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Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory

Recommended Resources on
Birding and Natural History

(Updated Tuesday, November 25, 2008)

Listed below are some of our favorite books, videos, CD-ROMs and other resources on birds, other wildlife, general natural history and travel to help you enjoy southeastern Arizona's wildlife wonders. A few are available through SABO; many others are available through local specialty retailers such as the Friends of the San Pedro River and Tucson Audubon Society.

 Select a topic:

Birds & Birding, General | Hummingbirds | Birds of Prey | Other Birds
Other Animals | Plants | Travel, Miscellaneous

Birds & Birding:
A Birder's Guide to Southeastern Arizona (ABA/Lane Guide Series)
by Rick Taylor, American Birding Association (1995, updated 2005)

The best resource for planning your birding trip. Includes general travel and birding information, site descriptions, area and site maps and bar-graph checklists with habitat information for each species. Spiral binding allows guide to lay open flat for ease of use. An updated edition was released in 2005; for more recent updates on access and other issues, see SABO's Guide to Birding Hot Spots. Available direct from the American Birding Association.

Davis & Russell's Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona
by Tucson Audubon Society (revised 2007)

Based on the original guide by local ornithologists William Davis and Steve Russell, this latest edition was revised by a committee made up of members and staff of the Tucson Audubon Society. Unfortunately, this approach resulted in a few errors and omissions, but nothing that should drastically impact the average birding visitor. Though the format is similar to the ABA/Lane guide (spiral bound, with geographic birding guide in the front, bar-graph checklist in the back), coverage is slightly different and often complementary. For updates on access and other issues affecting visiting birders, see SABO's Guide to Birding Hot Spots. Available from the American Birding Association. Not readily available from Amazon, but carried by many mail-order and local outlets.

The Sibley Guide to Birds
written and illustrated by David A. Sibley, Houghton Mifflin Co.

A master work more than a decade in the making. Superb illustrations cover many birding issues in greater depth than any guide before it. Maps, some separated by subspecies, show migration routes and extralimital occurrences as well as breeding and wintering ranges. "Sibzilla" isn't a guide you can stuff in your back pocket, but it's a must for your birding library! 

The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America
written and illustrated by David A. Sibley, Houghton Mifflin Co.

One of the twin compact editions of the Sibley Guide. The revised maps and other updates as well as field-friendly size of the "Siblito" more than make up for losses of some illustrations and text from the original. The eastern version ("Siblette") is also available.

A Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 4th edition
published by National Geographic Society, distributed by Random House

The fourth edition of our favorite general field guide adds updated species names to the revised range maps and text, new and improved illustrations, and 80 additional species in the third edition. Unfortunately, some of the poorer quality illustrations, including most hummingbirds, remain from previous editions. 

Kaufman Focus Guide: Birds of North America
by Kenn Kaufman, Houghton Mifflin Co. 2001

Using digital enhancement, this is the first guide to take photographs beyond their limitations for field identification. Plates and text are on facing pages, accompanied by detailed maps showing seasonal abundance and migration routes. Excellent introductory material is especially valuable for beginning birders, and creative indexing features make finding the right bird family easy.

A Field Guide to Advanced Birding
by Kenn Kaufman, Houghton Mifflin Co. 1991

Definitely NOT for advanced birders only! This superb guide covers a wide range of birding challenges, including Empidonax flycatchers, sparrows, hummingbirds, and gulls. 

Peterson Field Guides: Western Bird Songs
Houghton Mifflin Co.

An excellent aid for home study of bird songs and calls, covering 522 species. (Use of recordings to attract birds, particularly during nesting season or in heavily birded areas, is strongly discouraged.) 

Pete Dunne on Bird Watching: The How-to, Where-to, and When-to of Birding
by Pete Dunne, Houghton Mifflin Co. 2003

Well-known birder and conservationist Pete Dunne applies his wry wit and decades of experience to taking the mystery out of birding. Includes guest essays by other experts, including "Good Birders Don't Wear White" by SABO naturalist Sheri Williamson. An excellent introduction for newcomers and a fun read for the more experienced.

Sibley's Birding Basics
written and illustrated by David A. Sibley, Houghton Mifflin Co.

