Beverly’s Basics

by Anders Gyllenhaal

Once we got serious about birding, we gradually found our way to guidebooks, apps and online sites that made a big difference in how much we enjoyed the pastime and how quickly we progressed. We’ve attended festivals, met expert birders and interviewed researchers whose advice and generosity have helped us immensely along the way. 

This page is devoted to collecting the best information — some from Flying Lessons, some from other sources — in a single place.

You’ll find links to Beverly’s most popular posts, followed by links to the best websites as well as apps and books on getting started.

National birding organizations, all rich with information and guidance for birders:

The Cornell Lab is the research mecca for birders and provides exceptional apps and website tools to help birders identify, study and track species. The lab also offers a curriculum of courses for birders and has built the eBird program that tracks your bird sighting into the largest citizen science effort in the world.
The National Audubon Society, which has local chapters all across the U.S., provides a wealth of bird information and puts on both local and national programs that benefit birders. It’s website is full of bird information, coverage of birding issues and strong advocacy.
ABC works across the U.S. and Latin America to protect birds, set aside land for birds and conduct research ABC provides broad guidance on its website about helping and tracking birds, with emphasis on how you can help with conservation.
ABA was launched specially to serve birders with travel, conferences, guidance and programs. The ABA leads birding trips around the world, has long-standing programs for young birders and a nice selection of birding goods on its site. 

Favorite sources of birding information from the rich library of books and apps out there:


The eBird app is a powerful tool for keeping track of the birds you see. It also records your lists, enables you to see what and where others are seeing and look for hotspots.

Bird IDs

Many apps will help you learn about birds and show you photos and drawing to help identify what you're seeing. The best are Audubon's birding app and Cornell's Merlin Bird ID app, which is linked here.

Song IDs

A growing number of apps will help you identify birds, sometimes with photos and some by recording sons. The best song-recording app is Birdnet that has a library of thousands of songs. A good basic app is SongSleuth (above).


There are full libraries of bird guide books, from small portable booklets for traveling to textbook-sized tombs for research. We like DK"s Birds of North America as a basic reference that goes wherever we go. But we've also found others have different strengths and emphases.

Specialty books

As you get deeper into birding, you'll likely want specialized books on species that interest you, such as raptors, coastal birds and warblers. The above Warbler Guide is an example of a book we cannot live without in trying to learn about and identify birds we come across.

Other favorite resources

Among our favorite stops on the birding information trail are Facebook’s “What this Bird” site (left), where you can send a photo of a bird and volunteers will usually tell you what it is in seconds; Cornell’s “Birds of the World” digital library that has an enormous amount of detail on birds; and various online shopping spots for gifts for birding friends and relatives, such as Audubon’s shop (right) on its website.
Beverly Mills Gyllenhaal

About Beverly's Basics

Beverly is a life-long journalist who took her years of experience as a features writer and food editor to start her own syndicated columns, first on parenting and then on cooking quick, healthy family meals. Her experience in writing how-to columns and explaining the inner workings of challenging tasks makes her a natural at helping people get started on the birding trail. Beverly’s Birding Basics, our newest department on Flying Lessons, offers her approach to  the fundamentals of birding with just one goal:

“I write about birding because I love it and because I hope you’ll come to love it as much as I do,” she says. “But I want you to become a better birder much faster than I did and with the least possible frustration.”

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