Recommended Field Guides and other Reference Materials for Queen’s University Biological Station Users

Posted by Mark Andrew Conboy

With thousands of species of plants, fungi and animals at QUBS, putting names to the organisms encountered at the station can be a daunting task. Correctly identifying the organisms we come across in the field is the first essential step to understanding the diversity of nature around us. You need excellent field guides in order to do that. I am constantly asked about which field guides are the best ones for researchers to bring to QUBS. The following list is comprised of the books and other documents I most highly recommend for a broad range of taxonomic groups. In addition I have included a few other useful reference materials such as checklists, websites and dichotomous keys. For lists of species which occur at QUBS see our website.

•    Sibley Field Guide to Birds by David Allen Sibley
•    Identification Guide to North American Birds: Part 1: Columbidae to Ploceidae by Peter Pyle
•    Peterson Field Guide to Birds’ Nests by Hal H. Harrison
•    A Field Guide to Nests, Eggs and Nestlings of North American Birds by Colin Harrison

•    Mammals of the Great Lakes Region by Allen Kurta

•    ROM Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes of Ontario by Erling Holm, Nicholas E. Mandrak and Mary E. Burridge

Reptiles and Amphibians
•    ROM Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Ontario by Ross D. MacCulloch

Insects (General)
•    Insects: Their Natural History and Diversity by Stephen A. Marshall
•    Bug Guide

Butterflies and Moths
•    The Butterflies of Canada by Ross A. Layberry, Peter W. Hall and J. Donald Lafontaine
•    Le Guide de Papillons du Quebec by Louis Handfield
•    Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America by David Beadle and Seabrookie Leckie
•    Caterpillars of Eastern North America by David L. Wagner

Damselflies and Dragonflies
•    Damselflies of the Northeast by Ed Lam
•    Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Algonquin Provincial Park and the Surrounding Area by Colin D. Jones, Andrea Kingsley, Peter Burke and Matt Holder
•    Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East by Dennis Paulson

•    Field Guide to Grasshoppers, Katydids and Crickets of the United States by John L. Capinera, Ralph D. Scott and Thomas J. Walker

•    Field Guide to Northeastern Longhorn Beetles (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae) by Douglas Yanega
•    A Field Guide to the Tiger Beetles of the United States and Canada: Identification, Natural History, and Distribution of the Cicindelidae by David L. Pearson

•    Ants of North America: A Guide to the Genera by Brian L. Fisher
•    The Bumble Bees of Algonquin Provincial Park: A Field Guide by Nathan G. Miller

•    Spiders of Ontario: A Guide to the Identification of Common Species.

Millipedes and Centipedes
•    Illustrated Keys to the Families of Terrestrial Arthropods of Canada: 1. Myriapods by D.K. McE. Kevan and G.G.E. Scudder

•    Ontario Crayfish by Bishops Mills Natural History Centre, Ontario Nature and the Metro Toronto Zoo

•    Identifying Land Snails and Slugs in Canada: Introduced Species and Native Genera by F. Wayne Grimm, Robert G. Forsyth, Frederick W. Schueler and Aleta Karstad
•    The Freshwater Molluscs of Canada by Arthur H. Clarke
•    Photo Field Guide to the Freshwater Mussels of Ontario by Janice Metcalfe-Smith, Alistair MacKenzie, Ian Carmichael and Daryl McGoldrick

Animal Tracks
•    Peterson Field Guide to Animal Tracks by Olaus J. Murie

Plants (General)
•    Plants of the Kingston Region: 1996 by A. Crowder, K.E.J. Topping and J.C. Topping
•    Update of Plants of the Kingston Region: 1996 by A. Crowder

•    Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide by Lawrence Newcomb

Trees and Shrubs
•    Trees in Canada by John Laird Farrar
•    Shrubs of Ontario by James H. Soper and Margaret L. Heimburger

•    Ferns and Fern Allies of Canada by William J. Cody and Donald M. Britton
•    Annotated Key to the Ferns of the Kingston Region, Ontario, with Special Reference to Occurrences in the Vicinity of Lake Opinicon by Jim S. Pringle.

