I own almost all of the books listed below, and have included my own comments and rating (out of 5 star maximum.) I learned a lot from the classics by Zeleny and Scriven.
Most of the books that may be out of print may still be in local libraries, or can be purchased new or used from resellers.
I generally buy new or used books through Amazon.com, as their prices and selection are good, although their customer service leaves something to be desired. If you buy a used book the shipping is usually about $3.49, but some of the purchase prices are quite low. Some of the books listed are also available new from the North American Bluebird Society (NABS).
Guide: Glossy with lots of pictures, how to build and place DIY, mostly easy-to-build bird houses for 20 North American species, from wrens to raptors. Reviewers noted much on geography, or how to clean out boxes.
Beakless Bluebirds and Featherless Penguins
Sister Barbara Ann
Novel: about a nun two who rescues two severely injured bluebird fledglings.
Comments from Bluebars: Beakless Bluebirds is one of my favorites. Imagine raising orphaned bluebirds in a convent! Some parts are hysterically funny, like the penguin story. Other parts made me cry. The convent where she wrote the book is near where I live; her vivid descriptions gave me a new appreciation for the area and its history. It might be thanks to her that we have so many bluebirds in our area. Many copies are signed by the author, with her little bluebird drawings. Wonderful gift for any bluebirder or nature fan!
Bluebird Book, The Complete Guide to Attracting Bluebirds
Donald and Lillian Stokes
Comments: Complete info on nesting and breeding behaviors, instructions for building a box and starting a trail, ID and range maps, 80 color photos. Good how to for beginners.
The Bluebird, How You Can Help Its Fight for Survival
Why the concern, behavior, causes of population decline, what we can do, nestboxes, where and how to mount nestboxes, monitoring, trails, coping with enemies, other cavity-nesters, bluebird foster children, bluebirds for the future
Comments: Still an extremely useful and informative guide. Zeleny founded NABS.
Out of print?
The Bluebird Monitor's Guide
Cynthia Berger, Keith Kridler, Jack Griggs
Guide: Attracting, monitoring, trails, advice, homes and hardware, resources
Comments: Excellent for trail monitors, very informative. Lots of real world, useful experience. Good photos. Index could be better. Organized very differently from other books (e.g., no separate chapter on predators.)
Out of print.
Steve Grooms, Dick Peterson
A love affair with bluebirds, species, life, rise and fall, bluebirds and you, nestbox, trail, problems and solutions
Comments: 100 color photos, focus on life cycle. Well written. No index.
Out of print?
Bluebirds and Their Survival
Wayne H. Davis, Philippe Roca
Guide: Habitat, nestboxes and other structures, choosing sites, when to erect boxes, through the seasons, feeder, pests and guests, foiling House Sparrows, predators, trail, building your own, photographing birds, troubleshooting, organizations and suppliers
Comments: Only book with chapter on photography, interesting research results on nestbox styles. Dr. Davis did a lot of pioneering work with slot boxes. Roca is a photographer.
Anticipation, blue robins, song, mating, the marvel of new life, family ties, competition, pests and predators, unraveling the mysterious decline, human champions, passing the hammer, welcoming bluebirds to your yard, landscaping, nestbox plans, bluebird organizations and suppliers
Comments: Excellent photos. Good coffee table book.
Bluebirds in My House, Bonnie and Ben
Genus Sialia, fight for survival and human intervention, life of the bluebird, story of Bonnie and Ben; yesterday, today and tomorrow, landscaping, nestboxes, winter suet recipe
Comments: Covers all three species, covers diet, range and habitat, behavior and territoriality, describes two month rehab effort
Their Daily Lives and How to Attract and Raise Bluebirds
Tina and Curtis Dew, and R.B. (Reber) Layton
Collection of letters, about, success story, where they live, food and housing, protecting, Q&A, where to get supplies
Comments: Story about a bluebird trail, month by month
Out of print?
A Guide to Success
Edited by Dorene Scriven
1999 (3rd edition)
Guide: Natural History, Nestboxes, Trails, Monitoring, Competition and Usurpation, Predators & Problems, Food, Appendix on traps, mealworms, and monitoring form. Very informative.
