He was born in Helensburgh is Scotland in 1861. His father was an insurance broker.
After the war he met Beatrix Dobie who was exhibiting her work at the Canterbury Society of Arts Gallery. They formed the connection that would lead to her providing the illustrations for his book Tutira: the story of a New Zealand sheep station. His book, published in 1921, documented the impact of humans on New Zealand's environment in an easy reading, non-scientific yet accurate manner.
He documented the birdlife of New Zealand with photography. He was buried at Tutira, and his obituary appears in Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand 1868–1961 (Vol 70 1940–41)
- Tutira: the story of a New Zealand sheep station
- Birds of water, wood and waste
- Mutton birds and other birds
- Bird life on island and shore
- Sorrows and joys of a New Zealand naturalist
- New Zealand Birds – H. Guthrie-Smith
- Photographs by Guthrie-Smith in the collection of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
- Guthrie-Smith, William Herbert. Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.
- McLintoc, A. H. (1966). "GUTHRIE-SMITH, William Herbert, from An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand". www.teara.govt.nz. Retrieved 2017-10-11.
- Platts, Una. "Dobie, Beatrix (Mrs Vernon) 1887–c.1945". nzetc.victoria.ac.nz. Retrieved 2017-09-04.
- Guthrie-Smith, H. (1926). "Tutira: The Story of a New Zealand Sheep". nzetc.victoria.ac.nz. Retrieved 2017-10-11.
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