The ideal companion to the Sibley guides, this compact volume covers the fundamentals all birders need to know, from identification to ethics.

Birds of the American Southwest
by Lynn Hassler Kaufman

A perfect introduction to the birds of this region, especially for non-birders and new residents.

A Field Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Adjacent Areas : Belize, Guatemala, and El Salvador, 3rd Edition
by Ernest P. Edwards, illustrated by Edward Murrell Butler

Less comprehensive but much easier on your back and bank account than Howell & Webb's massive "field guide" (out of print). A revised and expanded edition of Edwards's pioneering original guide, which predated H&W by many years.

A Bird Finding Guide to Mexico
by Steve N. G. Howell, Cornell University Press

A successor to the landmark (but largely outdated) bird-finding guides by Ernest P. Edwards and Peter Alden. Includes maps and bird lists, and more for the locations covered. Not a complete guide by any means, but many popular tourist destinations are covered (mostly in central and southern Mexico). A good basic reference for the adventurous birding traveler.

The Birds of Sonora
by Stephen M. Russell & Gale Monson, illus. by Ray Harm, University of Arizona Press

Not a bird-finding guide, but an outstanding scholarly reference work on the distribution of birds just south of the Arizona border with detailed locality and habitat information and precisely detailed maps.

The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior
by David A. Sibley, Houghton Mifflin Co.

The perfect library companion to your field guide: a family-by-family guide to the lives and behavior of North America birds. A collaboration between David Sibley and over 40 other ornithologists and researchers (the Trogonidae was written by SABO naturalist Sheri Williamson).

Lives of North American Birds
by Kenn Kaufman, Houghton Mifflin Co.

A beautiful, informative guide to all those things a typical field guide doesn't tell you. Illustrated with color photos and range maps.

The Feather Quest
by Pete & Linda Dunne

Now available in a softcover edition, this chronicle of a year the Dunnes spent traveling to hot spots all over North America offers fascinating insights into birding and birders. Southeastern Arizona is covered, of course. See Birder's World magazine for installments in Pete and Linda's latest cross-continent birding adventure, "Feather Quest 2"!

Birder's World Magazine
Kalbach Publishing

Our favorite birding magazine, packed with informative articles and columns by leaders in the field and colorful photo features.

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A Field Guide to Hummingbirds of North America
by Sheri L. Williamson, Houghton Mifflin Co. (January 2002)

A must for the serious hummingbird aficionado! The first and only truly comprehensive field guide to North America's hummingbirds, covering 31 species found in the United States, Canada, northern Mexico, and the northern Caribbean. Over 250 color photographs, including close-ups of heads, tails, and wings, illustrate details critical to identification plus many aspects of hummingbird behavior. Even hybrids, albinos, and hawk moths (often mistaken for hummingbirds by birders and non-birders alike) are included in the 31 full-color plates. Species accounts include information on behavior, ecology, migration, distribution, and conservation. Detailed, up-to-date range maps accompany the species accounts, along with migration maps for selected species. Introductory chapters on general natural history, ecology, and behavior, attracting and feeding, and hummingbird hotspots in North America take this guide one more step beyond the average field guide.

Attracting and Feeding Hummingbirds
by Sheri Williamson, T.F.H, Inc. (March 2000)

This 64-page full-color guide for hummingbird lovers, written by SABO naturalist and hummingbird enthusiast Sheri Williamson, is packed with information about the complex and fascinating lives of these well-loved birds and the basic elements that can transform almost any yard or garden into a hummingbird haven. The guide covers the United States and Canada with recommendations on landscaping, selecting nectar plants, and selecting and maintaining feeders, plus information on hummingbird natural history, behavior, habitat, identification, and more.

Advanced Birding Video Series: Hummingbirds of North America
by Peregrine Video (April 2004)

The latest volume in the Advanced Birding Video Series, Hummingbirds of North America, is now available on VHS tape and DVD! Scripted by SABO Director/Naturalist Sheri Williamson and narrated by well-known birder and author Jon Dunn, the 3-hour video uses normal speed and slow-motion video clips, still photos, sound, and graphics to capture all those details no book can fully illustrate. The video covers 30 species of hummingbirds, including potential strays from Mexico and the Caribbean. Peregrine Video Productions will donate a percentage of its profits from sales of this video to the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory. .


