The most talked-about bird guides are the big ones that identify hundreds of species, such as The Sibley Guide to Birds or National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America. While seasoned bird watchers will want these guides, beginners may be better served by geographically-limited guides that narrow the species to just those found in their state or region. With that in mind, novice bird watchers may benefit even more from a guide to birds that may frequent places that the watchers know very well, such as their backyards. For them, Bill Thompson III, editor of Bird Watchers' Digest, has written Midwestern Birds: Backyard Guide.
Thompson's guide identifies only 55 birds that residents of the Midwest might see in the backyard habitats that they themselves design and tend. 55 birds that might seek food in a place featuring bird-friendly trees, shrubs, and perennials, a place that might have a bird feeder and a source of water. Most of these species will be songbirds and a few predatory hawks that hunt urban and suburban areas. No water fowl or shore birds in this guide. Just the most common birds, giving the novice the most chance of identity success.
For each of the 55, Thompson supplements a beautifully clear photo with markings to note, times and places to watch, and bird behaviors that aid identification.
After tips for successful bird watching, Midwestern Birds: Backyard Guide also tells the homeowner how to attract the birds with bird seed, birdhouses, plantings, and water features. Thompson also urges the making of a good viewing location for the bird watcher.
Midwestern Birds: Backyard Guide is compact and would be easy to keep by a window or in a backpack. Among Thompson's many bird books are similar guides for Northeastern, Mid-Atlantic, Southern, and Western birds, titles for young bird watchers, and some state guides.
Thompson, Bill, III. Midwestern Birds: Backyard Guide. Cool Springs Press, 2013. 160p. ISBN 9781591865599.