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South America is a stunning region with a diversity of languages, cultures, terrains, climates, ecosystems, and especially, birds. It can be an overwhelming destination for many visiting birders, however, and a proper field guide to birds of South America is a must. Fortunately, Be Your Own Birder can offer personal insights of all the guides listed below, as each one has been on my bookshelf, held in my hands, and stuffed into my field bag, so each review offers practical and honest thoughts on different books. Check back regularly to see even more South America bird field guides, or contact me to request a review of a particular guide or to have your favorite added to the list!
Defining South America
The continent’s bold geography makes it easy to define South America as all the land south of the isthmus of Panama to the southern tips of Argentina and Chile. For the purposes of these reviews, field guides of Panama are not included in South America (see the listing of Mexico and Central America field guides instead), though some broader South America guides may include Panama within their geographic coverage.
As a whole, South America encompasses more than 6.8 million square miles (17.8 million square kilometers), with altitudes reaching from 344 feet below sea level at Laguna del Carbon to 22,837 feet high at the tip of Aconcagua, the world’s highest mountain outside of Asia. Furthermore, South America is home to five of the 10 most biodiverse countries in the world – Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela. More than 3,000 bird species call South America home – roughly one-third of the bird species in the world.
With such amazing diversity and an extraordinary extent of biomes, most South American field guides are country-specific in order to remain portable without sacrificing quality and coverage. Each guide below is a rich overview of the birds within the specified borders, and there are always more birds to be found in different regions, making multiple field guides a must for any birder in South America!
South America Field Guides
Click on field guide titles or images for purchase information through Amazon.com.