Short Version: The Backyard Birdwatcher’s Bible is a gorgeous book full of fun information and a good overview of various bird-related topics from attracting birds to identifying birds to birds in human art, but only does these things as a general overview without getting deep into any particular topic.
I received The Backyard Birdwatcher’s Bible as a gift and I thoroughly enjoyed reading through it. The art and photographs in the book are fantastic, with many high-quality, professional pictures of various birds and other things. If you’re looking for a book you pick up and spend a few minutes flipping through pages to learn something, then this is the book for you.
What The Backyard Birdwatcher’s Bible is not is a bible. This book does not delve into any particular topic with depth, covering only the basics or a niche part of birding and mostly leaving it at that. For instance, a variety of bird species are covered in their “guide,” but you may find yourself missing a few birds that frequent your yard. To put this in perspective, my Birds of Kansas Field Guide, which is itself a general overview sort of book, has more species in it than The Backyard Birdwatcher’s Bible. Birds of Kansas covers Kansas birds exclusively, so you would think a book purporting to cover the entirety of North America might have more.
I say this not necessarily to knock The Backyard Birdwatcher’s Bible, but more to illustrate the purpose of this book. If you want a comprehensive field guide, you need to look at Sibley book. If you want a comprehensive book on a birding garden, there are books for that too. The Backyard Birdwatcher’s Bible is like an overview 101 class, not a “bible” that includes everything you could possibly need.
Should you buy this book? It’s hard to make a case for purchasing this book for yourself. If you’re looking for a field guide, there are far better choices out there. I cannot imagine lugging this book around to do any serious sort of birding. However, The Backyard Birdwatcher’s Bible does make an excellent gift or a coffee table sort of book. If you have a friend who’s just getting into birding or even someone who does this hobby a little more seriously, it’s hard to resist the production of this book.
Which is where the four stars really comes from. This book is absolutely gorgeous. It’s fun to just flip through its pages and quickly read a section or two, which are about the length of a magazine article. If you give this book as much depth as it gives you, you will have a good time. To use a cliché, The Backyard Birdwatcher’s Bible is a jack of all trades, master of none.
What is in this book is well-written, well-produced, and full of real eye candy, but eventually you’ll start to notice what it lacks.