How to choose a field guide?

Escrito em 19 de setembro de 2021

How to choose a field guide?

This article is intended to support those who have just discovered how much they enjoy birding but haven't figured out which birding guide they should buy.

So, if you are a beginner, the following tips may help you make an appropriate choice regarding one of the most important items for a birdwatcher.

There are several options for field guides covering Europe and the Western Palearctic region and many others for specific countries or sub-regions. For instance, you can find many options for Great Britain and Ireland.

Anyway, for starters, any book with pictures or illustrations, a short description, and a distribution map of each bird will serve the purpose.  At this point, your main focus should be getting familiar with the common species and learning how to distinguish one another. 

Moreover, having a complete and broad guide can be confusing and discouraging. Plus, you may start wondering how many bird species are in your city/country, or when you can see more species or even which species you can see in each season. But, that’s not necessarily bad. It means that you are really into it. However, you may want to leave that for later.

Nonetheless, bird guides are essential tools for the learning and identifying process. Therefore, no matter your experience, you will always need one with you. Thus, when you reach the point of acquiring a bird guide, you can consider two main options. 



On the one hand, as we already mentioned, you can start quick and simple, purchasing a book listing the common birds’ species in a particular local, generally arranged by similarities, colours or shapes. 

This option has two main advantages. First, it is likely to be cheaper, and secondly, it will facilitate your study while getting familiar with the common species.  

On the other hand, you can opt for a more advanced book, typically arranged taxonomically with more species and details. This option might be more expensive and, in the short term, more challenging to understand and use. However, the advantage of this option is that you won’t need to buy another book in the future, so you can see it as an investment or even a commitment if you will.

In the end, no matter what your first choice is, chances are that you will continue buying bird books. Trust us, once you get started, it’s hard to control yourself.



Here’s a list of 8 bird field guides you can use in the Western Palearctic Region:


  1. Collins Bird Guide - Harper Collins
  2. Birds of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East - Lynx
  3. New Holland European Bird Guide - New Holland Publishers
  4. Birds of Europe: Second Edition - Princeton University Press
  5. RSPB Birds of Britain and Europe - Dorling Kindersley
  6. Flight Identification of European Passerines and Select Landbirds - Princeton University Press
  7. Birds of the Mediterranean - A Photographic Book - Helm
  8. Tracks & Signs of the Birds of Britain and Europe - Bloomsbury Publishing or Helm

We hope this article was somehow useful for you. Let us know what your opinion about this subject is. And, by the way, which of the guides above do you have or know?