Helm Identification Guides

The Helm Identification Guides are a series of books that identify groups of birds. The series include two types of guides, those that are:

  • Taxonomic, dealing with a particular family of birds on a worldwide scale—most early Helm Guides were this type, as well as many more-recent ones, although some later books deal with identification of such groups on a regional scale only (e.g., The Gulls Guide, which covers only species in Europe, Asia, and North America)
  • Geographic, including all bird species in an area (e.g., The Birds of the West Indies)

Early volumes were sometimes published under the Croom Helm or Christopher Helm imprints. In addition, a parallel set of guides, very similar in design, was published by Pica Press in the 1990s (marked Pica in the list below); Pica was later absorbed into A & C Black (now part of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc), and all guides are now marketed as a single series.

Several of the books have won the British Birds Bird Book of the Year award. A list of titles in the series, in chronological order of publication, is as follows:

Works with a taxonomic scope

Note: 'nW' indicates those that do not have worldwide coverage.


  • Seabirds - an identification guide by Peter Harrison (1983) ISBN 0-7470-1410-8
  • Shorebirds - an identification guide to the waders of the world by John Marchant, A. J. Prater and Peter Hayman (1986) ISBN 0-7470-1403-5
  • Wildfowl - an identification guide to the ducks, geese and swans of the world by Steve Madge and Hilary Burn (1988) ISBN 0-7470-2201-1
  • A Handbook to the Swallows and Martins of the World by Angela Turner, illustrated by Chris Rose (1989) ISBN 0-7136-4206-8


  • Kingfishers, Bee-eaters and Rollers - A Handbook by C. Hilary Fry and Kathie Fry, illustrated by Alan Harris (1992) ISBN 0-7136-8028-8
  • Finches and Sparrows by Peter Clement, illustrated by Alan Harris and John Davis (1993) ISBN 0-7136-8017-2
  • Crows and Jays - A Guide to the Crows, Jays and Magpies of the World by Steve Madge, illustrated by Hilary Burn (1994) ISBN 0-7136-3999-7
  • New World Warblers by Jon Curson, illustrated by David Quinn and David Beadle (1994) ISBN 0-7136-3932-6


  • Woodpeckers by Hans Winkler, translated by David Christie, illustrated by David Nurney (1995) ISBN 1-873403-25-9 'Pica'
  • Buntings and Sparrows - A Guide to the Buntings and North American Sparrows by Urban Olsson and Jon Curson, illustrated by Clive Byers (1995) ISBN 1-873403-19-4 'Pica'
  • Terns of Europe and North America by Klaus Malling Olsen, illustrated by Hans Larsson (1995) ISBN 0-7136-4056-1 'nW'
  • Swifts - A Guide to the Swifts and Treeswifts of the World by Phil Chantler, illustrated by Gerald Driessens (1995) ISBN 1-873403-31-3 'Pica'
  • Tits, Nuthatches & Treecreepers by Simon Harrap, illustrated by David Quinn (1996) ISBN 0-7136-3964-4
  • Munias and Mannikins by Robin Restall (1996) ISBN 1-873403-51-8
  • Pittas, Broadbills and Asities by Frank Lambert, illustrated by Martin Woodcock (1996) ISBN 978-1-873403-24-2 'Pica'
  • Warblers of Europe, Asia and North Africa by Kevin Baker (1997) ISBN 978-0-7136-3971-1 'nW'
  • Skuas and Jaegers - a guide to the skuas and jaegers of the world by Klaus Malling Olsen, illustrated by Hans Larsson (1997) ISBN 1-873403-46-1 'Pica'
  • Shrikes - A Guide to the Shrikes of the World, by Norbert Lefranc, illustrated by Tim Worfolk (1997) ISBN 1-873403-47-X 'Pica'
  • Nightjars - A Guide to Nightjars and related Nightbirds by Nigel Cleere, illustrated by Dave Nurney (1998) ISBN 1-873403-48-8 'Pica'
  • Parrots - A Guide to the Parrots of the World by Tony Juniper and Mike Parr, illustrated by Kim Franklin, Robin Restall, Dan Powell, David Johnston and Carl D'Silva (1998) ISBN 1-873403-40-2 'Pica'
  • Rails - a guide to the rails, crakes, gallinules and coots of the world by Barry Taylor, illustrated by Ber van Perlo (1998) ISBN 0-300-07758-0 'Pica'
  • Starlings and Mynas by Chris Feare and Adrian Craig, illustrated by Barry Croucher, Chris Shields and Kamol Komolphalin (1998) ISBN 0-7136-3961-X
  • Owls - a Guide to the Owls of the World by Claus Konig & Friedhelm Weick and Jan-Hendrik Becking (1999) ISBN 1-873403-74-7 'Pica'
  • New World Blackbirds - the Icterids by Alvaro Jaramillo and Peter Burke (1999) ISBN 0-7136-4333-1
  • Tanagers by Morton L. Isler and Phyllis R. Isler (1999) ISBN 978-0-7136-5116-4 softcover (a revision of The Tanagers : Natural History, Distribution, and Identification (1987) ISBN 978-0-87474-552-8)


