» Local Beginners' Guides
» Seasonal Checklists
» Local Bird Books
» Identification Challenges
» Different Approaches to Birding
» Bird Interconnections
» Miscellaneous Guides
» Handheld Guides
» Handheld Gadgets
» Desktop Field Guides
» Listing Software
« Ontario Field Naturalist's Toolchest
|Birds are the most
popular group of animals with most naturalists. And why not?
They are large and conspicuous. They show a wide range of
behaviors, a wide range of shapes and plumages, are better
distributed over the year because of migration and more.
Birds range from easy to challenging to identify. Unlike plants which you can examine at your leisure with an identification key, with birds you piece together what bird you saw from the field marks you manage to observe. The Sibley's and Peterson's guides to birds of eastern North America are essential for visual identification. But you can easily double what you observe if you learn bird songs since most birds will not let you see them very often. What you can learn to help you in identifying birds is diverse: plumages (male vs female, breeding vs nonbreeding, adult vs juvenile), appearance in flight, appearance as silhouettes, behavior, range, habitats, songs, calls, nests, eggs, signs and even tracks.
A general guide is a guide that includes half or all of North America.
This book is well refined for beginner and intermediate birders. Even experts find it useful. Roger Tory Peterson put out the first real birding field guide and they have had lots of time to improve on it. The strength of the guide is the unlabeled arrows to well chosen field marks. You really learn the important marks to look for
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America Am Ch
This guide, for intermediate and advanced birders, is great for showing juvenile plumages and is the only book that helps you identify birds in flight for all species covered.
The Crossley ID Guide GB
A fairly different approach to a birding guide. Each species has one plate and on that plate are over a dozen images of that species in a variety of poses, plumages, distances etc. Too heavy for the field, but a super reference.
National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern North America GB This guide is quite popular as it covers all the bird species of eastern North America (north of Mexico). The third best choice. An edition for all of North America is also available (north of Mexico as with most field guides of course).
Kaufman Field Guide to the Birds of North America GB utilizes digitally enhanced photographic images that combine the advantages of photographs and 'idealized' paintings and is ideal for beginners.
Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern Region GB is a good photographic guide, although not as good as Kaufman's guide.
All the Birds of North America GB departs from taxonomic order and organizes birds according to habitat and geographical area.
Smithsonian Handbooks: Birds of North America -- Eastern Region GB is a heavy guide that includes more information on each species than the other guides. More of an at home or in the car reference.
Local Beginner's Guides
Of all areas of interest to naturalists, birds are the most popular. More popular books have been written about birds than any other aspect of nature, at least in terms of field guides. A beginner or casual observer might find a guide on all the birds of say North America too overwhelming. It can be better to have a regional guide so you have fewer birds to pick from. Significant weaknesses of all these local field guides is the lack of arrows to prominent field marks and only the basic male and female plumages are shown.
I used this book when I was beginning. This book included interesting write ups on each species.
Lone Pine's Compact Guide to Ontario Birds GB
Covers 80 species of Ontario birds.
Lone Pine's Ontario Birds GB
Covers 125 species. If you don't care to really get into birding these books may be for you.
Lorimer Pocketguide to Ontario Birds GB
This book describes birding hot spots in southern Ontario (good for traveling in southern Ontario), and pictures of eggs and nesting locations. More localized guides are available for Kitchener-Waterloo, Toronto, London and Hamilton.
Birds of Ontario GB
A photograph based field guide
One of the most useful yet inexpensive tools of a birder is a seasonal checklist. A seasonal checklist not only tells you what birds are in your area but when and how common they are. If you know when a bird will occur you can plan to look for it when it will most likely occur.
Here are some seasonal checklists that are available in Ontario:
Temiskaming | Seasonal Checklist of the Birds of North Bay and Area (available through Nipissing Naturalists) | Northumberland | Kawartha | Point Pelee | Oxford | Pinery Park | Birds of Hamilton (Book)
Local Bird Guides
Regional Bird Guides (from Bird Watching Ontario:)
» OFO, Bird Finding Guides in Ontario Birds Web Additional bird finding guides for Ontario including Rondeau, Rainy River, Hamilton and many more.
» Edward Czerwinski, A Birder's Guide to the Sault Ste. Marie Border Area, 1995, Sault Naturalists of Ontario and Michigan. [$6.75 available from the Sault Nat., P.O. Box 21035, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario P6B 6H3.] Book in Word format
» David H. Elder, The Birds of Quetico Park and the Atikokan Area, 1994. [$14.75 + $3.50 postage, Friends of Quetico Park, P.O. Box 1959, Atikokan, Ontario, P0T 1C0] GB [?]
