The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America

sib_guide_eastern_tn Information from the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Info and sales at your local independent bookstore or

Originally published in 2003

A French Language edition has been published in Canada

Updates and corrections

What species are in the Eastern and Western bird guides?

Which bird book should I buy?

Changes to official bird names since 2000

The Sibley Field Guides to Birds East and West were both published in April 2003. They use the same artwork from the original Sibley Guide to Birds. These employ a different design, with each page divided into top and bottom halves, and the species info fit into that space. No changes were made to the artwork, but fewer illustrations are used in these smaller books. The text was largely rewritten. The largest differences being that the voice descriptions are simplified, and a sentence or two was added to each species describing the general status and habitat. Finally, the maps were completely revised for these books, using a team of over 100 experts from around the continent, compiled by Paul Lehman.

41 thoughts on “The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America”

  1. What kind of bird is that on the cover? We had him and his female companion visit us yesterday evening and had never seen one before…

  2. Charlenen Ferguson

    Just received this book and was surprised to note that the book didn’t show Maine as a location for the Orchard Oriole, which we’ve had for more than five years. Why hasn’t the book been updated?

    1. Hi Charlenen, Thanks for the comment. The guide does show Orchard Oriole occurring in Maine along the southern coast, but the map is so small it’s really tough to get to that level of detail. Similarly, a lot of new records and range extensions that are very meaningful to birders on their home patch simply wouldn’t show up in the small maps in the guide. I hope to be revising the field guides over the next several years, and we will redo all the maps then.

  3. Thank you so much for a great book. I have only had my copy since 2005 and I have worn it out, I think pages will be falling out before I know it. Will there be a new addition coming out anytime soon? I don’t want to buy a new one, if a newer addition will be coming out soon.

    1. Thank you! I’m just beginning work on a revision of the complete Sibley Guide to Birds, which will take a couple of years in total. The Eastern guide will be revised sometime after that. So you should go ahead and replace your copy, unless you think you can hold out for three or four more years.

  4. Hi David,

    I have been waiting patiently for your updated complete Sibley Guide to Birds since I bought my copy in 2005. It has been all over the country and Canada with me and is really showing its years. I am thrilled to know that you are working on updating the maps in the new version. I am a PhD student currently and have some published work on Carolina wren range expansion that I completed during my Master’s tenure. It will be interesting to see how their range map has changed in the new version. Also, for the new version, I would love to see more information about subspecies and races, along with their specific ranges and plumage morphs. I know there is limited space in each guide, but I think this is something that adds a bit more science for the average person and also adds a bit more birding incentive for advanced birder, which should translate into more sales for you ;). As an aside, one of my goals during my career is to work on a audio identification guide to the national parks. I would love to have the chance to start right away, but I’m sure it will have to wait until after this degree and long into my teaching career. How young were you when you wrote your first field guide to birds? Anyways, thank you for doing what you do. I look forward to seeing your new work in a few years.


    1. Hi Jacob, I started working on the guide when I was very young, I would have to admit that I was working on it in some form as young as 15 years old. It took about 25 years before it was actually finished and printed, though. I find that my best projects are the ones that “incubate” for a long time before I commit to the final draft, so I encourage you to stay low-key and keep thinking about your ideas, gathering the material and trying different ways of presenting it. Good luck with your studies!

  5. Michael S, Babb


    I am a helicopter flight instructor at the U.S. Army’s helicopter school in S.E Alabama, USA. As such I frequently see birds from above,and none of my bird books address this issue, as they all show what the birds look like sitting or from below. Can you recommend a book to help?


    Mike Babb

    1. Mike, You have a very interesting dilemma! I don’t know if you have my books, either the big Sibley Guide to Birds or the smaller Field Guide to Eastern Birds will both show every species in flight from above (a few more images in the big guide). The birds are shown at an angle, the way ground-based observers will usually see them, but it should give you the information you need and I honestly don’t know of any better resource to recommend. You might try contacting some hot-air balloonists to see if they have any suggestions, and maybe someone should put together a “field guide to birds from above”. Good luck with it!

  6. I have a very hard time keeping all the small sparrow-like birds straight. Do you have a 1-2-3 suggestion? like 1-look for this, 2-then look for this, 3-then look for this and there you have a Teeny-Tiny-Whatever bird. Or at least the family they are in…anything would help.

    1. Hi BR, Just getting back to your comment. I gave it some thought and wrote up some tips for Sparrow ID that will appear in my column in the next issue of Birdwatching Magazine. The quick summary is 1) check whether the breast is streaked or unstreaked, which sorts the sparrows pretty easily into two groups. 2) Look at the face – check one or more of eyering, eyebrow, dark stripes, bill color, etc. If you pick one or two things to check on every sparrow, and match those to pictures in the guide, you’ll be able to identify them just by the face pattern. Hope that helps.

      Most sparrow-like birds are in one family. Page 492 of the Sibley Guide (big) has a summary of sparrow-like birds from other families.

      1. I also thank you for these helpful tips. I recently purchased the Eastern North America version of your Field Guide to Birds and have found it to be very useful now that I have functional optics (Monarch 7s in 8 x 42) and a few months of birding experience.