Bluebird Trails in the Upper Midwest: A guide to successful trail management
Bluebird Recovery Committee of the Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis
Bring Back the Bluebirds, Even to Your Hand
Booklet. Patterns for feeder and a sparrow-resistant bluebird house. How to attract bluebirds, manage a trail, natural parasite control, predator control, raising mealworms, training bluebirds to feed from your hand
Comments: General information, good basic pointers.
Andy Troyer, 20835 Morris Rd. Conneautville, PA 16406
Build a Bluebird Trail
Dale Evva Gelfand
Booklet. Brief history, population, three species, locating nestboxes, timing, monitoring, identifying nests of competitors, nestbox design, building nestboxes, guarding against predators, resources.
Photos with text.
Comments: Nice photographs and some pretty good summary information. A very quick read. A page on two each on 70+ topics - nesting, nestboxes, eyesight, population studies, plumage, flight displays, behaviors such as anting and flocking, etc. Very accessible, and short subjects are good bathroom reading. Unfortunately sources of interesting information/statistics are not identified and there are no references in the back. For example, it says Bergmann's rule is not evident in bluebirds - how was that conclusion drawn? Discourages allowing other species to nest without mentioning native vs. non-native issue. I disagree with some conclusions - e.g., "Through education and well-managed trails, the bluebird should never seen another time when its populations struggle again.
Wild Bird Guide. Introduction, taxonomy and distribution, food and feeding habits, vocalizations, behavior, breeding; nest building, egg laying and incubation, nestlings and their parents, fledging and post fledging period, non breeding period, relations with humans
Comments: Complete natural history - focus on behavior, scientific/technical orientation vs bluebird landlording/trails. Lots of information on calls and songs, mating, etc. No captions on photos, does not reference sources for specific data/results of studies.
Enjoying Bluebirds More
Booklet. Species profiles, nestbox design, mounting and siting boxes, monitoring, nesting schedules, competitors, troubleshooting chart, predators, parasites and pests, rescue, planting, resources
Comments: Small inexpensive booklet, good starter, nice charts
Hit the Trails for Bluebirds: How to make and enjoy your own bluebird trail
Richard M Tuttle
Comments: Pamphlet - published by Ohio Division of Wildlife?
How to Control House Sparrows
Booklet. The enemy, history, behavior, keep your neighborhood from being House Sparrow breeding rounds, sparrow slum - the improperly erected/maintained martin house, sparrows vs. other native birds, aggressive methods of population control, starlings, choices
Comments: How to guide to control House Sparrow and protect native cavity-nesters. Gets a bit emotional. Does not address euthanizing captures.
$6.95 from D. Grussing
1504 Lake St. Ext.
Minnetonka, MN 55345
I Hear Bluebirds
Story of a child psychologist who raises two orphaned bluebirds. Written in journal style.
Comments: I cried at the end. Brunnel did a good job describing how it is so easy to become attached to bluebirds.
Also available from: Phyllis Howard, 106 N.Rondo Rd., Texarkana, AR 71854. Request and you will be invoiced.
In Search of Mountain Bluebirds
Veteran bluebirder Jon Boone says this has long been a favorite, not least for his lovely photographs of many birds, not just Sialia currucoides, and sensitive habitat. Burrell's photography and text entwined to provide intimate glimpses of nature at work and play.
Life Histories of North American Thrushes, Kinglets and Their Alliesez
Arthur C. Bent
Part of a 20 volume series. Collection of detailed, specific observations of individuals and flocks, including nesting habits, plumage, egg form, distribution, range, winter habitats, courtship, molting, migration, field marks, voice, enemies and food
Comments: Fascinating, beautifully written accounts of days when bluebirds were plentiful. Anecdotal, not all that well organized. Covers many other birds.
Out of print?
Mountain Bluebird Trail Monitoring Guide
Booklet. By Ellis Bird Farm naturalist, with contributions from many experienced trail monitors. Up to date and chocked full of info. Covers natural history of the Mountain Bluebird (range, ID, conservation, food, water, nesting, fledging), nestbox designs and plans for small cavity nesters, guidelines on aging MOBL nestlings, breeding habitat, trail basics, placement and mounting of boxes, tools, collecting data, monitoring, solutions to challenges and problems on a trail. All proceeds from sale are used to underwrite printing. Very nice quality, excellent small photos. Much of it applies to all bluebird species.