» Clive Goodwin, Where to Watch Birds Around Coburg, 1995. [Available from the Chamber of Commerce, 212 King Street West, Coburg, Ontario K9A 2N1, free on receipt of a SASE No 10 envelope.] [No links]
» Clive E. Goodwin, A Birdfinding Guide to the Toronto Region, 1988. GB
» Gerald McKeating, Birds of Ottawa, Lone Pine Publishing, Edmonton. [$11.95] Pub GB
» Gerald McKeating, Birds of Toronto, Lone Pine Publishing, Edmonton. [$11.95] Pub GB
» Doug Sadler, Our heritage of birds: Peterborough County in the Kawarthas, Orchid Press, Peterborough, 1983. [$7.50] GB
» Steve M. LaForest, Birds of Presqu'ile Provincial Park, 1993. [$21.95 + $3 postage from The Friends of Presqu'ile, P.O. Box 1442, Brighton, Ontario K0K 1H0] GB
» Ron D. Weir, Birds of the Kingston Region 2nd edition, Quarry Press, Kingston, 2008. [$39.95] Pub
» Birds of Prince Edward County by Ron Weir and Terry Sprague GB Pub
» William C. Mansell, Birds of the Cottage Country, McBain Publications, Kitchener, 1985. [BJ $7.95] GB Pub
» Dan Paleczny, A Bird Finding Guide to the Cochrane Area, 1993. [Available from Dan Paleczny, R.R. 1, Cochrane, Ontario, P0L 1C0 - Donations to offset postage + printing costs.] [No links]
» John Sankey, Enjoying the Birds of the Ottawa Valley, 1987. Web GB
» Dan Strickland, Birds of Algonquin Provincial Park, Friends of Algonquin Park, 1990. [$2.95] GB Pub
» Ron G. Tozer, and J.M. Richards, Birds of the Oshawa-Lake Scugog Region, Ontario Web (CheckList)
Other Ontario based bird books:
» Clive E. Goodwin, A Bird Finding Guide to Ontario, University of Toronto Presss, 1995. [$24.95] GB
» Ross D. James, Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Ontario (2nd Edition), Royal Ontario Museum, 1991. [$12]
» G. K. Peck and Ross D. James, Breeding Birds of Ontario. Nidiology and Distribution, Volume 1: Nonpasserines, ROM, 1983. [?] GB
» G. K. Peck and Ross D. James , Breeding Birds of Ontario. Nidiology and Distribution, Volume 2: Passerines, ROM, ?. [?]
» Martin K. McNicholl and John L. Cranmer-Byng, eds, Ornithology in Ontario, 1994. [BJ $24.95] [Special Publication Number 1 of the Ontario Field Ornithologists. This excellent book documents the history of ornithology in Ontario and Ontario's birds. Available from: Sid Hadlington, RR 1, Box 27, Bramhall Park, Midland, Ontario L4R 4K3 Canada. $24.95 +$5.00 postage.] GB
» George K. Peck, Ontario Nest record Scheme: Twenty-fourth Report (1956-1992), 1993. [No charge, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C6]
» Richard M. Saunders, Flashing Wings, McClelland and Stewart, 1947. [Review in Birding Dec 1995, Pg.468.] GB
» J. Murray Speirs, Birds of Ontario, Vols I and II, Natural Heritage, 1985. [Vol I $49.95, Vol II $24.95]
» Field Checklist of Ontario Birds FON and Ontario Field Ornithologists
Some birding books focus on specific identification challenges.
Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion GB
is a guide meant to supplement your field guides. This book has no pictures but is dense with information. The focus of the guide is GISS (General impression of size or shape).
Peterson's A Field Guide to Advanced Birding: Birding Challenges and How to Approach Them GB
is a book for handling the most difficult identification challenges such as separating a Lesser or Greater Scaup for example. This is definitely not a book for beginning birders.
Kaufman Field Guide to Advanced Birding GB
This is an updated version to the Peterson's guide. It is much different and looks more useful.
Different Approaches to Birding
This is the first guide to help you identify birds by their tracks and signs. The Art of Phishing: How to Attract Birds by The Art of Pishing: How to Attract Birds by Mimicking Their Calls GB
This book helps you learn the fine art of luring in birds by making noise for a closer look. Includes an audio CD.
What Bird Did That?: A Driver's Guide to Some Common Birds of North America GB
A humorous book that expands on some of the smelly signs found in Bird Tracks and Signs.
The Habitat Guide to Birding Am
Out of print. Gives a new spin on birding as it focuses on habitats.
Stokes Guide to Bird Behavior, Volume 1 to 3 GB:1 2 3
Out of print? Focuses on described behaviors of 25 species per book. If you are bored of just listing the same birds all the time a new challenge would be to try to list their specific behaviors when you see them.
Birds of Forest, Yard, and Thicket GB
Birds of Field and Shore GB
This series of book has extensive life history information that is written in prose. Should be interesting and educational reads. You can learn much about the interconnections these birds have with other life.
Is the main book for identifying bird nests.
A Guide to the Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds GB
Supplements the Peterson's guide.
Bird Nests and Construction Behaviour GB
A detailed book on the science of nests.
Represents 150000 hours of effort based mostly on the part of dedicated amateur birders. It compares results from the first breeding bird atlas. It shows which bird species are on the increase and those that are in decline. A very accurate accessment of the breeding birds of Ontario.
Sibley's Birding Basics GB
Teaches much about how to bird.
