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Birding Basics
2 years ago

Building Skills

 



Eastern Bluebird

New York State Bird -  Eastern Bluebird

 

Source of Photograph.....


http://www.birdzilla.com/state-based-information/new_york-2093.html


With more than 800 species of birds in the U.S. and Canada, it’s easy for a beginning bird watcher to feel overwhelmed by possibilities. Field guides seem crammed with similar-looking birds arranged in seemingly haphazard order. We can help you figure out where to begin.


     Please stay tuned for the next installment.....

2 years ago

 

First off: where not to start. Many ID tips focus on very specific details of plumage called field marks - the eyering of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet; the double breast band of a Killdeer. While these tips are useful, they assume you’ve already narrowed down your search to just a few similar species.

 

 

So start by learning to quickly recognize what group a mystery bird belongs to. You do this in two ways: by becoming familiar with the general shape, color, and behavior of birds, and by keeping a running tally in your head of what kinds of birds are most likely to be seen in your location and time of year.

2 years ago

Of course you’ll need to look at field marks – a wingbar here, an eyering there – to clinch some IDs. But these four keys will quickly get you to the right group of species, so you’ll know exactly which field marks to look for.

 

Put the four keys into practice

 

Bird watchers can identify many species from just a quick look. They’re using the four keys to visual identification, rather than taking the bird apart into field marks.

2 years ago
Black-capped Chickadee
Black-capped Chickadee

 

Size & Shape

 

Tiny bird with large head, plump body, narrow tail, and short bill

 

Color Pattern

 

Striking shiny black cap and throat against white cheeks. Buffy sides; wings and back soft gray

 

Behavior

 

Busy, acrobatic, and often in feeding flocks of several species

 

Habitat

 

Forests, woodlots, backyards, and shrubby areas; in the West, associated with deciduous trees


2 years ago
Blue Jay
Blue Jay

 

Size & Shape

 

A large, bold songbird with a straight bill and triangular crest

 

Color Pattern

 

Bright, almost sparkling blue above, with a black necklace and gray-white underparts

 

Behavior

 

Inquisitively explores woodlands and yards, moves in long hops; piercing calls

 

Habitat

 

Forest edge, woodlands, urban and suburban parks and yards

2 years ago
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Size & Shape

 

Sleek, round-headed, without the blocky outlines of Hairy Woodpecker

 

Color Pattern

 

Pale overall, even the boldly black-and-white striped back, with flashing red cap and nape

 

Behavior

 

Hitches along branches and trunks of medium to large trees, picking at bark more often than drilling into it

 

Habitat

 

Eastern woodlands and forests

2 years ago
Chipping Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow

 

Size & Shape

 

A small, compact, fairly flat-headed sparrow with a long, notched tail

 

Color Pattern

 

Crisp, frosty gray-white below, striking rufous cap with black line through eye

 

Behavior

 

Often in flocks; feeds on open ground, sings from high in trees, often evergreens

 

Habitat

 

Open woodlands, forests with grassy clearings, parks, roadsides, yards

 

2 years ago
House Wren
House Wren

 

Size & Shape

 

Small, compact, flat-headed, with a long, curved bill and fairly long narrow tail

Color Pattern

Subdued brown with paler throat and underparts, darker-barred wings and tail

 

Behavior

 

Hops quickly through tangles and low branches; sings frequently

 

Habitat

 

Forest edges, thickets, overgrown parts of yards and parks


2 years ago
Western Scrub-Jay
Western Scrub-Jay


Size & Shape

 

A lanky bird with long, floppy tail and a rounded head without crest

 

Color Pattern

 

Blue and gray above, with a pale underside broken up by a blue necklace

 

Behavior

 

Assertive, vocal, and inquisitive; in flight seems underpowered and slow

 

Habitat

 

Scrubby habitats of the West: oak woodlands and chaparral near the coast and pinyon-juniper woodlands of the interior

2 years ago
Killdeer
Killdeer

 

Size & Shape

 

 

A large plover with large bill, large eye, and round head; long legs

 

Color Pattern

 

