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Birding Guides

Tips for Identifying Birds

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.

Books/Field Guides

Birding for Beginners

Award-winning author, naturalist, and wildlife photographer, Stan Tekiela, has written best-selling bird identification guides for every Midwestern state. In this book, Stan provides the information you need to become a skilled birder in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and many other midwestern states. The first section of the book presents “how-to” information and the second section is an identification guide.
Birds of MN field guide 3rd edition

Birds of Minnesota Field Guide (3rd edition)

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.

Kids guide to birds of minnesota

The Kid’s Guide to Birds of Minnesota

This fun field guide focuses on the birds of Minnesota and features full-color photographs. It contains information about 100 bird species, organized by color, to help kids quickly and easily identify birds throughout Minnesota.

Online References

Information to help you identify birds is plentiful on the internet, but here are three 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.

Audubon Bird Guide

This beautifully illustrated guide from the Audubon Society allows you to search by name, taxonomic family, or region. Includes information about the bird, recordings, climate vulnerability and more.

Mobile Apps

Download on smart phones or tablets

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.

Audubon Bird Guide App

The Audubon Bird Guide is a free and complete field guide to over 800 species of North American birds, right in your pocket. Built for all experience levels, it will help you identify the birds around you, keep track of the birds you’ve seen, and get outside to find new birds near you.


According to Birds and Blooms Magazine, “This is one of the most popular birding apps out there, and for good reason. eBird allows you to keep track of the species you see in the field, whether or not you’re connected to the internet. Starting and submitting a checklist is as easy as a few taps on the screen.”

Merlin Bird ID App

Answer three simple questions about a bird or upload a photo of a bird you are trying to identify and Merlin will come up with a list of possible matches. Merlin customizes your list to the species you are most likely to have seen at your location and time of year.