  • Thrushes by Peter Clement, illustrated by Ren Hathway (2000) ISBN 0-7136-3940-7
  • Shrikes and Bush-shrikes by Tony Harris, illustrated by Kim Franklin (2000) ISBN 0-7136-3861-3
  • Raptors of the World by James Ferguson-Lees and David Christie, illustrated by Kim Franklin, David Mead and Philip Burton (2001) ISBN 0-7136-8026-1
  • Pigeons and Doves by David Gibbs, illustrated by Eustace Barnes and John Cox (2001) ISBN 1-873403-60-7
  • Sylvia Warblers - identification, taxonomy and phylogeny of the genus Sylvia, by Hadoram Shirihai, Gabriel Gargallo and Andreas J. Helbig, illustrated by Alan Harris, photographic editor David Cottridge (2001) ISBN 0-7136-3984-9
  • Sunbirds - A Guide to the Sunbirds, Flowerpeckers, Spiderhunters and Sugarbirds of the World by Robert A. Cheke and Clive F. Mann, illustrated by Richard Allen (2001) ISBN 1-873403-80-1
  • Wrens, Dippers and Thrashers by David Brewer, illustrated by Barry Kent MacKay (2001) ISBN 1-873403-95-X
  • Stonechats - A Guide to the Genus Saxicola by Ewan Urquhart, illustrated by Adam Bowley (2002) ISBN 0-7136-6024-4
  • Pheasants, Partridges and Grouse - a guide to the Pheasants, Partridges, Quails, Grouse, Guineafowl, Buttonquails and Sandgrouse of the World by Steve Madge and Phil MacGowan (2002) ISBN 0-7136-3966-0
  • Pipits and Wagtails of Europe, Asia and North America, by Per Alstrom & Krister Mild, illustrated by Bill Zetterstrom (2003) ISBN 0-7136-5834-7 'nW'
  • Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America by Klaus Malling Olsen, illustrated by Hans Larsson (2003) ISBN 0-7136-7087-8 'nW'


  • Reed and Bush Warblers by Peter Kennerley and David Pearson, illustrated by Brian Small (2010) ISBN 9780713660227
  • Cotingas and Manakins by Graeme Green and Guy Kirwan (2011) ISBN 9780713660258
  • Cuckoos of the World by Johannes Erritzøe, Clive F. Mann, Frederik P. Brammer and Richard A. Fuller, illustrated by Richard Allen, Jan Wilczur, Martin Woodcock and Tim Worfolk (2012) ISBN 9780713660340
  • Robins and Chats by Peter Clement, and Chris Rose (2015) ISBN 9780713639636
  • Wildfowl of Europe, Asia and North America by Sebastien Reeber (2015) ISBN 9781472912343 'nW'
  • Flight Identification of Raptors of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East by Dick Forsman (2016) ISBN 9781472913616 'nW'
  • Antpittas and Gnateaters by Harold F. Greeney and David Beadle (2018) ISBN 9781472919649
  • African Raptors by William S. Clark and Rob Davies (2018) ISBN 9780713665383 'nW'

External links

African desert warbler

The African desert warbler (Sylvia deserti) is a typical warbler.

Birds of South Asia. The Ripley Guide

Birds of South Asia. The Ripley Guide by Pamela C. Rasmussen and John C. Anderton is a two-volume ornithological handbook, covering the birds of South Asia, published in 2005 (second edition in 2012) by the Smithsonian Institution and Lynx Edicions. The geographical scope of the book covers India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, the Chagos archipelago and Afghanistan (the latter country had been excluded from previous works covering this region). In total, 1508 species are covered (this figure includes 85 hypothetical and 67 'possible' species, which are given only shorter accounts). Two notable aspects of Birds of South Asia are its distribution evidence-base — the book's authors based their distributional information almost completely on museum specimens — and its taxonomic approach, involving a large number of species-level splits.