Golden brown above with two dark bands across the white breast

 

Behavior

 

Runs swiftly along ground or breaks into stiff-winged flight with shrill kill-deer call

 

Habitat

 

Open grassy and rocky areas, often far from water, including parking lots, lawns, and driveways

 

2 years ago
Cedar Waxwing
Cedar Waxwing

 

Size & Shape

 

A sleek songbird with a swept-back crest, plump body and square-tipped tail

 

Color Pattern

 

Silky gray-brown, with yellow belly and red and yellow accents on wings and tail

 

Behavior

 

Often in large flocks, eating berries or catching insects over open water, giving high trilling call

 

Habitat

 

Woodlands, orchards, parks, and treed suburbs

 

2 years ago
  • Keys to Identification


Size & Shape


Color Pattern


Behavior


Habitat


Field Marks


Songs & Calls

 

 

2 years ago

Birds are built for what they do.


Every part of the bird you're looking at is a clue to what it is.

 

The combination of size and shape is one of the most powerful tools to identification. Though you may be drawn to watching birds because of their wonderful colors or fascinating behavior, when it comes to making identifications, size and shape are the first pieces of information you should examine.

2 years ago

With just a little practice and observation, you'll find that differences in size and shape will jump out at you. The first steps are to learn typical bird silhouettes, find reliable ways to gauge the size of a bird, and notice differences in telltale parts of a bird such as the bill, wings, and tail.

 

 

Soon, you'll know the difference between Red-winged Blackbirds and European Starlings while they're still in flight, and be able to identify a Red-tailed Hawk or Turkey Vulture without taking your eyes off the road.

2 years ago
Become familiar with silhouettes

 

Often you don't need to see any color at all to know what kind of bird you're looking at. Silhouettes quickly tell you a bird's size, proportions, and posture, and quickly rule out many groups of birds – even ones of nearly identical overall size. Practice the silhouettes in the carousel at right.

2 years ago

Silhouettes are so useful because they help with the first step in any identification: deciding what kind of bird you’ve got. Once that’s done, you’ve narrowed down your choices to one small section of your field guide.

2 years ago

 

Beginning bird watchers often get sidetracked by a bird’s bright colors, only to be frustrated when they search through their field guide. Finches, for example, can be red, yellow, blue, brown, or green – but they’re always shaped like finches. Learn silhouettes, and you’ll always be close to an ID.

2 years ago
Judge size against birds you know well

 

 

Size is trickier to judge than shape. You never know how far away a bird is or how big that nearby rock or tree limb really is. Throw in fluffed-up or hunkered-down birds and it's easy to get fooled. But with a few tricks, you can still use size as an ID key.

2 years ago

Compare your mystery bird to a bird you know well. It helps just to know that your bird is larger or smaller than a sparrow, a robin, or a crow, and it may help you choose between two similar species, such as Downy and Hairy woodpeckers or Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks.

2 years ago
Silhouettes


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Great Blue Heron

 

A classic silhouette: long, spear-like bill, elegant S-shaped neck, long legs.

2 years ago
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Great Blue Heron
2 years ago
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Green Heron

2 years ago
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Red-headed Woodpecker
2 years ago
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American Robin
2 years ago
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American Tree Sparrow
2 years ago
  • Familiar Birds, American Goldfinch, Evening Grosbeak

  • Sizing Up Finches

  • Size can sometimes help with similarly colored birds. A yellow-and-black finch that's smaller than a House Sparrow is probably an American Goldfinch. Evening Grosbeaks have similar colors, but they're almost the size of a robin.

2 years ago
Familiar Birds, Downy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker


Woodpeckers: Small, Medium, or Large?



Woodpeckers range in size from the big-as-a-crow Pileated Woodpecker to the Downy Woodpecker, which is barely larger than a sparrow.

2 years ago
Familiar Birds, Cedar Waxwing, Blue Jay

Filling in the Gaps


Sometimes you need two reference birds for comparison. A Cedar Waxwing is bigger than a sparrow but smaller than a robin. A Blue Jay is larger than a robin but smaller than a crow.

