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Sibley's Birding Basics

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  479 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
David Sibley, America's premier birder an best-known bird artist, takes a new direction - in Sibley's Birding Basics he is concerned not so much with species as with the general characteristics that influence the appearance of all birds and thus give us the clues to their identity.

To create this guide, avid Sibley thought through all the skills that enable him to identify
Paperback, 168 pages
Published October 1st 2002 by Knopf Publishing Group
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Tim Hoiland
Feb 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Sibley's Birding Basics is a book for people like me – those who aren't birders but who like the idea of becoming birders. I'm not yet able to identify a Dark-eyed Junco in the wild, nor am I likely to pinpoint where in the molt cycle a particular Western Sandpiper is. To do that I'll need a lot more experience and probably a few other books. But what this book has given me, I think, are the tools I need to begin the process of becoming a birder.
Aric Hluch
Jun 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A book that deserves multiple close readings rather than a single perusal, Sibley's guide to birding for beginners is an indispensable text for anyone interested in birding, or birdwatching. I learned more than enough required to discern the birds in my backyard. I also discovered the complexities of avian anatomy, the process of molt, migratory patterns, feather varieties, and how all of these bits of information are necessary to glean an understanding of birds, as well as identify them in the ...more
Douglas Dalrymple
May 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
My nine-year-old daughter and I are the primary birders in the family. I had some credit at the local bookshop and picked this up for her, but I read it first. We use a Sibley field guide and I frankly wondered if this would offer me anything new. It did. I learned things I didn’t know about molting, for example, that are bound to come in handy. I’ll also be much better at differentiating feathers: coverts from scapulars, lores from supercilium, malar from auriculars, etc. You don’t get a taste ...more
Oct 05, 2009 rated it liked it
What an interesting and informative book. I learned things about birds that I never suspected before. I may have to re-read this one should I decide to go birdwatching this fall. Seems very relaxing.

