.
Shorebirds A set of nice photos for each species.
Gulls are not that hard unless you are trying to figure out immature gulls. Then things tend to get quite complicated and a specialized guide will help (Sibley's though does good on immature gulls). Unfortunately, many of these specialized guides are also quite expensive.
A North America guide with 1160 photos on 36 species. Cheapest of the guides. .
Gulls: A Guide to Identification Am
Gulls of Europe Asia and North America GB
These two guides cover both Europe and North America. The second one includes Asia as well.
Gull Identification Website. Identification challenges.
Rudy's Gull-index and Bob Lewis Gull Site Gull picture sites.
Owls are seen less often than hawks because of their nocturnal habits. Adding to the challenge is the fact that owls don't concentrate in bottlenecks like hawk do. The best chance to detect an owl is by doing an owl survey where you play a recording and listen for a response. Another way is to spot a bird mobbing, sometimes an owl is the target of the mobbing. To really increase your odds you need to find where owls are nesting and that requires a lot of hiking looking for signs left by owls. If you do find a nest keep it a secret to keep disturbance to a minimum.
A technical guide. Includes a CD and sonograms of owl calls.
How to Spot an Owl GB
Includes tips on how to find an owl through its signs.
Hawks and Owls of Eastern North America GB
Coffee table book.
North American Owls: Journey Through A Shadowed World GB
Another coffee table book. A profile of each species of owl per chapter.
Owls of the North: An Amateur's Handbook GB Am
Coffee table book.
Owl Pages An owl portal. Huge site. Comprehensive.
Owling.com An US based online field guide.
World Owl Trust A world organization dedicated to owls.
Warblers are extremely active tiny birds that give you relatively little time to study them. Yet they are among the most colorful creatures in nature. Warblers are easier in spring when you see mostly males in distinctive plumages singing away. Fall warblers present a bigger challenge because the males are not singing, many of the plumages are duller, and you see more of the less distinctive females and immatures.
I recommend this warbler book over the others because of all its unique features.
Stokes Field Guide to Warblers Am
Its approach makes warblers easier.
New World Warblers GB
An expensive book covering all of North and South America.
A Field Guide to Warblers of North America GB
An advanced guide to warblers. Includes subspecies. Very detailed but its format makes identification difficult.
Chasing Warblers GB
Describes the adventures of a couple trying to photograph 52 species of warblers.
Warblers A set of nice photos for each species.
Master Guide to the Warblers of Canada. A field guide to Canadian warbler. Includes three useful quizzes.
Sparrows and Finches
Sparrows are plain looking birds with nice songs that can be difficult to identify visually. Finches are most desired of birds at feeders and are easier to identify.
Covers all the plumages of all finches and sparrows in the world
A Guide to the Identification and Natural History of the Sparrows of the United States and Canada Am
Just sparrows but it covers all the field identifiable subspecies of sparrows
Sparrows of the United States and Canada: The Photographic Guide GB Am
Fairly detailed as well but it uses photographs. It has a nice photographic index on habitats. This book is a companion and also possibly an upgrade to the previous guide mentioned.
Even more groups of birds have their own field guides, but I consider them much less useful as we get only a few members of these groups (like rails) or they are easy to identify (like woodpeckers). If you travel a lot these books would be more useful. Nevertheless if you are curious here is a list of titles:
Pheasants, Partrides, and Grouse Am
Rails: A Guide to the Rails, Crakes, and Coots of the World Am
Cuckoos, Cowbirds, and Other Cheats GB
Nightjars and Their Allies GB
Wrens, Dippers, and Thrashers GB
Thrushes (Pica Press) Pub Am
A Handbook to the Swallows & Martins of the World GB
New World Blackbirds GB
Another way of learning birds is to watch a video. The video on tyrant flycatchers is the only resource dedicated to this type of bird I know of but I can't find it being sold online anywhere. I haven't seen any of these videos so I don't know how good they are. Be sure to check out other sources for these videos, the used prices can often be outragous.
Shorebirds Shorebirds: A Guide to Shorebirds of Eastern North America Am; Watching Waders: A Video Guide to the Waders Of North America Am Pub
Gulls Large Gulls of North America Am Pub; Small Gulls of North America Pub
Owls Owls Up Close Am
Flycatchers Tyrant Flycatchers of North America in Action Ref (Unavailable?)
Warblers Watching Warblers: A Video Guide to the Warblers of Eastern North America Am
Sparrows Watching Sparrows Pub