Book Review: Julie Zickefoose’s Baby Birds: An Artist Looks into a Nest

Hi all–It’s not often I am moved to write a book review but I wanted to share a most wonderful book with all of you. The links will take you to Julie Zickefoose’s blog and website where you can order a copy directly from her. If you are a bird lover, you will love this beautiful book by an amazing artist, naturalist and writer.

Baby Birds: An Artist Looks into the Nest

By Julie Zickefoose

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt


Back in 2005 when I started my blog I did a search for others focusing on art and nature in their blogs and that’s when I found the talented and indomitable Julie Zickefoose. Not only was she a naturalist and artist but she was a Leo married to a Pisces, something she noted on her About page. Guess what? So was I. This tickled me as much as her writing and I’ve followed her blog ever since. We both made the jump to Facebook about the same time and I’ve followed her there as well. If you also follow her, you know she always has something interesting to share, show or tell, day in and day out.

Zickefoose is not only a talented artist and blogger but a well-respected author, with several well received books already on national bookshelves. I saw her speak a few years back and she shared that she was working on a unique book that would integrate her drawings and paintings of baby birds with her observations and scientific notes. Many of us began to look forward to this book as she posted little hints and previews along the way over the next few years.

Finally, the book, Baby Birds: An Artist Looks into the Nest was published this spring. I got my copy almost immediately and sat right down to look through it.


Every morning for about a week I sat with my coffee and read a chapter through. Finally, I just read through the last third of the book without stopping. That’s how good and intriguing Zickefoose’s writing is.

Baby Birds chronicles the first few weeks of life in the nest. Zickefoose is a licensed wildlife rehabber so has permission to handle birds, including baby birds and she makes a point of being painstakingly careful when she does. She also makes a point of only handling and studying baby birds that are hatched in cavity nests, such as bird boxes, that are fully protected from potential predators. She reiterates often that she would not do this with open nesters or tree nesters such as robins and cardinals as it would jeopardize the nests and the baby birds.


While drawing and painting, Zickefoose also feeds and warms the tiny charges. She writes of how they grow, how they eat and how they are developing in a way that is both accurate and totally charming. As much of a scientist as she is; Zickefoose can’t help but share her love and affection for these vulnerable little birdlets throughout.


There is plenty of science and factual information to be had between the pages of this wonderful book but it is the magic and the love she sprinkles on every page that drew me in and kept me in. There is no doubt that each of these tiny birds was as precious as could be for her and when the time came to stand back and allow the little birds time and space to fledge, Zickefoose did so gracefully and gratefully. Her stories are totally captivating as are her subjects.


As for the art? Perfectly lovely and charming as well as painstakingly accurate. You will find yourself looking at the illustrations over and over and over again. There is far too much to take in with just a cursory look. These are drawings and paintings to be enjoyed on many levels and over time. I loved all the drawings and paintings but especially loved the one of Zickefoose’s daughter, Phoebe, pondering a phoebe…


This is a book to be treasured and looked at again and again. It is a perfect gift for any bird lover but I think this book would have been my absolute favorite when I was a young wannabe artist and ornithologist, so don’t forget the young people you know. It may seem dense with information for a young person but I would have returned to this book until the pages were worn and fuzzy when I was kid. I would have loved everything about it. Oh wait, I love everything about it now, too.

I have heard Zickefoose speak on several occasions and also traveled to South Africa with her and a group of birders last fall so I will admit I was a fan long before I read the book. Still, I wouldn’t say it was great if I really didn’t think so. I would just say nothing at all. As you can see, I had plenty to say 😉

If you wish to purchase the book you can purchase directly from Julie Zickefoose from her website. Yes, it is cheaper on Amazon but if you buy from her, she makes more money and you get to support a real live person, not a business machine.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Julie Zickefoose’s Baby Birds: An Artist Looks into a Nest

  1. Ahh Mary, you’re a gift. I feel undeserving of such praise, but one thing about your wonderful review does hit home…I try to imagine having this book when I was a budding naturalist and birder, and know it would have been hugely influential. So if it can inspire kids to make their own observations, to stick with nature and watch until they learn something, then keep watching, that is a high purpose. Thank you so much for your lavish appreciation. I DID work with some open cup nesters: house finches, cardinals and indigo buntings, verrry carefully.

  2. I knew you worked with a few of those open cup nesters but your ways of doing so were so careful and precise. I just didn’t want to encourage people to walk up and peer into random nests just for the heck of it. Anyway, it is a wonderful book, a work that will remain in many libraries, I’m sure, for many years to come. And, you’re more than deserving of the praise.

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