The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior GB
Gives extensive information about the inner lives of birds.
Bird Feathers: A Guide to North American Species Am GB
A guide to the feathers that birds sometimes lose.
Peterson Reference Guide to Molt in North American Birds GB Am
National Geographic Bird Coloration GB
A better understanding of color in birds may help in identification to recognize potential pitfalls and advantages of relying on color.
Portals have a variety of resources about birds. Here are some of them:
Birding Hotspots Around the World Also world bird guide, with pictures (over 5000) | The Aviary | birding.com | birder.com
What Bird: The Ultimate Bird Guide (search for bird by attribute) | Cornell's Field Guide of North American Birds |
Project WILDSPACE: Canadian Wildlife Service, Ontario Region (Life history of birds)
Ontario Bird Checklist
Internet Bird Collection (Videos of most species, but includes sounds and photos now too) | World Bird Guide (photos and sounds mainly but also some videos for most species) | Bird Song Matcher | Bird Families of the World | North American Birds Sounds (incomplete)
Birding.Com (where to bird in Ontario)
Paper field guides are great but can only do so much. Gadgets offers new capabilities to the birder. Handheld guides, field guides on a handheld computer brought into the field, show the most promise. Handheld gadgets are also brought into the field but are less expensive. Audio CDs of bird songs can be brought into your car or less conveniently into the field. See Sounds for more information. Desktop field guides can help you learn your birds but can't be brought into the field. Listing software, usually for the desktop, helps you record your sightings after a field trip.
Handheld guides are the new wave of field guide. Handheld guides allow you to find information much faster than paper field guides and play bird songs or calls. Instead of learning bird song on your computer at home you can do it in the field. Furthermore by playing bird song you can attract birds, although this feature because of ethical concerns should be used sparingly. The handheld computers and the birding software to go with them cost substantially more than paper field guides. It also may be quite some time before field guides for other flora and fauna are available for handheld computers.
There are no clear winners here. What you get, if you decide to a handheld field guide, will depend on price, features, and model of handheld computer.
The Sibley eGuide to the Birds of North America >>
For iPhone and iPod Touch. Based on the Sibley's guide
iBird Explorer >>
For iPhone and iPod Touch.
According to this website iPhone Bird Guide Comparison these two are neck and neck the best.
National Geographic Handheld Birds >>
An excellent guide based on the National Geographic Birds of North America guide.
If you own an iPod you can download all the bird songs and calls of eastern North America birds and software to handle it. The cost of doing this is much less expensive than having to buy an iPhone or iPod touch for the Sibley eGuide to the Birds of North America or the iBird Explorer. The source of the bird songs is Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs, Eastern Region.
Thayer's Birds of Canada >> is a field guide for your computer. Its bird songs and pictures can be downloaded onto an iPod.
Birdsong IdentiFlyer >>
This gadget comes in two main forms. The Birdsong IdentiFlyer is a handheld device in which you drop cards into the player nd press one of the ten buttons corresponding to the bird species you want to hear. The iFlyer BirdSong Scanning Wand uses a wand which you can use to scan bar codes in a book with 216 bird and frog songs. There is also an alarm clock where you can use the cards from the Birdsong IdentiFlyer to play bird songs when you wake up.
Desktop Field Guides
Thayer's Birding Software >>
Comes in many different flavors that are relevant to our area: Birds of Ontario; Birds of Canada; Birds of North America; Ducks, Geese and Swans of North America; Hawks, Eagles and Owls of North America; Warblers of North America.
Lanius North American Bird Reference Book 5.0. >>
A competitor of Thayer's.
If you participated in an Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas survey a great program is Nuthatch which includes pictures, sounds and quizzes of Ontario Birds. This program is not available to those who didn't participate.
While the Nuthatch program may not be available, Dendroica (covering North America), is a larger version of Nuthatch (covering Ontario) and is freely available on the internet as a website.
Hearbird Course >>
On a CDROM or as a subscription on your computer this course will teach you the songs of 190 North American birds. Shows sonograms as it plays songs. Includes quizzes.
WildObs Collection >>
iPhone/iPad Touch app. Note that it uploads to NWF wildlife watch which is an American program. Our Ontario records would not qualify.
AviSys Listing Software >>
Likely the best of the listing software
Thayer's Birding Diary >>
Wildlife Lister/Recorder >>
BirdBase/Bird Area >>
Lanius Excalibur >>
Birder's Diary Lifelist >>
Another type of birding software are listing programs. These programs will allow you enter your bird sightings into a database. With these programs you can keep just about any type of birding list: life list, year list, place list etc. Using these programs can be quite involved but once you get into the habit of recording all your observations the effort can be worth it. Reviews
eBird is slightly different in that the information is stored on the Internet. That makes the data available to everybody. eBird is free. eBird can be used in conjunction with the commercial software
As an alternative to these programs you can create your own checklist system using your favorite word processor, spreadsheet or database program. For those not computer inclined a pencil and pad works just fine. I use a little memo binder for observations. A memo binder stores a pencil quite conveniently.