2 years ago
Judge against birds in the same field of view



Your estimate of size gets much more accurate if you can compare one bird directly against another. When you find groups of different species, you can use the ones you recognize to sort out the ones you don’t.

2 years ago
Group of birds, species 1, species 2, species 3


Benchmark Birds




As soon as you’ve learned to recognize a few familiar birds, you can start using their sizes to measure birds you don’t know. These three common shorebirds – the colorful Ruddy Turnstone, tall Willet, and tiny Sanderling – are a great place to start.

2 years ago

For instance, if you're looking at a gull you don't recognize, it’s a start to notice that it’s larger than a more familiar bird, such as a Ring-billed Gull, that's standing right next to it. For some groups of birds, including shorebirds, seabirds, and waterfowl, using a known bird as a ruler is a crucial identification technique.

2 years ago
Group of birds, species 1, species 2, species 3


Stand Out in a Crowd



Use size and shape to find the full range of species hiding in a large flock. Amid all these orange-billed Royal Terns are a handful of much smaller Sandwich Terns. If you keep looking, you’ll also notice a giant Herring Gull in the background, as well as several smaller Laughing Gulls to the right and behind it.

2 years ago
Group of birds, species 1, species 2, species 3


Line Up the Usual Suspects



A mixed group of gulls can be a real advantage when you’re making identifications. Here, the enormous Great Black-backed Gulls make the few Herring Gulls behind them seem almost dainty. You almost don’t even notice the rarity, a tiny Black-headed Gull from Europe, down in the front row.

2 years ago
Group of birds, species 1, species 2, species 3


Size and Shape in Flight



Size and shape can be very useful for birds in flight, even for large, unruly flocks. Grackles, blackbirds, cowbirds, and starlings often flock together, but you can learn to tell them apart quickly. In this photo, look for short-tailed, sharp-winged European Starlings among the large, long-tailed Common Grackles.



Image © Robert Baker/PFW

2 years ago
Apply your size & shape skills to the parts of a bird




After you've taken note of a bird's overall size and shape, there's still plenty of room to hone your identification. Turn your attention to the size and shape of individual body parts. Here you'll find clues to how the bird lives its life: what it eats, how it flies, and where it lives.

2 years ago

Start with the bill – that all-purpose tool that functions as a bird's hands, pliers, knitting needles, knife-and-fork, and bullhorn. A flycatcher's broad, flat, bug-snatching bill looks very different from the thick, conical nut-smasher of a finch. Notice the slightly downcurved bills of the Northern Flickers in your backyard. That's an unusual shape for a woodpecker's bill, but perfect for a bird that digs into the ground after ants, as flickers often do.

2 years ago

Bills are an invaluable clue to identification – but tail shape and wing shape are important, too. Even subtle differences in head shape, neck length, and body shape can all yield useful insights if you study them carefully.

2 years ago

Noticing details like these can help you avoid classic identification mistakes. An Ovenbird is a common eastern warbler that has tricked many a bird watcher into thinking it's a thrush. The field marks are certainly thrush-like: warm brown above, strongly streaked below; even a crisp white eyering. But look at overall shape and size rather than field marks, and you'll see the body plan of a warbler: plump, compact body, short tail and wings, thin, pointed, insect-grabbing bill.

2 years ago
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Pelican



Let’s start with an easy one. The pelican’s nearly foot-long fish net of a bill is a good reminder of the dazzling variety of bill shapes in the bird world.


2 years ago
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Hummingbird



Hummingbirds use their long, slender, sometimes curved bills to get at nectar hidden deep inside flowers.


2 years ago
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Pigeon



Pigeons have surprisingly short bills for such large birds. They mainly use them for picking up small seeds and swallowing them whole.



2 years ago
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Woodpecker



Most woodpecker bills are straight, strong, and sharp, helping the birds drill into wood and pry apart bark.

2 years ago
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Woodpecker



Northern Flickers have unusual bills for woodpeckers. Their slightly arched bills help them dig into the ground after ants, a major food source.

