1. Home

Discuss in my forum

Hummingbirds and Butterflies

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating


Hummingbirds and Butterflies

Hummingbirds and Butterflies


The Bottom Line

A collaboration between Bird Watcher's Digest and the Peterson Field Guide Series, Hummingbirds and Butterflies is a comprehensive guide to attracting some of the most desirable backyard fliers. Essentially two books in one, this single volume provides introductory information for hummingbirds and butterflies as well as detailed resources and tips for attracting both. Fifty-five species profiles (15 hummingbirds and 40 butterflies) also serve as preliminary field guides, making the book an ideal all-around resource for anyone interested in these tiny but terrific winged wonders.


  • Conversational tone and humorous anecdotes are informative and easy to read with language ideal for beginning birders and butterfliers.
  • Serves as an introductory guide for both hummingbirds and butterflies, effectively written as two books in one.
  • Includes multiple graphic resources, plant lists and other well-organized information to be a thorough reference.
  • Includes basic profiles for 15 hummingbird species and 40 butterfly species.


  • Some language and information in each half of the book is repetitive, but this allows each section to be read independently without missing essential details.
  • While photos are clear and include informative captions, profiles do not always provide adequate photos of genders or different angles for comprehensive field use.
  • Lacks an overall glossary resource but uses layman's terms that adequately define most terms in context.


  • Title: Hummingbirds and Butterflies
  • Authors: Bill Thompson III and Connie Toops
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication Date: April 2011
  • Format: Softcover
  • Page Count: 304
  • ISBN: 978-0-618-90445-7
  • Price: $14.95 (USD)

Review - Hummingbirds and Butterflies

If you want to enjoy both hummingbirds and butterflies in your backyard, it isn't necessary to buy two different books – Hummingbirds and Butterflies can help you with both. As co-author Bill Thompson III says in his introduction, "these two types of creatures may not be related taxonomically; after all, hummingbirds are birds, and butterflies are insects. But to those of us who love them, they are related in several ways." Those relationships are explored in this book, comparing the similarities between hummingbirds and butterflies in order to develop tips and techniques that can attract and nurture both in any backyard habitat.

This unique book is effectively divided in two, with first hummingbirds and then butterflies being thoroughly explored and explained. In the hummingbird section, the general overview of what makes hummingbirds unique includes details on:

A wide range of visual aids – courtship flight diagrams on page 9, the parts of a hummingbird illustrations on pages 20-21, the spring timing migration map on page 37 – add even more information in easy to understand formats. Once readers are familiar with all those basics, they can move on to the 15 hummingbird profiles, covering regular hummingbirds in North America. The profiles include information such as:

  • Range map with seasonal notations
  • Scientific and common names
  • Key field marks
  • Typical voice and sounds
  • Distinctive behavior for the species
  • Habitat preferences
  • General size

Along with the accompanying photos, the information in these profiles provides an excellent introductory field guide to backyard hummingbirds.

The second half of the book focuses on butterflies and has much the same format as the hummingbird half, including overview information that covers:

  • Life cycle and stages of butterflies
  • Parts of a caterpillar and parts of a butterfly
  • Butterfly trivia and myths
  • General behaviors
  • Tips for attracting butterflies
  • Benefits native plants hold for butterflies
  • General butterfly family descriptions

The butterfly profiles, like their hummingbird counterparts, include good information for identifying these distinctive insects as well as large, colorful photos to assist identification. Details provided in the profiles include:

  • Preferred host and nectar plants
  • Habitat preferences and seasonal range
  • Life cycle details
  • Tips for attracting the species to the backyard

In both sections of the book, one of the most useful resources is the extensive lists for plants to attract either hummingbirds or butterflies, including trees, shrubs, annual and perennial flowers, vines and in the case of butterflies, herbs and vegetables. The lists are organized by general region according to climate zones, and both common and scientific names of each plant are provided so there is no confusion about similar names. Symbols denote preferred growing conditions and other factors that can influence how well plants perform in a backyard, and the symbol key is repeated every few pages for readers' convenience.

More than just plant lists, however, Hummingbirds and Butterflies also provides guidelines for how to design a hummingbird garden or butterfly garden, complete with sample diagrams and factors to consider for the best possible wildlife-friendly landscaping.

While each half of the book can be read separately and will be a thorough resource for either hummingbirds or butterflies, reading both together provides a richer wealth of information to put to practical use. Two appendices provide tips for photographing hummingbirds and butterflies, and an extensive resource list suggests books and websites for further reading.

Hummingbirds and Butterflies is a superb resource for anyone getting started attracting these fantastic fliers to their backyard. With an easy-to-read format and a congenial tone, readers can't help but pick up a great number of tips to put to immediate use in their backyard, and they can carry with them one final thought after all they've learned – "Very few who … now welcome butterflies and hummingbirds into their yards express regrets – except that they didn't start sooner." Fortunately, this book gives readers everything they need for a very thorough and effective start that both hummingbirds and butterflies will love.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
  1. About.com
  2. Home
  3. Birding / Wild Birds
  4. Birding Basics
  5. Bird and Birding Book Reviews
  6. How-To Books
  7. Book Review – Hummingbirds and Butterflies

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.