The Bottom Line
Backyard birders are always interested in attracting new species to their bird baths, feeders and bird houses, and the Backyard Birds series by Bill Fenimore offers state-specific information to do just that. While each volume only covers the most common 25 species – and those species are duplicated in many states – the solid information provides easy, useful tips for beginning backyard birders. More experienced birders will prefer a more comprehensive, detailed resource, but Backyard Birds books from specific states can be a good way to introduce backyard birding to anyone.
- Each bird profile offers useful tips for attracting the species with food, water or shelter.
- Includes a thorough list of plants to create a bird-friendly landscape.
- The author's personal experiences add a conversational tone to the introduction and concluding reference information.
- Series is incomplete with only 15 states completed; publisher has no current plans to finish the series.
- With only 25 species covered per guide, they do not provide a comprehensive look at possible backyard birds, but do offer a good introduction to the most common species.
- The lack of regional specialization for larger states (Florida, Texas, California) leaves out common backyard birds in unique areas.
- Only a single photo is included with most species accounts, and while it is a large, clear photo, the bird is occasionally obstructed or not in the best position to show field marks. Dimorphic genders are not always included.
- Title: Backyard Birds of [State]: How to Identify and Attract the Top 25 Birds
- Author: Bill Fenimore
- Publisher: Gibbs Smith
- Publication Date: March 2008-November 2009 (exact date varies per volume)
- Format: Softcover
- Bird Artwork: Photographs
- Dimensions: 7.5" (19.1 cm) tall, 5.25" (13.3 cm) wide, .33" (.84 cm) thick
- Page Count: 96
- ISBN: Varies for individual state titles
- Price: $9.95-$9.99 (USD)
Review - Backyard Birds of [State] Series
If you're just getting started backyard birding, even the most common birds may not be frequenting your feeders, and it is easy to get discouraged. The Backyard Birds state-by-state book series by Bill Fenimore provides a simple introduction to backyard birding and how to attract the most common backyard birds, from finches to sparrows to songbirds. States included in this series are:
- New Jersey
- New York
Each book's introduction includes the author's spark bird story, giving the text an intimate, conversational tone. The parts of a bird diagrams and field mark illustrations on pages 14-16 will be useful for learning bird identification, and the text discusses different ways to identify birds, including using bill shape, overall size, plumage colors and range to accurately determine which species you see.
The resources section of the text – after the bird profiles – is also identical in each volume. Information includes a feeding preferences chart organized by generic bird type on page 68, plus tips for feeding birds and properly positioning bird feeders, attracting hummingbirds, protecting backyard birds from cats, positioning bird houses, pishing, bird baths and more. The list of trees, shrubs, grasses and flowers that can attract birds on pages 78-84 will be particularly useful for backyard birders planning a bird-friendly landscape.
There are 25 common backyard birds covered in each state guide, but the exact species overlap significantly between volumes and there is no regional specialization within states, such as backyard birds that may be more common in unique locations like south Florida or south Texas. Where the same bird is included in two different books, the text and photos for the species are identical.
Each bird profile features a good overview of the species, including:
- Common and Latin name
- Range map (North America)
- Basic description (typically only for males)
- General behavior clues
- Overall size and wingspan
- Nesting habits and preferences
- Likely habitat
- Song and sounds, including mnemonics
The photos that accompany each species are a full page, but both genders of dimorphic species are not always pictured. Some photos show parts of the bird obscured, even parts that may help facilitate proper identification such as wing bars or tail tips. The same photos are used as a graphic index at the end of each book, but no text index is included.
The Backyard Birds state series is a casual introduction to backyard birding, and while not as thorough as larger guides, can be a great book for any beginning backyard birder, gardener with an interest in birds or non-birder who has begun to notice the birds in their yard.