We are often asked to recommend bird books for beginners, as presents for a birder or just all round good additions to a home reference library. This page is dedicated to the books we recommend for birdwatching in not just Cornwall but also nationally and internationally. All these books are useful for birdwatching in Cornwall with some also coming in handy when abroad (so longs you’re in the Western Palearctic!)
1: Collins Bird Guide (2010)
The updated 2nd edition of the Collins guide is surely one of the most ‘famous’ bird identification guides on sale at the moment. Consisting of over 400 pages covering species from Britain and Europe this guide is more than enough for birding in Cornwall and the rest of the country (unless you stumble upon a New World Warbler maybe). Although not perfect it is an excellent ID guide which everyone should own. This guide is available in hardcover, paperback and large format.
2: Macmillan Field Guide to Bird identification (1994)
Although this guide does not cover every species its aim is to help differentiate between confusion species such as Crossbill spp. or Petrel spp.. Currently priced at £47 on Amazon for a new copy, a good condition used copy from a 3rd party seller priced at £2.30 and free P+P is a steal.
3: Britain’s Birds: An Identification Guide to the Birds of Britain and Ireland (2016)
Recently reviewed here on Cornwall Birding it was described as “Probably the most complete and comprehensive British Bird Guide I have seen for a number of years. It will no doubt be of interest to birders, regardless of experience or expertise and the authors have certainly set the standard for all future photographic guides.”
4: Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America (2004)
This is the most expensive of the guides featured in the top five but is a must have for anyone with an interest in Gulls. Whether it be identifying a species or even a hybrid, this guide is extremely detailed covering a large range of plumage variations. As it covers Gulls species from Europe, Asia and North America, it is very handy for vagrant gull ID in the county.
5: Advanced Bird ID Guide (2011)
With bullet points in place of images this guide feels more like a wildlife ‘key’ than a typical bird ID guide. This is definitely not a bad point though as this very in depth book is extremely useful for differentiating similar species and compliments a guide such as the Collins Guide well.