2 years ago
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Chickadee



Chickadee bills are short, stubby all-purpose tools used for delving into crevices and cones, catching insects, and hammering at seeds.


2 years ago
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Nuthatch


Though nuthatches are similar in size to chickadees, their bills are much longer and more pointed – better for prying and pecking.

2 years ago
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Wren


Wren bills are long, very slender, and often slightly curved.

2 years ago
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Flycatcher



Flycatchers have broad, flat bills surrounded by bristle-like feathers that help them catch insects on the wing.

2 years ago
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Thrush

Thrush bills are straight and pointed, used for catching insects or plucking berries.

2 years ago
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Thrasher


Thrashers have long bills that can be strongly curved. They use them to flick aside leaves in the understory looking for insects.

2 years ago
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Shrike



Shrikes are remarkable songbirds that catch lizards, insects, and small mammals. Their strongly hooked bills reflect their carnivorous lifestyle.



2 years ago
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Vireo



Vireos are small birds seen among leaves and tree branches. They often look like warblers, but their bills are thicker and very slightly hooked.



2 years ago
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Warbler



Warblers have straight, slender, pointed bills that they use to grab caterpillars and other insects from leaves and branches.

2 years ago
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Sparrow



Any bird with a short, thick-based, conical bill spends a lot of its time cracking and eating seeds. Sparrows have moderately sized seed-eating bills.


2 years ago
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Finches



Finches have conical, seed-cracking bills of many sizes. Notice how this siskin’s bill is longer and more slender than the goldfinch’s behind it.


1 year ago
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Grosbeak



Grosbeaks have extremely heavy and powerful beaks that make short work of hard-shelled seeds. They are famous among bird banders for giving painful bites.


1 year ago
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Crossbill



Crossbills slip their curious-shaped bills into closed pine cones. As the bird opens its bill, the tips pry apart the cone’s scales, allowing the tongue to dart out and grab a seed.


1 year ago
Measure the bird against itself


This is the most powerful way to use a bird's size for identification. It's hard to judge a lone bird's size, and an unusual posture can make shape hard to interpret. But you can always measure key body parts – wings, bill, tail, legs – against the bird itself.

1 year ago

Look for details like how long the bird’s bill is relative to the head – a great way to tell apart Downy and Hairy woodpeckers as well as Greater and Lesser yellowlegs, but useful with other confusing species, too. Judging how big the head is compared to the rest of the body helps with separating Cooper’s Hawks from Sharp-shinned Hawks in flight.

1 year ago

Get in the habit of using the bird itself as a ruler, and you’ll be amazed at how much information you can glean from each view. Good places to start include noting how long the legs are; how long the neck is; how far the tail extends past the body; and how far the primary feathers of the wing end along the tail (or past the tail).

1 year ago

  • Comparison of downy woodpecker and hairy woodpecker beaks

  • Beak Size: Extra Large or Extra Small?

  • Downy and Hairy woodpeckers have almost identical markings and occur in many of the same habitats. One of the best ways to tell them apart is to judge the length of the bill compared to the head. The Downy Woodpecker's is on the small side, measuring only about half the length of its head. The Hairy's is long and sturdy, about the same length as the head.

1 year ago
Comparison of hawks


Head and Shoulders



The two common accipiters of North America, Sharp-shinned and Cooper's hawks, are difficult to tell apart in the field. One useful trait is the size of the head compared with the rest of the body. The Sharp-shinned Hawk has a small head that barely protrudes ahead of the wings. The somewhat larger Cooper's Hawk has a much more prominent head.



1 year ago

Color Pattern



Every bird you see is in your field guide somewhere.


Focus on patterns instead of trying to match every feather

1 year ago

A picture – even a fleeting glimpse – can be worth a thousand words. As soon as you spot a bird, your eyes take in the overall pattern of light and dark. And if the light allows, you’ll probably glimpse the main colors as well. This is all you need to start your identification.

1 year ago

Use these quick glimpses to build a hunch about what your mystery bird is, even if you just saw it flash across a path and vanish into the underbrush. Then, if the bird is kind enough to hop back into view, you’ll know what else to look for to settle the identification.

