View Full Version : Field Guide For Birds

12-30-2014, 12:45
What would you recommend by way of a field guide to birds on the AT?

12-30-2014, 13:10
Peterson's Guide to Eastern Birds is always a good one.

12-30-2014, 13:49
Sibley's guide is the best by far. There is nothing else available that's even close to it in terms of comprehensiveness and the accuracy of the drawings.

That said, are you new to birds or just want a handy reference for the common birds? If so, Sibley's might have too much detail for someone who just wants to know a few birds here and there. In that case, the Peterson guide might be a better choice.

But if you want a great reference with every plumage for every species, Sibley's is the best. There is a Sibley app for smartphones that has all the paintings and range maps from the book plus recorded songs/calls for every species. This is what I use on long hikes. It's worth every penny of the $20 it costs.

12-30-2014, 14:25
If you have an iPod Touch/iPhone put "bird guide" in Search.

If you have Android, try the same Search terms.

I have several guides. Mitch-Waite, Peterson, Audubon, National Geographic. I like them all.

I will try the Sibley app. I have only seen the book: it is comprehensive.

12-30-2014, 15:04
The Audubon Birds of North America app from Green Mountain Digital for the iOs device is the one I use the most. It's in my pocket, and doesn't add any weight to my pack.

The Peterson Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America is the classic book. It's available as a smaller paperback, but still kind of large. The Sibley I have is a large field guide, far too large for hiking, but excellent otherwise. I think there's a smaller Sibley that's pocket size, not sure.

12-30-2014, 15:52
I am a huge fan of the Sibley's book (left back in the car) and thier app, which I use on an iPad mini.

That said, if you want a book to carry, I'd recommend this one:


While it won't show some rarities, and won't help you puzzle out the confusing plumage of some confusing female/ juvenile shorebird, it covers virtually everything most people are likely to find, and it's a fraction of the size and weight of anything else mentioned.

FWIW, Northbounders follow the spring warbler migration, but very few are bird watchers. To my way of thinking, getting a book to flip thru on the couch before one heads out would be time well spent. Without all that much effort, one could make a mental note of 15 or 20 of some of the cooler looking ones that are easy to ID. Or just look a Scarlet Tanager and a Pileated Woodpecker on line now, and think of White Blaze and when you see your first ones!

12-30-2014, 15:58
FWIW, Northbounders follow the spring warbler migration, but very few are bird watchers. To my way of thinking, getting a book to flip thru on the couch before one heads out would be time well spent. Without all that much effort, one could make a mental note of 15 or 20 of some of the cooler looking ones that are easy to ID. Or just look a Scarlet Tanager and a Pileated Woodpecker on line now, and think of White Blaze and when you see your first ones!
I haven't been on the AT in spring migration, but I bet you could see almost every eastern warbler, vireo, and flycatcher on the trail in April and May.

That said, if you really want to rack up a good bird list on the AT or any long hike, you have to know your songs and calls. Most of the birds are going to be in the canopy or hiding in the brush, but everything is singing, especially in spring and early summer. Before my long hikes, I usually make a playlist of the songs for species I expect to run into on the trail and listen to it repeatedly while training. Birding by ear is way easier than trying to see birds--no neck strains and you don't have to stop and hunt around for the little guys.

I use the Stokes Guides for birdsongs (you can download them as MP3s). There are a bunch of others, too.

12-30-2014, 16:02
They don't count unless you see them :) !


Edit: FWIW, those who are really serious about life lists most definitely would count a bird that is identified by ear alone. I am so hopeless with songs, I need to see them, but that is just me. There are a number of exceptions on the AT where the song is so outstanding, it is a true joy and a gift unto itself. Like the white throated sparrow.

12-31-2014, 07:27
Thank you for all the suggestions which are greatly appreciated. Time for some retail therapy and home work!

12-31-2014, 09:47
Surprisingly (at least for me) there aren't many birds on the AT.

12-31-2014, 10:42
Surprisingly (at least for me) there aren't many birds on the AT.
In that case, you're either not looking in the right places or not listening enough.

01-01-2015, 08:21
If I had been asked the same question for this side of the Atlantic I would have suggested Collins Bird Guide 2nd Edition by Lars Svensson as the most comprehensive of the field guides to Britain and Europe. It has served me well both at home and across Europe as far north as the arctic circle. For bird song British Bird Sounds by Ron Kettle is not bad. The only downside for me with the latter is the species are named first followed by the song. The other way round for me is better for learning. Thank you again for all the help.

01-01-2015, 08:51
Check out www.birdcouple.com

These guys are good!

So far, they have checked off the following birds on their AT hikes from Virginia up to Vermont. Not sure how many more they can expect as the do the rest of the Trail. Everyone gets a spruce grouse and a grey jay in Maine, but not sure what else they can expect. None of these is particularly rare -- the Bicknells Thrush, maybe -- but they definitely have a good eye to get the all on the AT.

Here is their AT list.

Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Wood Duck
American Wigeon
Ruffed Grouse
Wild Turkey
Common Loon
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Green Heron
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
American Woodcock
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Black-billed Cuckoo
Eastern Screech-Owl
Barred Owl
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Black-backed Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Acadian Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Yellow-throated Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
Common Raven
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Winter Wren
Marsh Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
Bicknell's Thrush
Swainson's Thrush
Hermit Thrush
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
European Starling
Bohemian Waxwing
Cedar Waxwing
Nashville Warbler
Northern Parula
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Pine Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Cerulean Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart
Worm-eating Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler
Yellow-breasted Chat
Scarlet Tanager
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Grasshopper Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Blue Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

01-01-2015, 10:35
There are a bunch of Audubn guides on sale until January 5th (I think that was the date) for android and for iPad. I think that for the iPad, there was a four guide set (birds, flowers, trees and ???) for $2.99. There are also some of the regional guides and a couple of state guides (California and Florida, maybe). Anyway, even if they aren't the absolute best guides, for a buck or two, they're pretty handy. I got four or five a few years ago, and I've gotten a lot of use from them. For the bird app, there are usually a few pictures for each bird, including male, female, young, breeding and non-breeding season plumage. There's a tab to click on for the song, and another for the map. And another place to click offers information about the bird, like behavior and migration. Again on the bird app, you can identify your location (either you input it or it checks your GPS location) and you can see what others in the vacinity have seen and reported recently. I guess some folks can say that they saw "red plumaged crowned flapdoodles," but mostly I find where people report reasonable birds for the time of year and the area, and it helps me look closely at the keys to those species, and then I can compare to the bird I'm looking at, and often, the previous poster was correct. I'm not particularly good at bird watching, and so I really appreciate the hints. I've enjoyed having those apps, and since they're on sale (mostly for $.99 right now), they're cheap enough to buy any that interest you.


01-01-2015, 11:31
I really like iBird for the iPad. The two things that set it apart from a conventional book are the ability to play the bird calls and the notebook function, which record the GPS coordinates of your sighting, and where you can record notes.

01-01-2015, 11:42
Audubon guides seem to be best for me. You can buy smaller versions. Excellent descriptions and color images.

01-03-2015, 09:26
I had a look at the Adubon set of four which seems to be a very good starting place for not only your birds but mammals and flowers as well. Thank you for all the suggestions.

01-12-2015, 15:23
Peterson's is great. I would also look at the Merlin Bird ID app from Cornell University.