Part of the joy in backyard birding is identifying and keeping track of the birds that come to your yard over the years. With the use of a field guide, birds are identified based on their colors, sizes, shapes and distinguishing field marks. Indispensable for identifying birds, whether they’re backyard visitors or species on your life list; a field guide will also tell us a lot about birds’ habits, diets, unique behaviors, summer and winter ranges, etc. Here are some of our favorite guides:
Field Guide to Birds of North America
Roger Tory Peterson’s Field Guide to Birds of North America was one of the first and is still considered by many the best. This guide introduced many to the best techniques to bird identification by pointing out what field marks differentiate similar birds.
Birds of Minnesota by Stan Tekiela
Here in Minnesota, The go-to book is Birds of Minnesota by Stan Tekiela. This easy-to-use, full-color photograph guide contains 111 species found in Minnesota and is arranged by the color of the birds. The book is written by Stan Tekiela, a Minnesota Naturalist, nature photographer, syndicated columnist and radio speaker.
Sibley Guide to Birds
For hardcore birders one of the best is the Sibley Guide to Birds. This is a large book written and illustrated by David Allen Sibley. It includes many views of each bird, very accurately rendered. Also available are smaller versions that split the continent into east and west using the Rockies as a dividing line. Many birders have one of each: carrying the smaller guide while in the field and using the original as a master guide as it does contain more information and illustrations of each bird.
Information to help you identify birds is plentiful on the internet, but here are two of our favorite resources online.
If you’re looking for an easy, online reference, we recommend using Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology’s site, All About Birds. This landing page will take you to the first step in Identifying your bird: the basic shape of the bird.
All Seasons Wild Bird Store on Facebook
All Seasons Wild Bird Store staff and our online community on our Facebook page is a great resource for identifying visitors to your backyard. Simply post a photo with your question to our page, then watch for comments!
There are a number of bird identification apps for iPhone, iPad and other smart phones that have features that help you identify birds, track your sightings, view videos and hear calls of birds, and learn more about birds. Here are a few that looked cool at the time this page was published:
National Geographic Birds for iPhone® and iPod® Touch
National Geographic Birds is a one-stop resource for any bird enthusiast. With more than 995 species and 3,000 gorgeous illustrations of birds of North America, this app is the most comprehensive birding guide on the market.
“Forget the field guide. With iBird’s app, newbie birders can narrow in on an avian ID simply by entering a bird’s size and colors, its location and the month. Bone: the color illustrations would make Audubon proud.” -Sunset Magazine, April 2011