1 year ago

Imagine a walk through a western forest, for example: A small, bright-yellow bird flits into the understory. Yellow immediately suggests a warbler (or the larger Western Tanager). Did you pick up a hint of grayness to the head? Or perhaps some glossy black? Just noticing that much can put you on track to identifying either a MacGillivray’s Warbler or a Wilson’s Warbler.

1 year ago

Some birds have very fine differences that take practice even to see at all. But don't start looking for those details until you’ve used overall patterns to let the bird remind you what it is. Read on for a few tips about noticing patches of light and dark, the boldness of a bird's markings, and making the most of outrageous colors.

1 year ago
Light and Dark



When you’re trying to make an ID, focus on overall color pattern instead of matching every detail to the pictures in your field guide. Remember that birds molt and their feathers wear. Their appearance can vary if the bird is old or young, or by how well it had been eating last time it molted. And of course, the light the bird is sitting in can have a huge effect on the colors you see.

1 year ago

At a distance and in very quick sightings, colors fade and all that’s left are light and dark. It helps to familiarize yourself with common patterns. For example, American White Pelicans are large white birds with black trailing edges to their wings. Snow Geese are similarly shaped and colored, but the black in their wings is confined to the wingtips.

1 year ago

Ring-necked Ducks and scaup are dark ducks with a pale patch on the side; Northern Shovelers are the opposite: light-bodied ducks with a dark patch on the side. Many birds are dark above and pale below – a widespread pattern in the animal world that helps avoid notice by predators. By reversing this pattern, male Bobolinks, with their dark underparts and light backs, look conspicuous even from all the way across a field.

1 year ago

Other birds seem to be trying to call attention to themselves by wearing bright patches of color in prominent places. Male Red-winged Blackbirds use their vivid shoulder patches to intimidate their rivals (notice how they cover up the patches when sneaking around off their territory). American Redstarts flick bright orange patches in their wings and tail, perhaps to scare insects out of their hiding places.

1 year ago

Many birds, including Dark-eyed Juncos, Spotted and Eastern towhees, American Robins, and several hummingbirds, flash white in the tail when they fly, possibly as a way of confusing predators. White flashes in the wings are common, too: look for them in Northern Mockingbirds, Acorn, Golden-fronted, and Red-bellied woodpeckers, Common and Lesser nighthawks, and Phainopeplas.

1 year ago
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Harlequin Ducks

Male Harlequin Ducks are so strongly patterned that it's very difficult to mistake them for anything else.

1 year ago
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Northern Harrier

Even with a brief view of a flying bird, color patterns can lead you to an ID. Northern Harriers always show this conspicuous white rump patch.


1 year ago
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Dark-eyed Junco



The white outer tail feathers on this little forest sparrow flash into view when the bird flies.



1 year ago
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Vesper Sparrow



Sparrows are some of the toughest birds to identify in North America. But notice that warm rufous patch on the shoulder and you know you have a Vesper Sparrow.


1 year ago
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Ring-necked Duck



Patterns are really important for ducks, because you're often looking at them from a long way off. Ring-necked Ducks are dark at both ends and on the back, but pale in the middle.


1 year ago
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Northern Shoveler



Northern Shovelers have the opposite pattern from Ring-necked Ducks. Their bodies are dark in the middle with white patches at both ends – a pattern that remains visible even when you're too far away to see any color.



1 year ago
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Rough-legged Hawk



Just like with ducks, you're often looking at raptors from a long way off. The pale flight feathers and base of tail and the dark "wrist" patches, belly patch, and tip of tail combine for a pattern unique to the Rough-legged Hawk.



1 year ago

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Rough-legged Hawk


Just like with ducks, you're often looking at raptors from a long way off. The pale flight feathers and base of tail and the dark "wrist" patches, belly patch, and tip of tail combine for a pattern unique to the Rough-legged Hawk.


Image © Bill Corwin

1 year ago

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Snow Goose

Many birds are white with black wingtips. In Snow Geese, just the outer half of the wing is black.

