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Go Birdwatching With These Audiobooks

The Backyard Bird ChroniclesThe birds are back! As spring progresses, unfamiliar birdsong is in the air and new birds are showing up at feeders as they settle in to build nests and raise the next generation. These compelling and informative audiobooks all about birds will inspire you to observe the natural world with a new appreciation. 

Author Amy Tan’s new memoir, THE BACKYARD BIRD CHRONICLES, takes listeners along on her learning journey as she takes up bird watching to counteract the negativity and discord in the world. Tan’s narration is warm and charming, and she exudes joy and wonder at each new encounter and discovery. Tan reminds us that nature can be as close as our own backyards.

GeorgeSy Montgomery is another author and narrator who has a gift for conveying the wonder she experiences interacting with animals and the natural world. Her brief audiobook THE HUMMINGBIRDS' GIFT recounts the time she assisted with the rehabilitation of two orphaned hummingbird chicks, and THE HAWK’S WAY explores birds of prey and the art of falconry, where humans and birds work together to hunt. Of course, we can’t talk about hawks without mentioning Helen Macdonald’s Earphones Award-winning memoir H IS FOR HAWK, which recounts her training of a goshawk in the wake of her father’s unexpected death. For another very personal encounter (and another British voice), try Frieda Hughes’s GEORGE: A Magpie Memoir about her adventures raising a baby magpie while navigating rough marital seas.

Better Living Through BirdingThen there are the authors whose audiobooks will convince you that birding is for everyone and will make you want to grab a pair of binoculars and head out in search of birds. In Christian Cooper’s BETTER LIVING THROUGH BIRDING, we learn about the great joy he takes in his life’s passion, birding, as he takes us along on adventures near and far, from growing up on Long Island to birding obsessively during the spring migration and eventually traveling the world. This audiobook is one of the rare few that takes advantage of the audio format by including snippets of birdsong between chapters. Mya-Rose Craig’s BIRDGIRL is full of youthful exuberance, wisdom, and wit. Craig grew up in a family of birders, learning to identify species with her parents in the UK and, later, all over the world. Birding To Change The WorldShe writes about the thousands of incredible birds she’s seen on seven continents, her experiences as a biracial birder, and her work as a young activist in the environmental movement. Trish O’Kane spent most of her career as a human rights journalist and social activist and became an “accidental birder” in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Her memoir BIRDING TO CHANGE THE WORLD shares how her life and worldview changed when she began noticing and observing birds outside of her destroyed home in New Orleans. Narrator Cheryl Smith moves seamlessly between the author’s personal stories and her scientific explanations of birds and what their responses to the environment can teach us. 

The Private Lives of Public BirdsWant to brush up on your bird facts? David Allen Sibley’s WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A BIRD is a great place to start. Sibley’s son, Evan Sibley, narrates with aplomb, delivering detailed information about the biology and behavior of many different kinds of North American birds. Sibley’s audible enthusiasm for his subject never flags, and the listener’s interest never wanes. Jack Gedney’s lyrical THE PRIVATE LIVES OF PUBLIC BIRDS is a California-centric paean to birds. Narrator Jonathan Todd Ross captures the author’s style; his easy pace and conversational tone make listening pleasurable and the text easy to follow. What An Owl KnowsJennifer Ackerman, who has written and narrated many audiobooks about birds, takes listeners on a captivating exploration of owls in WHAT AN OWL KNOWS. Jonathan Meiburg’s A MOST REMARKABLE CREATURE is a fascinating look at the striated caracara, a playful and curious South American bird of prey that is so intelligent it understands spoken commands, can solve puzzles, and has a long memory. Pigeons are birds, too: Rosemary Mosco’s A POCKET GUIDE TO PIGEON WATCHING, narrated by Janet Metzger, is a fact-filled and very funny guide to all things pigeon-related. Stephen Moss’s TEN BIRDS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD, read by the author, and Adam Nicolson’s THE SEABIRD’S CRY, narrated by Dugald Bruce-Lockhart, both delve into the ways that humans and birds have interacted throughout history.

Finally, a trio of fiction recommendations to get you into the birding mood. For families, Tricia Springstubb’s THE MOST PERFECT THING IN THE UNIVERSE is a sweet, summery middle-grade listen. Lauren Ezzo’s performance immerses listeners in this story about a missing ornithologist mother, a falling-down house, and making new friends. Will Taylor’s gentle and lovely THE LANGUAGE OF SEABIRDS, given an empathetic narration by Golden Voice Michael Crouch, is set during two weeks of summer vacation on the Oregon coast. Twelve-year-old Jeremy and Evan find first love as they spend time together and invent a secret language based on the characteristics of the birds they observe.

Birding with BenefitsAnd for grown-ups, how about a birding romance?! Narrators Mia Hutchinson-Shaw and Evan Sibley are a winning team in Sarah T. Dubb’s delightful BIRDING WITH BENEFITS. Celeste, a complete newbie to birding, agrees to be John’s partner in a 42-day Bird Binge competition—and to pose as his girlfriend. Attraction sparks as John and Celeste add birds to their list in the beautifully described Arizona wilderness. Narrator Evan Sibley told us, "I am so glad I got to narrate BIRDING WITH BENEFITS. I've been fortunate enough to narrate a number of books about the joys of birding but BIRDING WITH BENEFITS stands out because it seamlessly blends the joy of discovering birds with the joy of discovering love. It may seem like an unlikely combo but Sarah so deftly shows you how much love can be found in a day of birding. It's so gratifying to watch these two people navigate love in their 40s and, by the end, I was head over heels for both of them! Sarah wrote such a beautiful book, and Mia is such an incredible narrator, so I count my lucky starlings every day that I am a part of this.”


Jennifer Dowell is AudioFile's Managing Editor. 

AudioFile Magazine is your #1 source for audiobook reviews. 

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