Collins Bird Guide

Collins Bird GuideCollins Bird Guide

What can we say about the Collins Bird Guide that has not already been said? When the first edition of this superb field guide was published it set a new standard for field guides for the birds of Britain and Europe. Now onto its third edition the quality of this book remains outstanding with the benefit of the addition of more up-to-date knowledge.

Covering the whole of Europe and North Africa the Collins Field Guide is relevant to many countries and even if you are using the first or second edition it will be the book we recommend for these birding tours.

Not only does this field guide contain all the species we are likely to see on the tours we use it on, it contains useful identification insights for tricky groups of birds such as gulls and winter plumage grebes.

These popular birding tours are more enjoyable when using the Collins Bird Guide. Using some of the other guides is likely to cause a lot of confusion when cross-referencing with current taxonomy.

Range Maps

One of the features we find most useful when using field guides is the range maps. While they should never be regarded as inviolate they are, never the less, a very helpful clue to quick bird identification in the field. Collins Bird Guide contains range maps for all regularly occurring birds of Europe and the Mediterranean coast of North Africa on the same page as the text for each species. If we wanted to find fault then the fact that range maps are quite small for such a large area is an issue for the highest level of geographic accuracy and that the maps are at the bottom of each page rather than embedded into each species account is a little confusing at times but these are minor points really when considering the scope of the publication.


The illustrations are of the very highest quality, showing a high level of detail even when reproduced at small scale. Although a lot of visual information appears on each page, every species is well spaced out and clearly demarcated from the next by a dividing line. It is clear that the artists knew these birds well as every species is portrayed in typical poses that capture the character of the bird while most, if not all, species are shown in flight as well as perched. The addition of annotations that indicate key identification features is excellent and really this should be something that every field guide includes. The illustrations, their layout and way they are displayed is of the highest level.

Species Accounts

The species accounts in the Collins Bird Guide are displayed opposite the plates that they refer to, something that should be natural to all field guides but, alas, is not. The accounts dispense with long meaningless descriptions and instead focus on the features of the bird that helps in its identificayion, particularly with reference to similar-looking species. The text provides call descriptions only when they will actually help and are, thankfully, concise. Fitting so much information into such a small book that can truly be taken easily into the field means that the text is somewhat on the small side; remember to pack your reading glasses!

Other Features

This book contains a short preface with notes on using range maps and how calls are adapted to script form. There are a few notes on how to identify birds, which are quite useful, but the many small sections focussing on identifying tricky species are very good. With sections on grebes in flight, ageing large gulls from moult and hybrid Aythya ducks there is a lot to learn from this book for most birders. While many frequently occurring rarities appear in the main body of the book a section on true vagrants to the region concludes this work before the index section.


We strongly recommend getting a copy of this excellent field guide, if you do not already have one, when joining our bird watching tours to  European countries and Morocco. Our guides will be using this publication when leading these tours and our checklists will be based on IOC taxonomy with reference to that which is used in the Collins Bird Guide. The first, second or third editions are all good for this purpose.