1 year ago
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American White Pelican

White pelicans often soar so high up that details are hard to make out. But you can still see that their flight feathers are black almost the whole length of the wing.

1 year ago

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Auks at Sea


It's hard to see details on tiny birds bobbing on the open ocean. But again, the pattern of light and dark may be all you need. Black Guillemots are dark with big white wing patches. Atlantic Puffins have bright faces, whereas Razorbills have all-dark heads. The tiny Ancient Murrelet has a broad white stripe along its neck and a white-tipped bill.


Image © John Schmitt

1 year ago
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Auks in the Fog

Here's a chance to practice. How many auk species can you identify on this foggy Maine island? Answer: Most are Razorbills – dark headed with a neat white line all the way across the wing. Some very similar Common Murres are mixed in: more slender bills, with white smudges on the wing instead of a neat line. And if you look closely you'll see a few birds with bright white faces: Atlantic Puffins.

1 year ago

Bold and Faint


There are some confusing bird species that sit side by side in your field guide, wearing what seems like the exact same markings and defying you to identify them. Experienced birders can find clues to these tricky identifications by noticing how boldly or finely patterned their bird is. These differences can take a trained eye to detect, but the good news is that there's a great trial case right outside at your backyard feeder.

1 year ago

House Finches are common backyard birds across most of North America. Much of the continent also gets visits from the very similar Purple Finch. Males of the two species are red on the head and chest and brown and streaky elsewhere. The females are both brown and streaky. So how do you tell them apart? Look at how strongly they're marked.

1 year ago

Male House Finches tend to be boldly streaked down the flanks, whereas male Purple Finches are much paler and more diffusely streaked. Even the red is more distinct, and more confined to the head and breast, in a male House Finch. Male Purple Finches look washed all over, even on the back, in a paler raspberry red.

1 year ago

The all-brown females of these two species are an even better way to build your skills. The streaks on female House Finches are indistinct, brown on brown, with little actual white showing through. If a female Purple Finch lands next to it, she'll stand out with crisply defined brown streaks against a white background, particularly on the head.

1 year ago

Once you’ve had some practice, these small differences can be very useful. Similar degrees in marking can be seen between the coarsely marked Song Sparrow and finely painted Lincoln’s Sparrow, and between immature Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks.

1 year ago
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Female House Finch

Female House Finches are covered in blurry, grayish brown streaks. There's little contrast between the streaks and the background color.

1 year ago
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Female Purple Finch

Female Purple Finches have similar size, shape, and streakiness as female House Finches. But the streaks are a much more crisply defined brown on white. Overall, the patterns of these two species are quite distinct.

1 year ago
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Immature Cooper's Hawk

Young Cooper's and Sharp-shinned hawks are extremely similar. In Cooper's Hawks, the brown streaking on the underparts tends to be narrower and more delicate.

1 year ago
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Immature Sharp-shinned Hawk

In comparison, the streaking on young Sharp-shinned Hawks tends to be broader and blurrier.

1 year ago

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Song Sparrow

The common and widespread Song Sparrow is variable across its range, but usually has a russet- and gray-striped head and bold streaks on the chest and flanks. Overall, the markings are fairly coarse.

1 year ago
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    Lincoln's Sparrow

    Lincoln's Sparrows look quite similar to Song Sparrows - but notice the crisper markings. The breast streaks are finer; the facial stripes more crisply defined.

1 year ago

Outrageous Color



Some birds flash by in such splendid color that they can only be one of a very few things.

1 year ago

These are some of the gratuitous pleasures of being a bird watcher: a blazing-orange male oriole; a scarlet cardinal or tanager; a Mountain Bluebird as pale as a winter sky. All-out assaults on your eyes like the Painted Bunting and Green Jay, or a Gulf Coast oak tree dripping with spring warblers.

1 year ago

Colors like these are high on the list of reasons many of us started bird watching – you probably don’t need a tip from us to notice them. But we do encourage you to use those colors for a near-instant identification. Then sit back and enjoy the view.