The Return of the Bluebird
Andre P. Dion
1984 forward by Larry Zeleny, followed by a lengthy poem with drawings
Comments: Zeleny forward is informative. Translation of poem from French to English is awkward. Original price $18.95
Out of print?
Studying Eastern Bluebirds: A Biologist’s Report and Reflections
Dr. David Pitts
Book. Comments: written by a foremost bluebird authority in the Midwest. Poses as many questions as it answers. Includings surprising info - such as how bluebirds respond to interior nestbox colors (black v. white), winter feeding and roosting data. (from Bob Peak). V. Butler said it is a good addition to a bluebirder's library. D Rice review says "well written, fun to read, easy to understand and even inspiring to those like me, who can't get enough about Bluebirds.
For very young children with a simple but loving story line on the right hand pages with great color drawings depicting the bluebirds life. On the left hand pages in smaller print is an adult/older readers' version telling you how and when to do all the things that a good monitor needs to do for the bluebirds. Thus it is suitable for young children and older readers. Pretty accurate.
Wonderful, informative booklet with excellent photos, fascinating facts, stories, puzzles, games, coloring pages, and more, developed by Mountain Bluebird Trails. Covers all three species of bluebirds. All proceeds support the conservation initiatives of Mountain Bluebird Trails, Inc. Written to the 4th grade level by bluebird experts. View online for free
Mary Ellen Caruso
reprinted in 2007
ISBN 1419664999 or 978-1419664991
Comments: Delightful story with nice watercolor drawings, and tips on how you can help Betty and Billy Bluebird. Comments from "bluebars": beautiful watercolor illustrations by Angie Falstrom. Great little book for children; explains in short rhyme about helping bluebirds: Now the lady from the People House
Put a box upon a pole,
And at the very top
Was a round and little hole.
Betty and Billy Bluebird raise 4 babies, the Small People bring mealworms, the dog chases away Buster Sparrow, there are other characters like Rhonda Raccoon, Jake the Snake, etc. At the end are suggestions about nestboxes, mealworms, berry plantings, baffles, and such to help the bluebirds.
The Mountain Bluebird
What Bluebirds Do
Very thorough. Good for grades 2-4? I need to read this to provide more input - one reviewer gave it four stars.
Young Birder's Guide
Bill Thompson III (author), Julie Zickefoose (illustrator)
ISBN 978-0547119342 or 0547119348
Kid-sized, developed by children for children. Fun and easy to use. Includes photos, drawings, life stories, range maps, habitat they are likely to be found in, description of song, and "wow" facts. Focuses on big, easy to see birds, birds children are likely to see/encounter, and some special "spark" birds like Painted Buntings.
For an additional charge, photos and songs can be downloaded onto an iPod.
Also suitable for beginning birdwatchers. Focuses on Eastern species.
The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds
Terres, John K.
Alfred A. Knopf Inc., New York, New York. 1,109 pp.
Comments: A reference book that's been around a while…heavy… expensive…and, with the Internet, who needs books? But birders may find themselves referring to it quite a bit. Great scientific explanations for many bluebird topics, such as why their feathers are not really blue, possible theoretical explanations for white eggs, etc. And, although it’s an encyclopedia, you can get immersed in it. (Review by B.Peak)
The Backyard Birdhouse Book
Rene and Christyna Laubach
Comments: It was rated very poorly on Amazon.com - indicating plans were out of date, directions were hard to follow, and lacked detail. I thought it had some good information on other cavity nesters like the Bewick's Wren, and good drawings of nestboxes with dimensions.
It has chapters on the fundamentals of nesting, profiles of cavity nesters, nestbox designs, mounting methods and predator guards, landscaping and conservation projects.
Building Houses, Feeders, and Baths
Bird Watchers Digest paperback with step-by-step plans for 26 birdhouses, bird feeders and baths, tips for bird landlords. Covers cavity nesters and phoebes and robins.