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Birds of Prey:
Peterson FlashGuide: Hawks
by Roger Tory Peterson, Houghton Mifflin Co.

A compact, fold-out guide using Roger Tory Peterson's field guide illustrations, laminated for durability. Keep it in your glove compartment for roadside raptor identification!

A Field Guide to Hawks (Peterson Field Guide Series)
by Bill Clark and Brian Wheeler, Houghton Mifflin Co.

The 2001 edition of this ground-breaking specialty field guide features revised plates and maps, expanded text, and new color photos.

A Photographic Guide to North American Raptors
by Brian Wheeler and Bill Clark, Princeton University Press 2003

A new edition of one of the best photographic field guides. Originally published by Academic Press.

How To Spot An Owl
How To Spot Hawks & Eagles
by Clay & Pat Sutton, Chapters Publishing

Profiles of the owls and diurnal birds of prey of North America, with information on habitat, behavior, ecology, conservation and hints for finding and identifying them. Illustrated with stunning photos.

Raptors: North American Birds of Prey
by Noel and Helen Snyder, Voyageur Press

In-depth information on all the diurnal birds of prey in North America. The authors live in southeastern Arizona, and much of the information is drawn from their field experiences here.

Raptors of Arizona
by Richard L. Glinski, illus. by Richard Sloan, University of Arizona Press

A beautiful "coffee table" volume full of information about Arizona's diurnal birds of prey. The exquisite paintings alone are worth the price.

Know Your Owls (CD-ROM)
Know Your Birds of Prey (CD-ROM)
by Axia International Inc.

Multiple photos, video and audio clips, side-by-side comparisons, and quizzes help you learn to identify these charismatic and often challenging predators. Excellent coverage of subspecies, morphs and age/sex-related plumage variations. Available from a variety of wild-bird retailers.

Owls Up Close (video)
by Nature Science Network

Featuring birding expert Kenn Kaufman, this video showcases North America's owls, from the diminutive Elf to the majestic Great Gray. Like companion video Hummingbirds Up Close, much of the footage was shot in southeastern Arizona. Available from a variety of wild-bird retailers.

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Other Birds:
A Guide to the Identification and Natural History of the Sparrows of the United States and Canada
by J. D. Rising and D. D. Beadle, Academic Press

The definitive guide to the sparrows found north of Mexico, with excellent color plates, line illustrations, and maps. Detailed coverage of species, subspecies, and plumage changes. A must for winter birding in the Southwest!

Sparrows of the United States and Canada: The Photographic Guide
by David Beadle and James Rising , Academic Press 2002

Not quite as easy to use as the original, but an excellent companion guide. Photographs are spread out through the species accounts rather than grouped together, making it harder to find the species you're looking for and to compare illustrations of similar species. 

Trogons and Quetzals of the World
by Paul A. Johnsgard, A Press 2003

Yet another monograph from one of ornithology's most prolific writers. Illustrated with the magnificent lithographs from John Gould's classic work on these tropical birds. 

Trogons of the Arizona Borderlands
by Rick Taylor, Treasure Chest Publications

Everything birders need to know about these mysterious birds, but didn't know who to ask. Illustrated with color photos and black-and-white drawings.

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Other Animals:
National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Southwestern States: Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah
by Peter Alden

A little bit of everything in one guide: birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, insects and other invertebrates, trees, wildflowers, mosses, mushrooms, fossils, and more. Over 1500 illustrations in a pocket-sized volume.

Kaufman Focus Guide: Butterflies of North America
by Jim Brock and Kenn Kaufman 2003

Same user-friendly format as the Focus Guide to birds, but the enhanced-photo illustration technique works a little better with butterflies. The color tabbed pages and quick index are a great help for beginning butterfly watchers.

Butterflies of Arizona: A Photographic Guide
by Bob Stewart, Hank Brodkin, and Priscilla Brodkin, West Coast Lady Press 2001

Exquisite photos of living butterflies accompanied by basic information on range, habitat, season, identification, larval host plants, and more. Covers 331 species found in Arizona, including many rarities from Mexico as well as species found in adjacent states.

