The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America – Great for reference for identifying birds and for reference for drawing. My favorite field guide since each section has a visual side by side comparison of the birds in that section according to scale. It’s helpful for newbies to see them right next to each other for comparison. It’s also wonderful because it shows gender and age differences within a specific species. It also shows the Mexican variation if there is one which is helpful when you are as close to the Mexican border as we are.
Sibley’s Birding Basics – A quick 148 page read, this book is dense with great beginning birding knowledge. Since it’s Sibley book, there are wonderfully illustrated diagrams. The content is really helpful for newbie birders like myself and I’m finding it to be an valuable resource. It’s basically a detailed birding class in a tiny book.
The Sibley Guide to Birds, Second Edition – Even a larger reference guide for drawing and bird identification. Sibley’s guide that includes both western and eastern editions into one. Make sure to get the second printing of the section edition because there were color printing issues with some of the first printing of particular birds. Probably doesn’t really matter, but if you can swing it, why not?
Local Birds of San Diego County – This is a laminated pocket-sized birding guide. They have several different ones around the country. It shows the top 200 bird species in the San Diego area. It only shows the male breeding bird, but it’s a great place to get started if you don’t have any clue where to start. It’s organized from smallest bird in the upper left corner to the largest in the bottom right so it’s also a size reference too. When I encounter a bird I don’t know, I normally reference this first to get a general idea of what it might be and then pull out the Sibleys to confirm.