I will start this list by pointing out an annual column in Forbes of the 12 best books of the year about birds and birding (at least, I've found two years' worth of it, from 2017 and 2016) by GrrlScientist, an excellent science writer whom I follow on Medium. And here's her first such list, from 2014 (in the Guardian). I hope she carries on. These are good lists.
But back to mine. Here are some books not about birders (see list no. 1), but about birds themselves and about how to watch them. Lots of amazing, sometimes funny stories and great insight into our winged fellow creatures.
The Genius of Birds, by Jennifer Ackerman
A worldwide exploration into bird intelligence.
The Thing with Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal about Being Human, by Noah Strycker
Another examination of the bird brain, with insights into memory, relationships, game theory, and intelligence generally.
The Wonder of Birds: What They Tell Us about Ourselves, the World, and a Better Future, by Jim Robbins
Birds, Robbins posits, are our most vital connection to nature. They
compel us to look to the skies, both literally and metaphorically; draw
us out into nature to seek their beauty; and let us experience
vicariously what it is like to fly.
One Wild Bird at a Time: Portraits of Individual Lives, by Bernd Heinrich
Heinrich “looks closely, with his trademark ‘hands-and-knees science’ at
its most engaging, [delivering] what can only be called psychological
marvels of knowing” (Boston Globe). Any of Heinrich's many books about birds, especially on corvids (such as Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds), are worth reading.
Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans, by John Marzluff and Tony Angell (illustrations)
An in-depth look at these complex creatures and the traits and behaviors
we share, including language, delinquency, frolic, passion, wrath, risk
taking, and awareness.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology Handbook of Bird Biology, edited by Irby J. Lovette and John W. Fitzpatrick
Using examples drawn from birds
found in every corner of the globe, the Handbook covers all aspects of avian diversity, behavior, ecology, evolution, physiology, and conservation.
Sibley's Birding Basics: How to Identify Birds, Using the Clues in Feathers, Habitats, Behaviors, and Sounds
The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior
David Allen Sibley is the author of wonderful field guides to American birds, replete with his own illustrations. His guides to bird identification and bird behavior are perfect complements to the field guides.
Good Birders Don't Wear White: 50 Tips from North America's Top Birders, edited by Lisa A. White
Fifty fun essays from 2007 by the biggest names in birding, on topics ranging from bird snobs to cleaning binoculars, pishing and pelagic birding. There is also a sequel: Good Birders Still Don't Wear White: Passionate Birders Share the Joys of Watching Birds (2017).