Brown-crested flycatcher

The brown-crested flycatcher (Myiarchus tyrannulus) is a passerine bird in the tyrant flycatcher family.

Christopher Helm

Christopher Alexander Roger Helm (born Dundee, 1 February 1937 – 20 January 2007) was a Scottish book publisher, notably of ornithology related titles, including the Helm Identification Guides.

Born in Dundee, he was raised in Forfar, where his father was a Presbyterian minister. The family moved to Tunbridge Wells at the start of World War II, and he was educated at Harrow School, then, after active duty in Cyprus with the Highland Light Infantry (as National Service), he graduated in classics and law from Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge in 1960.

Having worked for Macmillan, he set up and, in turn, sold each of Croom Helm (founded in 1972, bought by Associated Book Publishers in 1986 and merged into the Routledge imprint in 1992), Christopher Helm Publishers and Pica Press (both of the latter pair being bought by A & C Black, now part of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc).

He was an active member of the council of the British Ornithologists' Union, becoming vice-president in 1995.

In the 1970s, he served as a Labour councillor in the London Borough of Wandsworth.

He married twice: in 1967 to Caroline Price, they had two sons, Alexander (who died from cystic fibrosis) and Zebedee; their marriage was dissolved in 1976; and in 1979 to Amanda Thomas, with whom he had a daughter Annabel and another son, Tom.

Citrine warbler

The citrine warbler (Myiothlypis luteoviridis) is a species of bird in the Parulidae family. The term citrine refers to its yellowish colouration. It is found in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist montane forests.

Clive Byers

Clive Byers is a British bird artist.

His illustrations have appeared in well-known and popular bird identification guides, including Birds of the Western Palearctic and the Buntings and Sparrows volume of the Helm Identification Guides series.

His illustrations have an unusual style, distinct from most of his contemporaries, in which the technical details of the birds are invariably depicted accurately, but also often with somewhat cartoon-like facial expressions.

David Quinn (bird artist)

David Quinn (born 1959) is a British bird artist. He won the 1987 Bird Illustrator of the Year Award of the British Birds magazine. His illustrations have appeared in several works, including the New World Warblers and Tits, Nuthatchs & Treecreepers volumes of the Helm Identification Guides series, as well as accompanying identification papers in British Birds magazine.

David Quinn is based in Cheshire, where he moved to in 1983.

He attended Salford Grammar School, then Manchester Polytechnic, where he graduated with a BA with first class honours in graphic design in 1982.

Amongst other publications in which his illustrations are featured is the third edition of the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, as well as the Helm Identification Guide to New World Warblers. He has also worked with Rob Hume on a guide to European gulls, yet to be published.

Quinn has found a number of rare vagrant birds in Cheshire, including a Franklin's gull at Neumann's Flash in 1987 and a first-winter American herring gull in 1994, the first accepted record for mainland Britain.

Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America

Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America by Klaus Malling Olsen and Hans Larsson is a volume in the Helm Identification Guides series of bird identification books.

The book is intended to succeed Peter J. Grant's Gulls: A Guide to Identification as the standard identification work on Northern Hemisphere gulls. Although the Helm series already contained a volume on seabirds, by Peter Harrison, gulls compete for space in that volume with several other seabird families; in addition, Harrison's book was published in 1983, a time when knowledge of gull identification (and taxonomy) was in a considerably more primitive state (and Harrison himself was a specialist in pelagic birds rather than gulls specifically). Malling Olsen & Larsson's book equals or exceeds Grant's work in terms of its level of detail, and consolidates and synthesises the considerable amount of new information that has been discovered since then.

The first edition of Olsen and Larsson's book was released in 2003. While the book was initially generally well-received, a large number of errors soon came to light. As a result, this edition was withdrawn, and a reprint with corrections was released in 2004. Because the publishers required only the title page of the book to be returned in order for purchasers to receive the reprint free of charge, many copies of the first printing are still in circulation. (Those with a title page are identifiable by the absence of the words "Reprinted with corrections 2004" below the publisher's address on reverse of the title page.) The ISBN of the corrected reprint is ISBN 0-7136-7087-8.

The corrected reprint has 608 pages. In total, 43 species are given full treatment by this work — identification text, colour plates by Larsson, and several colour photographs (the plates and photographs are placed with the species texts, not grouped together in a separate section). In addition, three Southern Hemisphere species which have occurred as vagrants in the Northern Hemisphere (band-tailed gull, grey gull and swallow-tailed gull) are covered more briefly in an appendix, with a single photograph each, and brief mention is also made here of silver gull which has occurred as an escape from captivity. Preceding the species accounts, an introduction covers the book's species-level taxonomy, and gives general advice on gull identification, including ageing and moult, hybrid and aberrant birds, and the effects of lighting conditions, and plumage wear and fading.

