Shrike a light! BB/BTO Best Bird Book of the Year 2023 announced

05 Mar 2024 | No. 2024-11

The British Trust for Ornithology and British Birds are delighted to announce the winner of the award for Best Bird Book of the Year 2023.

The prestigious Best Bird Book of the Year award is open to all books reviewed in British Birds (BB), BTO News and on the BTO website during the year of consideration and 2023 was another bumper year for high quality publications.

Entries included a wide range of titles covering everything from ornithological science to culture and art, as well as memoirs and identification guides. A total of 48 books were up for consideration and these were judged by a diverse panel from both BTO and British Birds magazine. 

This year the judging panel was made up of Lesley Hindley, Hazel McCambridge and Anthony Wetherill (representing BTO) and Paul French, Stephen Menzie and Thom Shannon (representing BB). After shortlisting down to 14 books, the final vote took place in mid December. As ever, the judges engaged in some lively debate and discussion before casting their votes to choose the winning title.

The top accolade goes to the stunning Shrikes of the World by Norbert Lefranc and Tim Worfolk. For those familiar with the original guide published by Pica Press in 1997, this impressive updated second edition offers entirely new, more detailed illustrations and revised text along with the addition of full-colour photographs and maps. As most birders will agree, this rather enigmatic group of birds has the power to fascinate unlike many others. In a UK context, shrikes are at best scarce while the complexities of identification can often provide exhilarating challenges for those who enjoy birdwatching overseas.

The judges felt that this new volume is an excellent piece of ornithological writing and the significant revisions mean that it is well deserving of a place on any birder’s bookshelf, even if they own the original.

In second place comes Christian Cooper’s insightful Better Living Through Birding: Notes From a Black Man in the Natural World. Perhaps best known in the UK for an infamous incident that took place in New York’s Central Park in 2020, Cooper is an American science editor, comic book writer, television presenter and birder. The judges feel that his gift for story-telling resulted in a book which is engaging for birding and non-birding communities alike, and has the potential to open up the world of birds to a broad audience.   

The judges agree that author Nick Acheson’s enthusiasm and knowledge simply shines through in his book The Meaning of Geese: A Thousand Miles in Search of Home and it is more than worthy of third place. Billed as ‘one man’s thousand-mile journey … on an old red bicycle in search of wild geese’ this very accessible book delivers so much more. Framed by living alone during lockdown, the narrative reveals a broader community of goose enthusiasts, drawn together by a fascination for these wonderful winter visitors, both common and rare.

Other close contenders included Into The Red, Collins Bird Guide (3rd edition), The Hen Harrier’s Year, Identification Guide to European Passerines (5th edition) and the Field Guide to North American Flycatchers.

Lesley Hindley, BTO judge, said, “From identification guides to personal reflections, this year’s final list is a diverse and informative collection of bird books. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to discuss all of these fantastic books with the other judges, each bringing their own experience and interests to the table.”

She add “There is something on the list to appeal to everyone, and I’m grateful to have been introduced to some of these amazing titles which might otherwise have passed me by!”

All of the short-listed book reviews can be found on the BTO website here.

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