The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior


Bird Life & Behavior new cover design for the flexibound edition in 2009


Bird Life & Behavior original cover design for hardcover edition in 2000

info from the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Info and sales at your local independent bookstore or

Published 2001, new cover in Sep 2009 (but no editorial changes)

A leatherbound edition published by Easton Press

Updates and corrections are here

Which bird book should I buy?

Related information:

A list of reference sources and further reading, listed by chapter, is here

The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior, published in October 2001, was conceived as the companion to the Guide to Birds. This book provides a wealth of detail about the nesting, mating, and other behavior. Even though these things do not have direct application to identification, and are not included in the identification guide, these behaviors are truly fascinating, and birders enjoy knowing about them. The plan for this book was to provide a layperson’s introduction to the most intriguing and interesting facets of the birds’ lives – emphasizing things that birders are likely to see and ask about, and things that add to a larger picture of the natural world.

Excellent books such as The Birder’s Handbook and Lives of North American Birds already provide detailed data on each species individually. If you want to know the incubation period of the Lewis’ Woodpecker you can find it there. My goal in Bird Life and Behavior was to offer a synthesis, presenting the information and also interpreting it to describe patterns and the reasons behind them. This book will tell you that the incubation period for all species of woodpeckers is about the same at 11 to 14 days.

I envisioned it as a book that would function the way a good field trip leader does – pointing out the things that make the birds more interesting and that relate the birds to other species and to their environment, enriching the whole birding experience. I drew on my 11 years experience as a professional bird tour leader to set the style and to choose the types of information that would be presented in the guide.


  1. Andrew Mackie says

    Hi David,

    You may not have control over such things, but I’d love to see The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior available as a Kindle book. I noticed the “basics” book was available, but it would be nice to make my way through the larger book a little at a time whenever I had a few minutes as I have my Kindle device with me all the time (I actually use the iPhone app, same idea). By the way, I do have the field guide app for my iPad!

    Thanks for all the wonderful things you do and how you make the beauty of birds more accessible for the rest of us!


  2. Andrew Mackie says

    Hi David, just checking in to see if there’s any hope the Bird Life and Behavior book will be available on Kindle.


  3. Wen says

    Dear Mr. Sibley,

    Is there going to be a second edition of Bird Life and Behavior anytime soon ? I’m asking because my present copy has been thumbed to near death, and I’m wondering whether I should buy a replacement copy or wait for a possible new edition.

    Thank you very much !!!!!

  4. Pete Saracino EdD says

    Hi David.
    What is the most recent editon of you book “The Guide to Bird Life and Behavior”? I was at a store recently and swear I saw one that said 2013. Would the 2013 version be any different from the 2001 or 2009?

    • says

      There is only one edition, with a couple of different covers, but the contents will be the same whether it was published in 2003 or 2013. There are no definite plans for a revised edition. It’s something I would like to do, and there has been some discussion, but it would be at least a couple of years away.

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