Top Ten Bird Books from a Budding Ornithologist (That Is, Bird Expert)

I attended boarding school in the UK in the New Forest (which, for the record, is not new – it’s ancient – but to the UK, it’s new!). My school, Manor House, was nestled in the middle of New Forest, which made for excellent adventures and encounters with all sorts of creatures, including my favorite, birds. When I was about 8 years old, my best friend Fi and I found a rare nuthatch and a nest in the forest.

Eric Ashby, an English naturalist and wildlife cameraman who often produced pieces for the BBC, came to see our discovery. We led him through the forest to the nest, and he filmed. We felt we had arrived and become more expert than even him!

I always have loved birds. I knew their names. I knew their markings. I learned their calls and wandered around with my eyes up, noticing each different species fly by. We buried them with a solemn ceremony whenever we found a fallen bird. We even fed babies who fell out of their nest and kept them warm in the airing cupboard (something we have in the UK) and fed them bread and milk (which may not have been ideal). So you can imagine how this discovery was a triumph for us! I still look for unique and beautiful birds wherever I go.

Baby Wren and the Great Gift was inspired by my love of birds. I was in the Texas Hill Country and heard a huge noise. I looked all around and couldn’t see anything. When I asked about the sound, I was told it was the canyon wren. The tiniest bird with the hugest voice. And the idea came to life.

Children are so small in a big world and might think they have nothing they can do that’s wonderful. I wanted them to know the story of this tiny wren and her wonderful song that fills the whole canyon. 

In honor of my love of birds, here are my Top Ten Bird Books.

And P.S. As John Stott (that wonderful British Theologian) pointed out, bird watching is not just a hobby—it is a commandment! “Look at the birds!” (Matthew 6:26). So perhaps now is the time to take up this wonderful hobby, too?

Top Ten Bird Books

Birds by Kevin Henks

In this sweet story, a little girl observes birds and describes them in great detail. Her imagination, coupled with the vibrant paintings in this board book edition, will capture young readers and have them dreaming about flying and singing with the birds of the air.

The Boy Who Drew Birds by Jacqueline Davies

This book tells the story of acclaimed bird artist and expert John James Audubon. Audubon’s inquisitive nature as a boy and young adult is contagious, and the story will inspire its young readers to listen to, observe, and draw the birds they see all around them.

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

Have you ever gone owling? The little girl of Owl Moon and her Pa go one winter night, seeking the mysterious nighttime bird. A beautiful bedtime story, the poetic language and peaceful watercolor illustrations will soothe little ones to sleep, dreaming of finding their own owl.

Are You My Mother? By P.D. Eastman

Edited by Dr. Seuss, this must-have classic tells the tale of a baby bird in search of his mother. Silly and sweet, this story beautifully captures the love between a mother and child, while delivering plenty of laughs along the way.

There is a Bird on Your Head! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) by Mo Willems

Just plain funny and fun! Is there anything worse than a bird on your head? Yes, two birds on your head! Laugh along as Gerald and Piggie hilariously deal with quite the conundrum.

The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown

I love anything by Margaret Wise Brown. She is a genius. Her work is deceptively simple. But of course being simple isn’t simple. Here she takes a complex topic, children grappling with loss, and tells a beautiful story.

You Nest Here With Me by Jane Yolen

A rhyming bedtime story that introduces species of birds and their unique homes. Children will love saying goodnight to all sorts of baby birds (14 in all) while falling asleep to the soothing refrain: “You nest here with me.”

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell

I love owls! And this story is one of my favorites. Sarah and Percy and Bill awake to find their mother gone, and they nervously wonder where she is and when she’ll return. The Owl Babies are sweetly reassured in the end (spoiler: Mommy always comes back).  

Mama Built a Little Nest by Jennifer Ward

A fun rhyming story about the nests mamas build for their families. Fun facts about bird species and their nests are taught throughout the book for the kids (and grownups) who are eager to learn more.

Baby Wren and the Great Gift by Sally Lloyd-Jones

The tiniest bird with the hugest voice, the canyon wren, stars in this picture book that celebrates the unique and wonderful gifts each of us has been given. Baby Wren marvels at the world, filled with such wonderfulness, and finds that what she has to offer it is wonderful, too.

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