Field Guides to Europe and the Western Palearctic: what to take into the field

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Updated: 05 January 2022

Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East:

Field Guides to Birds of Europe

Collins Bird Guide: The Most Complete Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe (UK title) / Birds of Europe (US title) (Svensson, Mullarney, and Zetterström, 2023). This has been the standard in field guides anywhere in the world for some time, and this second edition goes from strength to strength. The guide covers all of Europe, North Africa, and part of the Middle East (it is very good for our Georgia and Azerbaijan tours, for example). Excellent plates and range maps with recently updated information. This guide is still compact enough to take into the field, even if visiting just the United Kingdom. This famous Collins bird guide is also available in large format, but that version is not suitable to take into the field (far too bulky), but it does make a great coffee table book to browse through before or after your European bird tour. The app version of this guide is highly recommended and has all the bird calls. The book is published by Princeton in the United States.

We highly recommend this field guide for all our European birding tours, as well as our tours in the wider Western Palearctic region, such as in Morocco, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.

Birds of Europe with North Africa and the Middle East (Jonsson, 2005). The artwork is very nice, but maybe not the best suited to a field guide. The range maps are fairly good, and this book does cover the species in North Africa, however given the excellence of the Collins guide (above), which covers the same geographical area, it is unlikely this book will be necessary unless you are interested in adding further books to your field guide collection.

Field guide to Birds of Europe

Europe’s Birds: An identification guide (Hume, Still, Swash, and Harrop, 2021). This guide covers over 900 bird species, with over 4,700 photographs and has had excellent reviews, it is also currently the most up to date and most recently published guide for Europe. Detailed descriptions cover the birds in all their plumages (male, female, breeding, non-breeding, and adult and immature, as well as distinctive subspecies). The clear text covers all aspects of identification, including molt and vocalizations, and provides details on range, status, and habitat. Unlike the books above, this one does not cover North Africa or the Middle East.



Birds of the Atlantic Islands (Clarke, 2006) covers the Canary Islands, Madeira, the Azores, and Cape Verde. It has good plates covering 450 species with local subspecies and plumages shown. The text is concise. Unfortunately, there are no range maps. The information is separate from the plates.

Field Guide to the Birds of Macaronesia (Garcia-del-Rey, 2011) covers the Azores, Madeira, Canary Islands, and Cape Verde. This is a great guide for any birders visiting the Macaronesian islands and includes detailed species text with good, large illustrations. Unlike above, it does have detailed distribution maps for each species.

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