Birds in Nestboxes, How to help, study, and enjoy birds when snags are scarce.
Charlotte C. Cockran
150 color photos and information on things you need to start a nestbox program, such as site preferences, nesting cycles, making and checking nestboxes.
Good discussion of the importance of snags (standing dead trees) and lists of cavity nesters (gives all of them equal time vs. only covering bluebirds). Has some unusual content like a nest ID key, description of droppings, how to guess whether nesting was successful, how to make nestboxes out of logs, and an equipment checklist. Does endorse boxes on trees (a predation risk in my opinion.)
Birds of North America
Chandler S. Robbins, Bertel Bruun, Herbert S. Zim, Arthur Singer
Golden Guide. 800+ species and 600 range maps, illustrations of male, female, and juvenile plumage, sonograms that picture sound, migration routes, feeding habits, and characteristic flight patterns, check boxes to record birds you have identified, color tabs for quick reference
The Birder's Handbook A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds
Paul R. Ehrlich, David S. Dobkin, and Darryl Wheye
For 646 birds, covers nesting location, which sex builds nest, number of eggs, egg ID, incubation, care of young, food preferences, foraging habits, displays, mating, wintering, conservation status .
Comments: Interspersed with fascinating essays on avian natural history. Also has good data on habitat, incubation and fledging times for all species covered. No photos.
Michael Walters, Mark B. Robbins, Harry Taylor 1994
Eggs of over 500 bird species with photographs, bird illustrations, and descriptions. Short introductory sections on eggs and their biology, nests, breeding, and bird families.
Well-researched biography of illustrator who revolutionized field guides, and educated, influenced and entertained generations of birders. Peterson's field guides were renowned for accurate illustrations (with arrows pointing out helpful field marks) and brief descriptions that made birding accessible. Although it's a slow read with lots of name dropping, it communicates the magic of a much-admired man who inspired countless birders. Shows Roger Tory Peterson's many sides - prolific workaholic, author, teacher, photographer, intellectual and explorer who was also somewhat vain and competitive. Discusses the stages of his life, motivations, influences, and other interests such as butterflies and wildflowers.
Includes many personal anecdotes from Peterson's admirers and critics, such as his ability to identify a bird being consumed by a peregrine falcon by a single floating feather, or a nightmare he had about a bird he couldn't identify. I found Chapters 9-10 most interesting on Peterson's role as a "one man conservation dynamo, galvanizing others to act on behalf of birds" (with a couple of mentions of bluebirds.) Most likely to appeal only to serious birdwatchers. (Author provided me with a free book to review. )
A Wild Bird Guide. From Amazon review: Many excellent color photographs. Text is somewhat sparse. Chapters on natural history, reproduction, winter flocks, diet and foraging, social behavior and communication, surviving winter, population ecology and relations with humans.
Comments: Good overview of nesting and flocking habits, good overall reference on this species.
A Wild Bird Guide. Covers communication, behavior, nesting, feeding, and brooding habits.
Comments: Lots of information (surprising since Downies don't use nestboxes), many beautiful photos of downies on trees (none of nest!). Detailed, with a scientific bent (i.e., not light reading.)
Enhancing Your Backyard for Wildlife
Peter M. Picone
CT Dept. of Environmental Protection publication - goes beyond traditional feeding and promotes landscapes that improve wildlife habitat. Adding and modifying food sources, water, cover, emphasizes use of native plants
A Field Guide to the Birds: A Completely New Guide to All the Birds of Eastern and Central North America
Roger Tory Peterson
Peterson Field Guide Series. Illustrations and species descriptions of size, voice, and habitat. Color range maps. First published in 1934, updated.
A Field Guide to the Birds' Nests: United States east of the Mississippi River
Hal H. Harrison, Mada Harrison, Ned Smith, Roger Tory Peterson
1975, expanded edition 1998
Peterson Field Guide Series. Nests and eggs of 285 species found in the 26 states east of the Mississippi River. Descriptions of breeding range and time, habitat, and nests and eggs with 222 color photographs.
Comments: Useful, especially sizes, shapes and color descriptions. Photos are somewhat disappointing in 1975 edition, lacking scale and with off-colors.