•    Mushrooms of Ontario and Eastern Canada by George Barron
•    Field Guide to North American Truffles by Matt Trape, Frank Evans and James Trappe

•    Lichens of North America by Irwin M. Brodo, Sylvia Duran Sharnoff and Stephen Sharnoff


4 thoughts on “Recommended Field Guides and other Reference Materials for Queen’s University Biological Station Users”

  1. Thank you so much for this extraordinary list! It’s very much appreciated. One field guide that’s been incredibly helpful to me through the years is The Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Birds. We have an older version which I prefer over the larger, more recent version, but I’m sure the info is almost the same. I love the clean illustrations & the concept of the arrows pointing out unique characteristics. Probably my favourite field guide. I’ve been waiting for the Peterson Field Guide to Northeastern Moths & I’m so glad to see it’s been released. Definitely be getting that one!

    I also use the ROM Field Guide to Reptiles & Amphibians quite a bit & it’s been VERY helpful. I do find some colour variation in our area at times that’s not included (for instance, milk snakes). I tend to supplement it with the thin, but good, ‘Reptiles & Amphibians of Algonquin Provincial Park’. Algonquin has so many of these inexpensive field guides that have beautiful pictures & enjoyable descriptions. Only a certain number of species in each one, but interesting for children, beginners & experts alike. We take some camping each year – saves space! I’m sure you’re familiar with them. I also bought the (full) book Dragonflies & Damselflies of Algonquin Park last year & I can’t believe how much I’ve learned from it. What a nice field guide!

    Other guides I tend to use are: ‘The Audobon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies’, ‘The Audobon Society Field Guide to North American Mammals’, ‘Forest Plants of Central Ontario’, the classic ‘Trees Shrubs & Flowers to know in Ontario (McKay & Catling, 1979) & the small, but surprisingly helpful Golden Guide ‘Spiders and Their Kin’. This list would be incomplete without the fun-to-read ‘Up North’ & ‘Up North Again’ books that have more in-depth info on Ontario ‘flora & fauna’. I pick these up regularly & I wish everyone could have them!

    One guide I’d very much love to see is The Field Guide to Ontario (& Canada) Species at Risk. That would be truly amazing.

    Thanks again for the list! It’s great to have & I’m sure I’ll be referring to it in the near future.

    1. I also really like the “Up North” books which are now available as a single volume called “The Complete Up North”. Another great general natural history book that has just come out that covers Eastern and Central Ontario’s flora and fauna very well is “Natural History” by Mike Runtz. As far as I know its only for sale at Carleton University’s campus bookstore.

      Thanks for bringing up the Golden Guide to Spiders and Their Kin by Herbert W. Levi et al. I should have included it in the list – I too have found it to be very helpful.

  2. Great list! I absolutely love Stephen Marshall’s “Insects: Their Natural History and Diversity”. It’s too big to carry around in the field … but I carry it around anyway in my backpack!

    I read Tammy Mayer’s suggestion that someone should make a field guide to Ontario’s species at risk. So I made one :)

    I made an online “field guide” in Encyclopedia of Life featuring Ontario’s Species at Risk. Someone else (Steve Dinka) had already made a list of the species listed by Ontario’s Min of Natural Resources as at risk (current version at I pretty much just pushed the field guide button. I just learned about EOL’s field guide site yesterday, so this was a good excuse for me to try it out. The guide is at:


    1. I’m so sorry for the long delay in my reply. Oh my goodness, Jay, I am truly touched & amazed that you actually followed through on my “wish” for a Field Guide to Ontario Species at Risk! It’s so good & it’s obvious you put a lot of work into it. Thanks, Jay. :) I’ll certainly be referring to it.

      Thanks for the reply too, Mark. I’ll be on the look-out for the Michael Runtz book. I wasn’t aware he’d put out a book that was more of a field guide. Pictures should be nice. I have seen the “Complete Up North” compilation & it’s great to be able to get the two in one. I must admit though, I’m really partial to the originals; I find the illustrations, font & paper significantly more appealing. It’s good to have any version of it, though. Nice to hear you enjoyed Spiders and Their Kin. :) Again, thanks for this great list.

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