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.

20 thoughts on “The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior”

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


  3. 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

    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?

    1. 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.

  5. Hello David,

    I saw your book recommended in my Ornithology text book but it was titled as Sibley’s Guide to Bird Biology and Behavior. I am assuming this is an error and the book recommended is actually The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior. Am I correct or is there a different title that I should be looking for?

    Thank you,


  6. I have been wanting to purchase a copy of your guide to Bird Life and Behavior for several years now. Due to the pricing, I have been holding out on doing so in the event a 2nd edition was going to be released. Could you offer any insight as to whether or not a new edition will be released in the next year or so?

    1. Hi Carmelo, Thanks for your interest. There has been some informal discussion here about a revised edition of this book, but nothing is in the works yet. So it will definitely be more than a year before any new edition is ready.

  7. I am house sitting for a friend and found this book. It is fantastic! I would love to buy it, but since it’s been 20 years since the first publication and at least 2 years since you’ve answered the question about a new edition, I figured I would ask here again if you have any idea of when the new edition might be coming out?

    1. PS. Coincidentally I just read your excellent article in the New York Times today. Well done.
      I decided to order one of your other more recent books. And I look forward to the next edition of Life and Behavior. Either way I’ll tell my kids to make it a Chistmas gift. 🙂

  8. Hello! Are there plans for another printing of this book? I am really hoping to read it but it seems like it is currently out of print. Wondering if I should track down a secondhand copy or wait for a reprint. Thanks!

  9. Hi David,

    I apologize as you must get bombarded with this inquiry. I am quite eager for a new edition of bird life and behaviour. Is this in the works?


    1. I also have been holding off on buying a new copy of this book, and came here in hopes that an updated edition will be released.

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