A Field Guide to the Nests, Eggs and Nestlings of North American Birds


416 pages
Contains Illustrations, Index
ISBN 0-00-217368-9





Reviewed by Janet Arnett

Janet Arnett is the former campus manager of adult education at Ontario’s Georgian College. She is the author of Antiques and Collectibles: Starting Small, The Grange at Knock, and 673 Ways to Save Money.



A reprint of a 1978 classic, this comprehensive field guide will be welcomed by amateur naturalists, birders, biologists, and others with an interest in nature.

The highlight of the book is the material on birds’ eggs. This consists of 48 color plates, with from 3 to 25 life-size illustrations per plate. These are grouped together in one section with a page of descriptive text facing each color plate. The text pages include common and scientific names for the species, notes on color variations, and a cross-reference to nest and nestling descriptions. The arrangement is by traditional AOU checklist order.

Nestlings are illustrated by 16 color plates (147 species), some including gape patterns. While this is a representative rather than comprehensive selection, the limited numbers are not a drawback:nestlings of the same family are almost identical in appearance. In this case, however, the plates are scattered throughout the text. Although the positioning is somewhat relevant to the text, it is often difficult to find the plates. They are numbered independently of the text page numbers, and even a few minutes of frustrated searching makes one wish these plates had been grouped, an arrangement that works very successfully for the eggs section.

The third subject of the book — nests — relies on descriptive text supplemented by black-and-white drawings of typical nests. Both text and drawings are excellent: clear, detailed and easy to find (again, AOU order is used). Cross-references refer the reader to relevant egg and nestling plates.

The author stresses that this is a work for bird lovers, not for egg collectors. In the past, birds have suffered considerable damage from egg collectors, a hobby that has become completely unacceptable in today’s more ecology-conscious world.

The work is the most complete, and the only portable, guide available on the subject. It covers all North American bird species, giving a wealth of information in a very usable format. The work is outstanding, in both quality and comprehensiveness.


Harrison, Colin, “A Field Guide to the Nests, Eggs and Nestlings of North American Birds,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 29, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/37864.