The book is particularly notable in that it is the first work to bring together information discovered during the late 1980s, 1990s and early 21st century on the identification of birds of the large white-headed gull complex. The book adopts a conservative approach at higher taxonomic levels, lumping all gulls (except for ivory gull, Ross's gull and the two kittiwakes) in the genus Larus. A revised taxonomy is adopted at the species level, however; a number of distinctive forms (mainly in the large white-headed gull complex) are regarded as separate species.

Species-level taxonomic decisions adopted in the book are as follows:

American herring gull (Larus smithsonianus) is treated as a separate species from European herring gull (L. argentatus)

Yellow-legged gull (L. michahellis) (including the form atlantis) and Armenian gull (L. armenicus) are treated as separate species from the European herring gull

Caspian gull (L. cachinnans) is treated as a separate species from European herring and yellow-legged gulls, and is defined as including the forms barabensis and mongolicus

Heuglin's gull (L. heuglini) (including the form taimyrensis) and Vega gull (L. vegae) (including the form birulai) are each given full species status

Common gull (L. canus) (including the forms heinei and kamschatensis) and mew gull (L. brachyrhynchus) are treated as separate species.Olsen and Larsson had previously collaborated on two other volumes in the Helm series, on terns and skuas.

Helm (surname)

Helm is a British or German origin surname. Notable people with this name include:

Anne Helm (born 1938), Canadian actress

Benjamin Hardin Helm (1831–1863), Kentucky politician, attorney, Confederate brigadier-general

Bob Helm (1914–2003), American jazz clarinetist

Boone Helm (1828–January 14, 1864), cannibal

Brett Helm (born 1962), American entrepreneur

Brigitte Helm (1908–1996), German actress

Charles Helm (1844–1915), South African Christian missionary involved in negotiations that led to the Rudd Concession of 1888

Christopher Helm (1937–2007), Scottish book publisher, notably of ornithology related titles, including the Helm Identification Guides

Clementine Helm (1825-1896), German author of books for children and young people

Darren Helm (born 1987), Canadian ice hockey player

Dieter Helm, British economist, Professor of Energy Policy at Oxford University

Everett Helm (1913–1999), American composer, musicologist and music critic

Georg Helm (1851–1923), German mathematician

George Helm (1950–1977), Native Hawaiian activist and musician

Israel Helm (1630-1701/2), Swedish colonist and soldier in New Sweden in North America

James Meredith Helm (1855–1927), American naval officer

John Helm (commentator) (born 1942), British television sports commentator

John L. Helm (1802–1867), governor of Kentucky

June Helm (1924–2004), American anthropologist

Karl Helm (1871–1960), German medievalist, Germanist and religious studies scholar

Sir Knox Helm (1893–1964), British diplomat

Leonard Helm (c.1720–1782), American soldier

Levon Helm (1940–2012), American rock drummer

Lucinda Barbour Helm (1839-1897), American author, editor, activist

MacKinley Helm (1896–1963), American writer and collector

Michael Helm, Canadian novelist

Nick Helm, British comedian

Paul Helm, British theologian

Peter Helm (born 1941), Canadian-American actor

Rüdiger Helm (born 1956), East German sprint canoer

Sarah Helm, British journalist

W. Stuart Helm (1908–1986), Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Theodor Helm (1843–1920), musicologist

Tom Helm (rugby), Scottish rugby union and rugby league footballer of the 1900s and 1910s

Zach Helm (born 1975), American writer and film director

List of birding books

The literature relating to birding is vast; however, certain books or series are regarded by the birding community as key milestones, setting standards of quality and influencing the development of birding literature, or birding itself. These works and their impact are dealt with on this page, in chronological order of publication. More information on each of the individual works can be found on their individual pages.

Bird Neighbors (1897) by Neltje Blanchan was an early birding book which sold over 250,000 copies. It was illustrated with color photographs of stuffed birds.

The Field Guide to the Birds by Roger Tory Peterson is regarded as the key birding book of the 20th century, due to its impact on the development and popularisation of birding.

Atlas of Breeding Birds of the West Midlands, produced in 1970 by the West Midland Bird Club; the first modern bird atlas.

