Best Bird Book of the Year 2023

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.
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. 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! Lesley Hindley, Archivist, BTO 

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.

Entries range from identification guides and ornithological science to culture and art, and are judged by a diverse panel from BTO and British Birds. 

This year, Lesley Hindley, Hazel McCambridge and Anthony Wetherill (representing BTO) and Paul French, Stephen Menzie and Thom Shannon (representing BB) made up the judging panel.

An initial vote from each of the judges determined the shortlist. The final vote took place in early January, with the usual lively discussion and debate between the judges before they cast their votes to determine the winning title.

  • The following is a list of all books that received at least one vote from the judges in the final round of voting, ordered by the total number of points received.


Shrikes of the World

Author and illustrator: Norbert Lefranc and Tim Worfolk

This is a book that the BBBY judges felt is a substantial update to the first edition of the title, offering entirely new, more detailed illustrations and revised text along with the addition of full-colour photographs and maps.

The plates are completely new and the texts and maps have been heavily revised, taking into account both the recent (and in some cases complex) changes in taxonomy since the first edition was published and the vast increase in knowledge of identification within the shrikes.

The book also provides details of the human-driven pressures and declining populations of these species. The judges felt that this work is an excellent piece of ornithological writing and the significant update means it is worth a purchase even if you own the original.

Also reviewed in BB by Brian Small.

Helm London, 2022

ISBN: 9781472933775


Better Living Through Birding: Notes From a Black Man in the Natural World 

Author: Christian Cooper

This book is not simply the autobiography of a birder. Christian Cooper’s enthusiasm for birding, activism, writing and everything he turns his hand to is infectious.

He has a gift for story-telling and since the judges felt that this book is engaging for birding and non-birding communities alike, it has the potential to open up the world of birding to anyone who reads it.

Penguin Random House, New York, 2023

ISBN: 978059324238


The Meaning of Geese: A Thousand Miles in Search of Home

Author: Nick Acheson

The judges felt that the author’s knowledge and enthusiasm for geese and protecting their future, along with his vivid descriptions of the geese and the landscapes of North Norfolk offered a great deal and is a worthy finalist for the award. 

Also reviewed in BB by Paul French

Chelsea Green Publishing UK, 2023

ISBN: 9781915294098


Into the Red

Curated by: Kit Jewitt and Mike Toms

This title follows on from the acclaimed Red Sixty Seven, which was placed second in BBBY 2020. Into the Red appealed to the judges in all the same ways as the book’s predecessor did, with a mix of stunning artwork and well-written prose. As with Red Sixty Seven, Into the Red carries an important conservation message, too, focusing on the (recently expanded) Red-listed birds in Britain.

Reviewed in BB by Stephen Menzie

BTO, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-912642-38-0


Collins Bird Guide, 3rd edition

Contributors: Lars Svensson, Killian Mullarney and Dan Zetterström

The judges were in no doubt that the Collins Bird Guide remains the best field guide in the world. The artwork is second to none, the texts are thorough and authoritative, and the layout makes the book a joy to use. The substantial tweaks and additions (summarised in the British Birds review) keep the book up to date and relevant. All six of the judges emphasised how often they themselves used the guide and, although the update doesn’t offer up any great surprises for readers who own the first and second editions, the book still scored highly. 

Reviewed in BB by Chris Kehoe

William Collins, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-0085-4745-5


The Hen Harrier’s Year

Author and illustrator: Ian Carter and Dan Powell

A blend of evocative artwork and enjoyable writing, this title impressed the judges with its readable account of the natural history of the Hen Harrier in Britain.

No story of Hen Harriers in Britain is complete in modern times without addressing the issue of conflict on grouse moors, and this is tackled in this fascinating account of the species.

Also reviewed in BB by Ian Newton

Pelagic Publishing, 2022

ISBN: 9781784273859


Identification Guide to European Passerines (5th edition)

Contributors: Lars Svensson, Killian Mullarney and Dan Zetterström

As with the Collins Bird Guide, Lars Svensson’s Identification Guide to European Passerines is the well-established leader in its field, and remains so with this latest update. This made deciding how many points to award to the title difficult, since the fifth edition continues to sit in the ‘essential books for birders’ category and the updates and additions undoubtedly offer greater value – but the overall concept and execution are the same as the (just as good) fourth edition.

Reviewed in BB by Stephen Menzie

Lullula Förlag, 2023

ISBN: 9789198516685


Field Guide to North American Flycatchers

Author and illustrator: Cin-Ty Lee and Andrew Birch

This guide – which the judges noted makes good use of the olive-brown colour palette! – has taken the identification of this tricky group forward by leaps and bounds.

The excellent artwork was commended, as was the novel way of displaying distribution not just in space but also in time. It was noted that some finer details, such as analysis of wing formula in the field, would have been nice to see; but, overall, this was a book that the judges felt they would (or hoped they would) use when faced with a tricky North American flycatcher. 

Reviewed in BB by Ben Lucking

Princeton University Press, 2023

ISBN: 9780691240626

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