Bird Guides

These are the bird books I use:

  • RSPB Handbook of British Birds To start birding, I would definitely recommend this compact and transportable book. It helps to rapidly identify the most common birds in the UK.
  • Collins Bird Guide This is my main bird book in Europe today, and the one I prefer. In particular, I appreciate the detailed descriptions of birds, as it mentions the variations possible within one specie, which cannot be visualised on an illustration.
  • Peterson Field Guide I found unpractical to have the map, the description and the illustration at different places in the book.
  • Les oiseaux de Suisse This atlas book of Bird in Switzerland is very good introduction and overview of the status of the different bird in Switzerland. However, the last edition is from 2004, so bird population since then is a little bit outdated.
  • The Sibley Guide to Birds The guide I used in North America. I wanted to have a bird book that covers all of North America. However, this means that the book is big and heavy, and does not provide as much detail on each bird (breadth over depth).

For other bird books, check out BirdersLibrary for good reviews.

These are my favorite online bird guides:

For bigger (and less user-friendly) bird databases, Avibase is certainly one of the most comprehensive, but others exist, such as Encyclopedie of lifeBTO, The Internet Bird Collection or in french is certainly one of the best !

For a more “map-based” search, you can find everything on eBird explore. For England the BTO Bird Atlas is also quite nice.

Before choosing an app, you’ll need to answer 4 questions:

  1. Which OS do you have? Android, iOS or Windows ?
  2. Will you have data on the field ? (internet connection)
  3. Are you ready to spend money ? How much ?
  4. Which continent do you live on ? Here I focus on Europe and North America.

For me : (1) Android, (2) yes in Switzerland, but otherwise no (3) no, except if it is really worth it and (4) europe

So far I only tried free apps. Here are two good app review articles : Birder Library and Blog Nature.

Here are my conclusions and advice:

  • You’re on iOS: lucky you, there are a lot of apps for you… However, I won’t really be able to help you here… Most of the Android versions I mention also exist for iOS but there are probably many more I don’t know about.
  • You want to log your observations on the field with eBird: eBird has (several month after the iOS version) a full apps for that. The only new things compare to the old BirdLog is that you can choose a previous checklist taxonomie list for an offline checklist. So if you go to a new place, create a rubbish checklist from a wifi point, and then, when on the field, you can use this taxonomy list for your checklist !
  • Otherwise, BirdEye is also very helpful to see recent local sightings and make your target list. But extensive option are not free
  • You’re in North America: download Merlin ID. If you are willing to pay check out iBird, Audubon Bird App and Sibley Bird Guide App. They all come with a lite version (free and limited). If you have internet connection, I recommend having a look at Birds around me. For bird songs, check out North Americas Birds.
  • You’re in Europe: the good news is BirdLog is free. The bad news is there are very few (free) apps… Ornidroid is my favorite. The equivalent of BirdEye for all the “Ornitho” websites is NaturaList. If you’re willing to spend some money, RSPB eGuide for British Birds seems to be a good one. For almost nothing, you can get BirdsUK, UK Birds – Birdwatching App and Bird ID (UK and French versions).
  • Other apps includeNordic birds, Bird Identification, Bird Watcher, Ornithopedia and Bird Pro.

Log Manager

I call “Log Manager” whatever lets you record, manage and view bird sightings.

The must of all of them, (in my humble opinion) is eBird, (Android (BirdLog) and Iphone (eBird) app are available).

Then beyond eBird, in europe they are plenty of website for doing that:

I use eBird because I think there are great benefits in using a unified system across borders (and birders). Not only do birds move across borders, rendering national websites artificial, but also if a significant number of people use the same platform, interesting statistical conclusions can be drawn from all these entries.

eBird has been lauched by Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon society in 2002 as a tool to serves both scientist and birding community.

Basic Visualisation in eBird (

  1. Explore a place” is a list at a defined location, structured in countries, regions (states, provinces…) and counties) of recent birding activity (recent sightings, checklists) and ranking (best hotspot and top birder)
  2. Explore Hotspots”  is an interactive map of lists of species observed. You can set the date, and zooming in will let you visualise the location of the best hotspot.
  3. Species Maps” is also an interactive map of occurrence of a certain species.
Advanced visualisation possible in eBird:

  1. Bar Charts (Location data) give you access to the all bird occurrences throughout the year at a specific location.
  2. Line Graphs (Species data) provides detailed data on specific specie.
  3. Recent rare sightings let you see rare sight at any given location.
  1. Yard and Patch is made to personalized your favorite location and keep track of bird evolution. (see detail explaination)
  2. Target species rank the most commun species you haven’t seen at a certain location. And you can set an email alerts when those specie have been seen or for any rarities.
  3. In “My eBird” page, there are a lot more option for managing your data (Checklist, Location). You can import and download data and view summury of all sightings
You probably knew about all previous feature (or will find out very quickly). Here are some more advance and external (not eBird directly).

  1.  Birdventure is a blog for eBird technical tricks. Here are its two main feature:
    1. eBirdGM : This help you to create an embedded map in you eBird observation comment. There is nothing super creative but a very nice tool if you want to put a precise observation location. (Sometimes hotspots are too large)
    2. BirdTrax is an embedded observation summary of an location.
  2. eBird Express is a excel template to enter data which can be easily imported in eBird later.
  3. BirdCast gives you forecast of migrant bird arrival and departure. Something similar called Eurobirdportal in europe with the biolovision network as been created

Bird Song

I heard that a good birders identify more than 50% of birds with their song… I still have a long way to go! Here are few resources which might be useful to practice learning bird songs.

The largest database (at least from my findings) are on xeno-canto. You can also upload your recording and ask for advice on identification.

If you’re in North America, have a look at Bird Song Hero, which helps you visualise spectrograms of bird songs in a well-designed website. Then Dendroica is also a large database. I found their description particularly helpful to memorise songs.

For those wanting to learn bird songs, games are the best way (I think): [Oizo]lympique (in French), Vogelwarte (for Switzerland) and Patuxent (for the US)

Tweet of the Day is a BBC Radio 4 programme on bird songs.

Game and learning websites

Birding gear

Birds don’t belong to anyone (at least until now), and can be found everywhere, which makes birding accessible for anyone with eyes and/or ears. However, being well-equipped helps: binoculars, a scope, a camera, a cell phone ….

Here are some useful links:

Bird and Technology

I’m particularly interested in technology and curious about what can be achieved with it. Here is a example of a flying robot imitating birds. More links:


GPS Tracking:

Bird Image Recognition

Bird Song Recognition

And to finish with, a few videos. The first one is a nice idea of putting a GoPro on a flying eagle…


Find out more

Want to learn more about birds?

Birdwatching Tips



The Big Year, 2011

Two bird enthusiasts try to defeat the world record holder in a year-long bird-spotting competition. (see reviews on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes)

A Birder’s Guide to Everything, 2013

A 15-year-old birding fanatic thinks that he’s made the discovery of a lifetime, so he escapes on an epic road trip with his best friends to solidify their place in birding history. (see reviews on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes)

The Birder, 2013

A mild mannered birder seeks revenge on a younger rival, after losing the highly coveted Head of Ornithology position at the National Park. (see reviews on IMDB)