A field guide to the nests, eggs, and nestlings of North American birds
Colin James, Oliver Harrison
Describes some 670 breeding species, with information on breeding cycle, nest habitat and construction, breeding season, eggs, incubation, and nesting and nestling period. Includes some 100 b&w drawings on nests and nestlings, and color photos and illustrations of nestlings and eggs.
Comments: Color plates of hundreds of eggs to scale
A Field Guide to Western Birds' Nests
Hal H. Harrison, Mada Harrison, Roger Tory Peterson
Nests and eggs of 520 common birds found west of the Mississippi are covered in detail. More than 400 photographs show the nests and eggs in typical habitats. Descriptive text includes color, shape, and number of eggs for each species, plus information on nesting materials, construction, and dimensions.
The Grail Bird
The quest for the Ivory-Billed woodpecker by the editor of Cornell's "Living Bird."
Comments: Good read on this amazing discovery. The author is not an ornithologist. Chatty writing style, providing a play by play on the search. Loved the story of a scientist who heard the double rap and tried to record it but forget to turn the microphone on. Discusses previous claims of sightings, but I would have liked more info on this and efforts to preserve the area. There is an epilogue with an update after the announcement.
A Guide to the Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds
Paul J. Baicich, J. O. Harrison
1997 (2nd ed.)
Describes nests, eggs, and nestlings and gives basic biological information on nesting and breeding biology for 370 North American birds (including Alaska and Canada). 700+ color and line illustrations of nests, eggs, and nestlings
Comments: Not a field guide - it's a reference. Useful information, with scattered drawings of nests. Color plates of many eggs, some lifesize (scale noted), an identification key, and some drawings of nestlings (which I've never seen in a book.)
Home Study Course in Bird Biology
Bird behavior, migration, ecology, conservation course. Text written by ornithologists. Introductory college level, suitable for people with a serious interest in birds.
Illustrations of 810 species with field marks, most shown in flight, measurements, geographic distribution for summer and winter and rare occurrences, voice descriptions
Comments: An excellent guide to bird ID and distribution. (Not really a field guide - too big to carry around.) Great drawings which are clear and show subtle details and field marks. Includes voice descriptions, and often multiple views and drawings of male, female, and juvenile. Annoying index that doesn't consistently list common names.
The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior
David Allen Sibley
Chapters on flight, form, function, origin, evolution, classification, behavior, habitats, distribution, populations and conservation, followed by bird families.
Comments: Rated very highly on Amazon.com. I found it a waste of money, with nothing specific enough to the cavity nesters I was interested in. Not useful for field work.
A Wild Bird Guide. Covers courtship, breeding, nesting and nest building, fledging, feeding habits, communicating and flying techniques, and relationship within their community, plus 135 color photos.
Comments: Spends a lot of time on unanswered research questions and terminology.
Wesley the Owl
Biologist O'Brien rescues and adopts a barn owl, which she studies for 19 years. "He was my teacher, my companion, my child, my playmate, my reminder of God." A vivid discussion of owl folklore, "birdality," intelligence, skills, and working with animals.
Woodworking for Wildlife: Homes for Birds & Mammals
Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources
General house and platform instructions, how to build or buy a birdhouse, pest problems and control, nestbox designs for various areas (e.g., open areas, forests, wet areas, by species), woodworking plans
Comments: Basic info about species, good photos and drawings with instructions
After 30 years, Bird Watcher's Digest is a publication for bird watchers in America. It includes articles, ID cues, tips for creating better bird habitat, and stories about personal encounters with birds. (It does not focus on cavity nesters) Upon request, they will donate half of our subscription price to various Bluebird organizations such as NABS, Bluebirds Across Nebraska, The New York State Bluebird Society and others. Website: http://www.birdwatchersdigest.com.
$19.99/year for 6 issues.
Birds and Blooms
Lovely photos and general conversational style articles on birds, gardening, plants and nature. Often includes plans for decorative nestboxes that DO NOT meet NABS specifications. Website
$14.98/year for 6 issues
North American Bluebird Society quarterly journal
Quarterly edited journal with photos and articles (both technical and conversational) on small-cavity nesters, focusing on bluebirds.
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