I watched Dancing with the Birds the other day on Netflix, and since then, I’m fascinated by birds. They are excellent animals, and we should know more about them by reading books about birds and birding. No wonder there are countless birdwatchers out there; many agree that it is meditative and awarding in various ways. Believe me, reading books about birds is as much meditative as birding.
I love learning from books, and I realised that there are excellent books about birds for everyone. I mainly want to learn about their genius and have enough information to chat with a serious twitcher. Rather than learning about all the bird species, I’m after the more entertaining nonfiction books about birds.
I won’t be an ornithologist, but I like to learn and have fun at the same time. So the books about birds on this list will be easy to read, entertaining, highly interesting and full of rich information. There are also memoirs on the list with various backstories, but they are all about a bird. Happy reading!
Best Books About Birds
The Genius of Birds – Jennifer Ackerman
In The Genius of Birds, acclaimed author Jennifer Ackerman explores the newly discovered brilliance of birds and how it came about. As she travels around the world to the most cutting-edge frontiers of research. The distant laboratories of Barbados and New Caledonia, the great tit communities of the United Kingdom and the bowerbird habitats of Australia.
The ravaged mid-Atlantic coast after Hurricane Sandy and the warming mountains of central Virginia and the western states – Ackerman not only tells the story of the recently uncovered genius of birds but also delves deeply into the latest findings about the bird brain itself that are revolutionizing our view of what it means to be intelligent. One of the best books about birds.
The Thing with Feathers – Noah Strycker
The Thing with Feathers explores the astonishing homing abilities of pigeons, the good deeds of fairy-wrens, the influential flocking abilities of starlings, the deft artistry of bowerbirds, the extraordinary memories of nutcrackers, the lifelong loves of albatrosses, and other mysteries–revealing why birds do what they do, and offering a glimpse into our own nature.
Drawing deep from personal experience, cutting-edge science, and colourful history, Noah Strycker spins captivating stories about the birds in our midst and shares the startlingly intimate coexistence of birds and humans. With humor, style, and grace, he shows how our view of the world is often, and remarkably, through the experience of birds. You’ve never read books about birds like this one.
Bird Sense – Tim Birkhead
Bird Sense is based on a conviction that we have consistently underestimated what goes on in a bird’s head. Our understanding of bird behaviour is simultaneously informed and constrained by the way we watch and study them. By drawing attention to the way these frameworks both facilitate and inhibit discovery, it identifies ways we can escape from them to seek new horizons in bird behaviour.
There has never been a popular book about the senses of birds. No one has previously looked at how birds interpret the world or the way the behaviour of birds is shaped by their senses. A lifetime spent studying birds has provided Tim Birkhead with a wealth of observation and an understanding of birds and their behaviour that is firmly grounded in science. One of the most interesting titles in books about birds.
A Short Philosophy of Birds – Philippe J. Dubois
There is so much we can learn from birds. Through twenty-two little lessons of wisdom inspired by how birds live, this charming french book will help you spread your wings and soar. A meditative one among books about birds.
We often need the help from those smaller than us. Having spent a lifetime watching birds, Philippe and Élise – a French ornithologist and a philosopher – draw out the secret lessons that birds can teach us about how to live, and the wisdom of the natural world.
Along the way you’ll discover why the robin is braver than the eagle, what the arctic tern can teach us about the joy of travel, and whether the head or the heart is the best route to love (as shown by the mallard and the penguin). By the end, you will feel more in touch with the rhythms of nature and have a fresh perspective on how to live the fullest life you can. One of the best books about birds.
The Meaning of Birds – Simon Barnes
One of our most eloquent nature writers offers a passionate and informative celebration of birds and their ability to help us understand the world we live in. As well as exploring how birds achieve the miracle of flight; why birds sing; what they tell us about the seasons of the year and what their presence tells us about the places they inhabit, The Meaning of Birds muses on the uses of feathers, the drama of raptors, the slaughter of pheasants, the infidelities of geese, and the strangeness of feeling sentimental about blue tits while enjoying a chicken sandwich.
From the mocking-birds of the Galapagos who guided Charles Darwin toward his evolutionary theory, to the changing patterns of migration that alert us to the reality of contemporary climate change, Simon Barnes explores both the intrinsic wonder of what it is to be a bird and the myriad ways in which birds can help us understand the meaning of life. One of the most promising titles in books about birds.
The Wonder of Birds – Jim Robbins
A fascinating investigation into the miraculous world of birds and the powerful–and surprising–ways they enrich our lives and sustain the planet. a must-read among books about birds.
Our relationship to birds is different from our relationship to any other wild creatures. They are found virtually everywhere and we love to watch them, listen to them, keep them as pets, wear their feathers, even converse with them. Birds, Jim Robbins posits, are our most vital connection to nature.