70 Common Butterflies of the Southwest
by Richard Bailowitz and Doug Danforth, Southwest Parks and Monuments Association

A great resource for beginning butterfliers, illustrated with color photos of living butterflies. Available at Kazzam Nature Center in Patagonia as well as non-profit bookshops throughout Arizona. 

Butterflies Through Binoculars: The West
by Jeffrey Glassberg, Oxford University Press 2001

Illustrated primarily with photos of living butterflies, with emphasis on details needed for field identification. Species accompanied by basic information on range, habitat, season, identification, larval host plants, and more. Covers 331 species found in Arizona, including many rarities from Mexico as well as species found in adjacent states.

How to Spot Butterflies
by Pat and Clay Sutton, Houghton Mifflin Co.

Another delightful guide for wildlife watchers from this well-known naturalist duo from Cape May, New Jersey. Fascinating information on butterfly natural history, behavior and identification, plus finding them in the wild and attracting them to your own garden. 

A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians, 3rd edition
by Robert Stebbins, Houghton Mifflin Co. 2003

Often as colorful and fascinating as birds, reptiles and amphibians are a popular part of our Southwestern fauna. This is the very best guide to identifying them, with excellent illustrations and range maps. 

Insects of the Southwest
by Floyd Werner and Carl Olson, Fisher Publications

Insects and other arthropods are covered in this slim but fact-packed volume (illustrated in black and white). 

Chulo: A Year Among the Coatimundis
by Bil Gilbert, University of Arizona Press

A charming tale of a naturalist family and their adventures in southeastern Arizona, with interesting observations about one of our least-known mammals. 

The Wolf in the Southwest
David E. Brown, editor, University of Arizona Press

An unflinching account of the merciless war on wolves, of particular interest as background to the recent reintroduction of the Mexican Wolf into eastern Arizona. 

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A Field Guide to Southwestern and Texas Wildflowers
by Theodore F. Neihaus, C. L. Ripper and Virginia Savage, Houghton Mifflin Co.

The very best field guide for the region's wildflowers, illustrated with color paintings and clear line drawings. Includes a broad selection of annual and perennial wildflowers plus all of the region's cacti but omits woody plants (even those with showy flowers). 

A Field Guide to the Plants of Arizona
by Anne Orth Epple and Lewis E. Epple, Falcon Press

This photographic guide has a distinct northern Arizona emphasis and often uses odd common names, but it covers all types of vascular plants and contains much useful information. 

Shrubs and Trees of the Southwest Deserts
by Janice Emily Bowers and Brian Wignall, Southwest Parks and Monuments Association

Shrubs and Trees of the Southwest Uplands
by Francis H. Elmore and Jeanne R. Janish, Southwest Parks and Monuments Association

This pair of books offers broad coverage of the woody plants of Arizona and the Southwest, including common shrubby species often left out of guides to trees or wildflowers. Not readily available from Amazon, but carried by many local outlets.

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Travel, Miscellaneous:
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Book of Answers
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Press

Answers to many of the common questions about the wildlife and habitats of the Sonoran Desert and southern Arizona. A great guide for all ages, residents and visitors alike!

Arizona Road & Recreation Atlas
Benchmark Maps

A must for the adventurous traveler! Sections focus on the landscape (with shaded relief), public lands (with color coding by ownership/agency), and metro areas, plus a recreation guide to camping opportunities and more. 

Mountain Islands and Desert Seas
by Frederick R. Gehlbach, Texas A&M Press

The classic work on the natural history of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. 

A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There
by Aldo Leopold, Oxford University Press

Quite simply one of the most important books ever written on conservation and the relationship between humans and nature. Leopold's gift for language conveys his deep love and respect for wild things and the wild places that sustain them and the human spirit. Includes the author's experiences as a young man in Arizona, which had a profound influence on his philosophy of wildlife management. 

Southern Arizona Nature Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to Pima County and Beyond
by Roseann Beggy Hanson and Jonathan Hanson, Pruett Publishing Co.

A calendar of natural events in the Sonoran Desert, written by local naturalists. 

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Text Copyright 1998-2007 Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory

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