The Birds of the Western Palearctic is a comprehensive regional avifauna for the Western Palearctic. It consists of 9 volumes, the first published in 1977 and the ninth in 1996. Its format and breadth influenced the development of regional avifaunas for other parts of the world, notably The Birds of Africa.

The Helm Identification Guides are a series, originally produced by Christopher Helm, covering the identification of groups of birds at a worldwide scale. The first volume produced was Seabirds by Peter Harrison, published in 1983.

The Macmillan Field Guides to Bird Identification are two small field guides. They adopt an unusual format, in that not all species in the geographical area of coverage are included; instead only groups of species which the authors regarded as difficult to identify are covered. Each such group is given a chapter, where identification is covered discursively rather than in the abbreviated form more usually used in a field guide. The publication of the first volume (covering Britain and Ireland) was the first time that this approach had been used in a European guide; the book undoubtedly had a major influence on improving the identification skills of birders in Britain during the 1990s.

The publication of Charles Sibley & Jon Ahlquist's Phylogeny and Classification of Birds in 1990 brought a debate about the higher-level systematics of modern birds to the consciousness of birders. Sibley and Ahlquist proposed a radically different phylogenetic tree for birds, based on the results of DNA-DNA hybridisation studies. More details can be found in the article Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy.

Handbook of the Birds of the World is the first work to describe and illustrate all of the world's birds. It is currently in production.

The Sibley Guide to Birds by David Allen Sibley was published in 2000, and was widely regarded as setting a new standard for field guides in North America.

The Collins Bird Guide by Peter J. Grant and Lars Svensson was first published in 2000, and was received extremely warmly by birders. It deals with the birds of the bulk of the Western Palearctic.

The Big Year by Mark Obmascik (audio spoken by Oliver Wyman) is a fascinating narration of a birding contest lasting one whole year.

Long-tailed tit

The long-tailed tit or long-tailed bushtit (Aegithalos caudatus), occasionally referred to as the silver-throated tit or silver-throated dasher, is a common bird found throughout Europe and Asia. The genus name Aegithalos was a term used by Aristotle for some European tits, including the long-tailed tit.

Mountain wheatear

The mountain wheatear or mountain chat (Myrmecocichla monticola) is a small insectivorous passerine bird that is endemic to southwestern Africa.

Nik Borrow

Nik Borrow is a bird artist, ornithologist and tour leader.

He is co-author and illustrator of the Birds of Western Africa, in the Helm Identification Guides series (first published 2001), featuring over 1300 species and the first guide to cover all 23 West African countries. Birdwatch Magazine described the revised addition as "essential for anyone visiting western Africa".Borrow studied at Wimbledon School of Art.

Ornithological handbook

An ornithological handbook is a book (or series of books) giving summarised information either about the birds of a particular geographical area or a particular taxonomic group of birds. Some handbooks cover many aspects of their subjects' biology, whereas others focus on specific topics, particularly identification.

Red-throated thrush

The red-throated thrush (Turdus ruficollis) is a passerine bird in the thrush family. It is sometimes regarded as one subspecies of a polytypic species, "dark-throated thrush", black-throated thrush then being the other subspecies. More recent treatments regard the two as separate species. The scientific name comes from Latin. Turdus is "thrush" and the specific ruficollis is derived from rufus', "red", and collum, "neck".

The red-throated thrush is a migratory Asian species. Its range overlaps with the more westerly-breeding black-throated thrush. It is a large thrush with a plain grey back and reddish underwings. The adult male has a red throat. Females and young birds lack the bib, but have black-streaked underparts. This bird species is a very rare vagrant to western Europe.


The redwing (Turdus iliacus) is a bird in the thrush family, Turdidae, native to Europe and Asia, slightly smaller than the related song thrush.

Rusty-bellied shortwing

The rusty-bellied shortwing (Brachypteryx hyperythra) is a species of bird in the family Muscicapidae.

It is found in Yunnan, Northeast India and far northern Myanmar.

Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, subtropical or tropical moist montane forests, and subtropical or tropical moist shrubland. It is affected by habitat loss. Having turned out to be more common than previously believed, it is downlisted from Vulnerable to Near Threatened in the 2007 IUCN Red List.

Steve Madge

Steve Madge is a birder, author, and bird tour leader, based in Cornwall, England.He is a former member of the British Birds Rarities Committee. He is president of the Cornwall Birdwatching and Preservation Society.

He has written three volumes in the Helm Identification Guides series - on Wildfowl, Crows and Jays and Pheasants, Partridges & Grouse, and is co-author with Mark Beaman of The Handbook of Bird Identification.


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.