They compel us to look to the skies, both literally and metaphorically; draw us out into nature to seek their beauty, and let us experience vicariously what it is like to be weightless. Birds have helped us in so many of our human endeavours: learning to fly, providing clothing and food, and helping us better understand the human brain and body. And they even have much to teach us about being human in the natural world. A good choice among books about birds.
The Bird Way – Jennifer Ackerman
‘There is the mammal way and there is the bird way.’ This is one scientist’s pithy distinction between mammal brains and bird brains: two ways to make a highly intelligent mind. But lately, scientists have taken a new look at bird behaviours they’ve previously dismissed as anomalies. What they’re finding is upending the traditional view of how birds live, how they communicate, forage, court, survive. They’re also revealing the remarkable intelligence underlying these activities, abilities we once considered uniquely our own – deception, manipulation, kidnapping, infanticide, but also, ingenious communication between species, collaboration, altruism and play. This a good choice among books about birds if you want to learn more about birds.
The Goshawk – T.H. White
First published in 1951, T.H. White’s memoir describes with searing honesty his attempt to train a wild goshawk, a notoriously difficult bird to master. With no previous experience and only a few hopelessly out-of-date books on falconry as a guide, he set about trying to bend the will of his young bird Gos to his own. Suffering setback after setback, the solitary and troubled White nonetheless found himself obsessively attached to the animal he hoped would one day set him free. One of the classics among books about birds.
The Peregrine – J. A. Baker
J. A. Baker’s extraordinary classic of British nature writing was first published in 1967. Greeted with acclaim, it went on to win the Duff Cooper Prize, the pre-eminent literary prize of the time. Luminaries such as Ted Hughes, Barry Lopez and Andrew Motion have cited it as one of the most important books in twentieth-century nature writing. A classic memoir among books about birds.
H is for Hawk – Helen Macdonald
As a child, Helen Macdonald was determined to become a falconer, learning the arcane terminology and so reading all the classic books. Years later, when her father died and she was struck deeply by grief, she became obsessed with the idea of training her own goshawk. She bought Mabel for £800 on a Scottish quayside and so took her home to Cambridge. Ready to embark on the long, so strange business of trying to train this wildest of animals.
H is for Hawk is an unflinchingly honest account of Macdonald’s struggle with grief during the difficult process of the hawk’s taming and her own untaming. This is a book about memory, nature and so nation. And how it might be possible to reconcile death with life and so love. One of the most popular titles among books about birds.
The Penguin Lessons – Tom Michell
“I was hoping against hope that the penguin would survive because as of that instant he had a name, and with his name came the beginning of a bond which would last a life-time.”
Set against Argentina’s turbulent years following the collapse of the corrupt Peronist regime. This is the story of Juan Salvador the penguin. Rescued by English schoolteacher Tom Michell from an oil slick in Uruguay just days before a new term. When the bird refuses to leave Tom’s side. The young teacher has no choice but so to take it with him and look after it. This is their story. This is a rather fun choice among books about birds.
Alex & Me – Irene M. Pepperberg
Alex & Me is the remarkable true story of an extraordinary relationship between psychologist Irene M. Pepperberg and so Alex. An African Grey parrot who proved scientists and so accepted wisdom wrong. By demonstrating an astonishing ability to communicate and so understand complex ideas. The story is much more than of an incredible scientific breakthrough. It s a poignant love story and an affectionate remembrance of Pepperberg s irascible, so unforgettable, and always surprising best friend.
Mozart’s Starling – Lyanda Lynn Haupt
On May 27th, 1784, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart met a flirtatious little starling. Who sang (an improved version of!) the theme from his Piano Concerto Number 17 in G to him. Knowing a kindred spirit when he met one. Mozart wrote “That was so wonderful” in his journal and took the bird home to be his pet. For three years Mozart and his family enjoyed the uniquely so delightful company of the starling. Until one fitful April when the bird passed away.
In 2013, Lyanda Lynn Haupt, author of Crow Planet, rescued her own starling. Carmen, who has become a part of her family. In Mozart’s Starling, Haupt explores the unlikely bond between one of history’s most controversial characters. And so one of history’s most notoriously disliked birds. Part natural history, so part story, Mozart’s Starling will delight readers. As they learn about language, music, and so the secret world of starlings. An interesting choice among books about birds.
Wesley: The Story of a Remarkable Owl – Stacey O’Brien
On Valentine’s Day 1985, biologist Stacey O’Brien first met a four-day-old baby barn owl. A so fateful encounter that would turn into an astonishing 19-year saga. With nerve damage in one wing, the owlet’s ability to fly was forever compromised. And he had no hope of surviving on his own in the wild. O’Brien, a young assistant in the owl laboratory at Caltech. Was immediately smitten, promising to care for the helpless owlet and so give him a permanent home. Wesley the Owl is the funny, so poignant story of their dramatic two decades together. One of the best books about birds.
Check out my other lists about books!
Are there any books about birds that you want to add to this list? Did you read any of these books?