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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

Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America

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 Field Guide by Stan Tekiela

Birds of Minnesota

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 Field Guide to Birds

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.

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.

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!

Audubon Bird Guide

This beautifully illustrated guide from the Audobon 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.