Dec 29, 2008 added it
Pretty good basic information. Very good advice on how to get started keeping track of your list.
Oct 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bird-brain
Very helpful and short book for the beginning birder. It made me feel more at ease at starting out in this new hobby. Great book--definitely recommend for those new to the birding community.
Annette Kenyon
Jul 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Not sure who else wants to read this one--- besides amateur and wannabe birders! But I liked it for the "basics" . Need an actual Bird Atlas though.
Darren Kirby
A short (140 pages) but very dense introduction to the art and craft of identifying birds. Field marks, behaviors, songs and calls, feathers, molting, habitat. This book tells you how to consider all these touchstones, or just any that are available to put together an accurate ID. Not an easy read. As mentioned, very dense and at times almost a chore to plough through. The reward for perseverance is the tools to bank experience fast.
Oct 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018, birds
An excellent little book, full of tips that will improve my birding. The title "Birding Basics" may be slightly misleading, though. This is not a book for true beginners. Some of the discussions in here will go over true beginners' heads and may even deter them from birding, thinking it is too hard or overwhelming. Rather, I think this book is better suited for those birders transitioning from beginner to intermediate birding.
Tom Scott
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This guide won't teach you to recognized any particular bird. Instead it teaches you what to look for to help you identify a bird. I read it after a few months of birding, which seems to me to be the perfect time to read it. There's a lot to learn and I imagine I'll consult this guide often to clarify my knowledge. If you're not interested in birding this book will be of no use to you.
Benjamin Plume
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nature, nonfiction
Not quite as perfect as The Sibley Guide to Birds, but still an excellent reference with a lot of knowledge crammed into a small volume.
Steve Comstock
Sep 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: outdoors
Remarkable little introduction to birding.
Lorraine Sulick-Morecraft
Aug 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent information & details to assist with bird identification
Elizabeth Sims
Mar 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nature
Anything 'Sibley' is worth owning and poring over! Accessible, clear.
Jan 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: beginning birders
Shelves: nature, nonfiction
As a beginning birder, I needed a book to get me started at birding. It seems intuitive to me that before I can identify a bird in the field accurately, I have to know the necessary pieces of information that need to fit together into an identification. What do I have to look for while birding? I knew it isn't about just alternating between staring through binoculars and staring at a page in a field guide with a stupid look on my face. I had to know how to think while birding. That's why I picke ...more
Oct 12, 2014 rated it liked it
In the intro, Sibley says this book is for beginning to advanced birders. But I think a beginner would be totally lost and just freak out if she read these tips!
I am a fair-to-middling birder with a keen interest in the natural history of birds. As such, yes, I was interested in the more arcane ways that Sibley tells you how to ID birds, but it is way, WAy over the heads of your aveaage person just starting out with a guidebook in hand.
The illustrations, as with all of his works, were suberb and
Luke Hanes
Mar 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
I've been birding for a couple years and a whole new world has been opened up to me. One thing I definitely know is that I'll NEVER know everything there is to know about birds. The subject can be overwhelming. Sibley does a good job breaking down the key foundations of birding in a MOSTLY understandable way. There were parts of the book that were over my head which was frustrating, but if he put the cookies on the lowest shelf I'm not sure this book would be good for most people. All in all I f ...more
Sep 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nature
I just wanted to see some pretty birds in the park and perhaps know which species I was looking at. This was feather overload for me. Felt like I was back in anatomy and physiology class. Says less about this book and more about my tendency towards identifying through gestalt over detail. Less a beginner’s book and more for the intermediate and beyond birder. I personally am at the level where I’m grateful I can enjoy spotting an American Goldfinch despite my ignorance of its Latin name (Carduel ...more
David R.
Apr 16, 2012 rated it liked it
The noted ornithologist shares his thoughts on the "basic" skills needed for effective birding. I think that's a bit of a reach. This skill set, down to labelling of feather types, strikes me as belonging to a somewhat higher plane of development. I think the book does belong in a birder's library, but I would advise beginners to start elsewhere and graduate to this book after a few years of practice.
Logan Hughes
Aug 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reference
This was just what I was looking for in a vacation library book in Maine -- a book on birding that taught general tips and information, not a field guide. As a novice, I learned lots of helpful tips, although it was too much information to absorb at once. I feel like I'll get something new out of it on every re-read.
Mar 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: budding bird watchers, nature enthusiasts
i loved this book because it helped me hone a lot of basic skills that i needed to observe birds in the field, particularly spotting field marks and interpreting silhouettes, flight patterns, etc. it was concise and therefore light, so i could bring it everywhere! it is a good place to start if you are interested in bird watching as a hobby.
Christopher Finlay
Jul 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Designers
Shelves: design
This book contains an amazingly simple and elegant analogous process to design thinking field research.

Practicing and executing bird watching tactics is much like watching out for thread of an idea as it is about gathering the information about a user.
Sep 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: birders
i learned from this book that i'm a big nerd. really, who gets into birdwatching at 30? don't you have to be at least retired? hi, my name is missy, and i've been getting into birdwatching in a big way.

this book is rilly good for big nerds starting out, like me.
May 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is truly the "basics" because there are very few examples or explanations. It is great to hear that beak shape is a key way to ID a bird, but it would have been great to see many beaks! I am guessing I need to buy his "Birds and Their Habits" book.
Apr 09, 2015 rated it liked it
An incredible amount of information is packed into this little book. It could easily serve as the text for a full-semester course on bird basics. Something about the tone of the book is slightly off for me -- there is an unfriendly feeling to the writing.
Dec 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Very good more-than-an-introduction to the art of birding. Lists lots of things to look for in identifying, or trying to identify, the birds you find. Well worth the time and would make a good reference for updating or refreshing your skills.
Jul 01, 2012 added it
Shelves: birds, nature
This book came highly recommended. I have checked it out from the library twice. A book like this is good to go back to time and time again, because you learn something new each time. I found it very helpful.
Apr 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I recommend this book to all bird watchers out there! This was a fabulous book!
Feb 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: birds, wildlife
Excellent introduction to how to solve bird identification problems.
Dec 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Liked the feather illustrations!
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“It can be difficult to accept the fact that a lot of birds have to be identified as “possible” or “probable.” 1 likes
“Many species undergo an additional partial molt each year, involving just some head and body feathers. This most often occurs in the late winter or early spring and is called the pre-alternate molt, resulting in the alternate plumage. Many species, but not all, have an alternate plumage. Because this is only a partial molt (not involving all feathers), the new feathers of the alternate plumage are worn alongside the older feathers of the basic plumage.” 0 likes
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