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Sibley's Birding Basics

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  587 ratings  ·  53 reviews
David Sibley, America's premier birder and 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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Feb 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-env-natlhx, birds
2014: More info than I need for my level of birding skill, but now I'll be alert for cues that I otherwise might have missed. I should re-read this in a couple of years.

2020: When I read this a third time (at some distant date in the future), I'll start with Chapter 3; it begins:
Bird identification is like a matching game with a time limit. On one side you have images in a book or in your head, and on the other side you have a bunch of flitting, skulking real birds.

Interesting snippets

p 14: The
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
Graychin (D. 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
Connie D
Nov 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Sibley's Birding Basics is a great reference guide for birders going beyond the basics. It would have been overwhelming/incomprehensible to me reading about birds for the first time, but it's perfect for me now...answering the questions and really clarifying things I have heard of but haven't understood, with great illustrations that explain the details.

David Sibley is a remarkable artist, a very clear writer, and the combination is perfect. His knowledge of the nature of birds is profound.

Oct 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: birds, read-in-2018
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.
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.
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.
Oct 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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.
Patrick Sullivan
Mar 17, 2020 rated it liked it
It's hard to really know how to rate a book like this. It is exactly what it purports to be: a brief but thorough and extremely detailed explanation of the process of bird identification. There's very little in the way of 'where to' or 'how to' engage in the activity of birding, and this is definitely NOT a field guide; if you want a reference book that will tell you about a specific bird species, this isn't it. The illustrations (all done by the author) are gorgeous and no doubt there are many ...more
Aug 29, 2019 added it
Shelves: birds, 2018
Sibley’s Birding Basics is not a bird identification field guide; instead, it’s a how-to manual about bird watching and identification. Or, as Sibley says in his “Introduction”: “It is the challenge and the process of identification that is the primary focus of this book.” This isn’t a book for the casual birder, instead it’s a book for the kind of birder who keeps a list of birds they’ve seen at their feeder (or in their life). It’s a book intended for someone interested in the next level of bi ...more
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I took up birding when my daughter was born, rather, I took up watching birds. Birding is a much more involved, specific activity that involves, as this book details, time, dedication, and perseverance. Not to mention a significant amount of study. That’s where this book comes in. Sibley is, in my estimation, the gold standard for birding and if you wanted to know more than you ever wanted to know about how to identify birds, this is the book for you.
May 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
I used to drool over the hardcover version of this beautiful book back when Barnes and Nobel was our date night destination. Because I bought plenty of books there, I wasn't a total window shopper--but I digress. When I had the chance to buy a couple of new Audubon field guides for our current local, I snuck this into my Amazon cart, too. Although I'm glad to own it, I wish I had purchased the hardcover version. The illustrations are comparatively small in the paperback version. Sigh...
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.
Gerry Matthews
Dec 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
Interesting and informative read, although I found it a little dry at times. I read the Kindle version, which in retrospect was a mistake as the illustrations were in B&W and the related text was so small they were impossible to read. My rating reflects the fault in the Kindle version.
Garrett Haynes
May 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: birds, owned
A must read for any birder to help learn about how to identify and describe birds, their size, shape, structure, feather patterns, etc. and also learn how to avoid pitfalls in ID’ing a bird. This book will help novices and experts alike.
Benjamin Plume
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, nature
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 ...more
Mark Nenadov
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: birding, birds, nature
A very helpful guide, with attractive layout and effective simplicity in approach. Highly recommended.
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-library, 2018
A must read for birding! It taught me so much on the basics of birding (dah). Very informative. I know I will come back to it again and again as I become a better birder.
Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
I imagine once I have some time in the field and experience actually looking at some dang birds, more of what Sibley has to say here will be helpful. As is most went over my head.
Ali Mousavi
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: birds
Basic book for who wants to start serious birdwatching.
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Actually a really helpful and easy to understand guide to bird watching. Included many helpful illustrations and I learned a lot from this quick read.
Charlie Wiswall
Mar 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Reaction like all those videos where people with color blindness put on the special glasses, but it’s just me noticing birds now.
Dan N.
Mar 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.1 stars.
Jonathan Oosterhouse
May 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
A well-informed and researched book that gives a detailed view into bird-watching/ bird identification in the field.
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: nonfiction, nature
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
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When you work at Goodreads, it's pretty tough to keep that Want to Read shelf under control. (And let's be honest, most of us don't even t...
120 likes · 33 comments
“It can be difficult to accept the fact that a lot of birds have to be identified as “possible” or “probable.” 2 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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