    1. Hi Robert, Welcome to the “gang”. Central Park is an excellent place for birding, and there are a lot of great places in North Jersey as well. One of my recommendations would be to join up with a field trip or two. New York Audubon has regular walks in Central park, and New Jersey Audubon does a lot in New Jersey. The first 50 species are the hardest to identify, and having someone point out the common birds is the best way to jump start your skills.

  8. I want to buy your newest edition of the eastern edition to the Sibley Field Guide. What is that edition dte.

    Is thewre a real advantage to buy the large edition, I am a beginning to average birder and 80 years old.

    1. Hi Wally, The Eastern Guide has only one edition, so you don’t have to worry about getting an outdated one. The advantage of the bigger guide is that it covers the whole continent, has more images of some species, and the images are arranged in a more logical way (I think), and it has longer voice descriptions. Most people, even beginners, prefer the big guide UNLESS you are going to be carrying it in the field, and then the smaller guide is definitely preferred.

    1. HiJan, I’m not sure what you mean. I could say the big Sibley Guide to Birds is two books in one, because it combines all of the images and species that are found in both the Eastern and Western Field Guides. Or… The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior begins with an extensive general introduction to field ornithology, and the second part of the book is a survey with details of each of the families of North American birds, so that book has two distinct parts. Hope that helps!

  9. Antoine Couillard

    Mr. Sibley,

    I am amazed by the Sibley eGuide to the Birds of North America.
    I am wondering if you plan to issue a french version of it?

    Thank you.

  10. Hi. I´m from Mexico, of the state of Chiapas. I want to know if the Sibley’s Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America is useful for the identification of local birds or just is for migratory birds. I have consulted the Sibley Field Guide of Birds (2009) and in this book is not included species how Momotus mexicanus, nor magpies or woodpeckers

    1. Hi William, My books only cover the birds found north of Mexico, so Mexican species that have not been seen in the US (like motmots) are not covered. I recommend Howell and Webb’s Birds of Mexico.

  11. Hi David. We re ently moved into a house in the country in southern Manitoba Canada. When I say south, I mean our lawn is on the U.S. border! Anyway, We absolutly love it here and acctually awaken to sound of song birds every morning. Its wonderful! I love birds myself, I think that God pulled all the stops when he made birds. The variety and beauty is unparalleld in nature. I think we live in a bird sanctuary with the amount and variety of birds that nest in our 5 acre yard. We must have 20 nests! My question is , Which book would be thebest choice for this area as we are not in the east or west of Canada? We are literally about 20 miles from the longtitudal center.

    THANK-YOU!!! Bill

    1. Hi Bill, Thanks. Your yard sounds fantastic. I’ve just returned to email after being away in Montana, sorry for the late reply. My Eastern Guide is designed to cover all of the provinces east of the Rockies (which form the ornithological boundary between east and west) so southern Manitoba would be well-covered by the Eastern Guide or the complete Sibley Guide to Birds.
      Good Birding, David

  12. Hi David
    I live in the UK and we frequently get wind blown rarities, as these are often in the smaller isles in the North ( scotland) it is good to get your book out and see just what we are missing and what a wide variety of birds you have in the US, love the illustration
    best wishes

  13. Reference to the summary index page of each bird group. I’ve marked page numbers for each bird making it much easier to jump to the bird. Plus I’d rather see males in breeding plumage. Would make it a lot easier to spot a bird and jump to its page to check out females. Or perhaps adding a second index for females.

  14. Cheryl Phillips

    David, I just found your site! My favorite birding book was your guide and somehow it developed legs and took a walk. How much longer until the new one comes out? I’d hate to order another and then the we one come out soon after!

  15. David,
    I bought your Eastern guide a few years ago. It was recommended by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist who was helping me with a wildlife project at our local airport I was managing. It made me realize that my airport habitat was populated with a large variety of birds. The biologist also helped men design a program that would deter unwanted species, such as vultures and Canada geese, which can be a hazard to aircraft, while maintaining a desirable habitat for other species.

    Since retiring, I have used the guide to identify the many species that we attract to our bird-friendly environment at home.

    Thanks for your magnificent work.

  16. Hi David,

    Is the new revised edition of your guide to Birds of Eastern North America still scheduled to be out in Spring 2015?


  17. Hi David;

    I was curious if you had any advice for someone like myself who is interested in doing a survey of the behavior of birds in northern Virginia. I am not affiliated with any wild-life or ecology-based organization. I am just someone who is interested in cataloguing bird behavior. I do not even have a degree in the life sciences but have been intrigued about the prospects of doing bird studies. Although I am a physicist by training and line of work, I would like to also work outdoors and explore the biosphere more. Also, any advice you can provide about opportunities in Northern Virginia to do some work as a field biologist assistant would be great.


    Jim Essig

    1. Doug Richardson

      AUG 2020. Similar question: I live in small town about 60 NW of San Antonio. So should I buy “east” or “west”, or another one of your books?

      1. Hi Doug, Thanks for your interest! All of Texas except the far west is covered by the Eastern Guide. The complete “Sibley Guide to Birds” covers all of the species, with more and larger illustrations, but it’s a bigger book. More info in these FAQs:

  18. Hi, David –

    I couldn’t find any kind of key to the colors in the maps. Is there anywhere I can find an explanation of what color means what?


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