This coloring book is for the birds

Photo by Cynthia Robertson. Wendy Esterly shows off a copy of her new adult coloring book, “Coloring Southern California Birds.”

Coloring books, even for adults, are a dime a dozen these days. But as I write this, I keep looking at the new coloring book beside me. My fingers itch to shade in and pencil in color onto the birds in the new Coloring Southern California Birds by Wendy Esterly.

Several things stand out about this edition of Color and Learn series by Sunbelt Publishing in El Cajon. The drawings themselves are uncomplicated line drawings of birds that Esterly photographed in their natural surroundings. Created by a computer program, the designer for Sunbelt Publications created the drawings.

Each of the illustrations also have color pictures for reference in the back pages of the book. Those color pictures are actual photographs by Esterly.

However, the coloring book is not just kid’s play. It is a perfect way to learn about the world of birds.

Esterly combed through reaves of information about each individual bird to decide what should be included in the book about each bird’s habitat and behavior as well as something interesting about it.

Another stand-out for Coloring Southern California Birds is that after a page has been colored, it can be removed along the perforated lines from the book and framed as an art print.

An avid photographer and naturalist at Mission Trails Regional Park, Esterly has enjoyed birdwatching and photography as a pastime since she was a child.

“My folks would identify the birds who visited our yard.  During camping vacations, they would point out birds along the trails and those in our campsite.  Being aware of the birds around me as a youngster, contributed to my current interest,” she said.

She began taking photos about the same time, using a 35mm camera in the early 1970s. She now uses an SLR digital camera.

“With the availability of auto-focus SLR digital cameras and after purchasing one in 2003, it was easier to capture a clear bird image. Many times, it is a challenge to photograph a bird but that makes it fun. It is also a good way to get a second look at the bird and study its field marks,” Esterly said.

Esterly believes that it is a very good idea for children and adults to learn how to identify birds and their behavior.

“Knowing what habitat areas in your yard that the different birds prefer is important. Many birds will use the same habitat area for nesting and it is essential not to destroy it by pruning shrubs, plants or cutting down trees until after their nesting period, December through August. This will ensure species survival,” she said.

Esterly explained that learning about additional birds and where they live and nest will raise awareness for preserving habitats for all birds.

Even for herself, bird watching and photographing has widely benefitted Esterly in her personal life.

“Birding is enjoyable and a daily anticipation of what birds I will find or see that day. I find bird behavior fascinating,” she said, adding that she it was her goal to capture their personality through photography.

The idea for creating a Coloring Southern California Birds came about through Esterly’s volunteer responsibilities at MTRP. She was often responsible for creating an activity table for kids at the annual Mission Trails Park. She would create black and white drawings of birds and wildlife from her own images and provided color pictures as guides for the young colorists.

“Kids from pre-school to middle school age and even some high school kids would come to the table and color the line drawings.

Some adults asked if they could take a set of the line drawings home to color them,” she said.

When Westerly was approached about authoring the coloring book, she knew from her Mission Trails experience that birds were a favorite of all ages.

“I was excited about the challenge of creating the book with line drawings and adding additional information about the birds,” she said.

The most difficult challenge for Esterly in creating the book was choosing the 40 birds to be represented in the book.

“Southern California has approximately 522 species of birds. California has 673 with 450 commonly seen. My original list had 90 birds that I thought would be good for the book.

After a few elimination attempts, I had a list of 40 birds that I frequently see when birding,” she said.

One way that Esterly managed this task was to choose birds that were most commonly seen, even among suburban neighborhoods, parks and urban hiking trails.

The birds pictured are all easily recognizable in these areas.

Esterly loves all birds, but her favorite to observe are hummingbirds. Two types of hummers are included in the coloring book.

Some of Westerly’s favorite places to photograph birds, other than Mission Trails Park, include her own front and back yards, Santee Lakes, Lindo Lake, Robb Field and the San Diego River. She also heads out to Torrey Pines, the Ramona Grasslands, the mountains, and even the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park to capture images of birds.

The fact that Esterly has enjoyed coloring books ever since she was a youngster added to her pleasure and expertise of creating this lovely book.

It is one that all colorists or birders will gladly add to their collection. Esterly is graciously donating her author royalties to support the San Diego Natural History Museum, where she also volunteers with Canyoneers.

To purchase the book, go to,, or The book is also for sale at the gift shop at the MTRP Visitor Center.

This coloring book is for the birds