1 year ago

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Vermilion Flycatcher
1 year ago

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Rose-breasted Grosbeak
1 year ago

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Hooded Oriole

1 year ago

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American Goldfinch

1 year ago

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Cape May Warbler

1 year ago

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Western Tanager

1 year ago

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Mountain Bluebird

1 year ago

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Painted Bunting

1 year ago
11 months ago
11 months ago

Behavior

11 months ago

There’s what birds wear, and then there’s how they wear it.
A bird’s attitude goes a long way in identification.

11 months ago

Bird species don’t just look unique, they have unique ways of acting, moving, sitting, and flying. When you learn these habits, you can recognize many birds the same way you notice a friend walking through a crowd of strangers.

10 months ago

Chances are, you’ll never see a Cedar Waxwing poking through the underbrush for seeds – or a Wood Thrush zigzagging over a summer pond catching insects. But similar-sized birds such as towhees and swallows do this all the time. Behavior is one key way these birds differ.

10 months ago

Because so much of a bird’s identity is evident in how it acts, behavior can lead you to an ID in the blink of an eye, in bad light, or from a quarter-mile away. Before you even pick up your binoculars, notice how your bird is sitting, how it’s feeding or moving, whether it’s in a flock, and if it has any nervous habits like flicking its wings or bobbing its tail.

10 months ago

And remember that to get good at recognizing birds by their behavior, you must spend time watching them. It’s tempting to put down your binoculars and grab your field guide as soon as you see a field mark. Or, after identifying a common bird, you might feel rushed to move on and find something more unusual. Resist these urges. Relax, and watch the bird for as long as it will let you. This is how you become used to the way a bird acts, how you discover it doing something new – and let’s face it, it’s probably why you went out bird watching in the first place.

10 months ago

Posture



The most basic aspect of behavior is posture, or how a bird presents itself. You can learn to distinguish many similarly proportioned birds just from the poses they assume. It’s a skill that includes recognizing a bird’s size and shape, and adds in the impression of the bird’s habits and attitude.

9 months ago

For example, in fall the small, drab green Pine Warbler looks similar to the Acadian Flycatcher, right down to the two wingbars and the straight bill. 

9 months ago

But you’re unlikely to confuse the two because their postures are so different. 

9 months ago

Pine Warblers hold their bodies horizontally and often seem to crouch. Flycatchers sit straight up and down, staying on alert for passing insects.

9 months ago

Horizontal versus vertical posture is the first step. Next, get an impression of the bird: Does it seem inquisitive like a chickadee or placid, like a thrush?

8 months ago

 Does it lean forward, ready for mischief, like a crow? Or is it assertive and stiff, like a robin? Do the bird’s eyes dart around after targets, like a flycatcher – or methodically scan the foliage like a vireo?

8 months ago

Is the bird constantly on alert, like a finch in the open? Nervous and skittish like a kinglet?

8 months ago

Oriole



Oriole



Long, slender birds that tend to perch horizontally.

8 months ago

Mallard



Mallard


Dabbling ducks like the Mallard are plump, long-necked, and tilted slightly forward on the water

8 months ago

House Sparrow



House Sparrow




Large-headed and plump, often hunched over crumbs or watching out for cats and shopkeepers.

7 months ago

Mourning Dove



Mourning Dove



Tiny-headed, slender-tailed, mild mannered but explosive in flight.

7 months ago

European Starling



European Starling




Squat and sharp-headed, with a long bill and an impatient way of moving.

7 months ago

American Robin



American Robin




Sturdy, strong-framed, and sure of itself.

7 months ago

Rock Pigeon



Rock Pigeon




Plump and slightly pot-bellied. Putters around on sidewalks but races through the air.

6 months ago

American Crow



American Crow




Alert, inquisitive, and poised for action or opportunity.

6 months ago

Cedar Waxwing



Cedar Waxwing




Stocky but sleek, flat-crested and square-tailed, excitable and gregarious.

6 months ago

Killdeer



Killdeer




Long-legged, large-headed, slender-tailed and plump.

6 months ago

House Finch



House Finch




A flat-headed finch with a thick beak that it's not afraid to feast on your sunflower seeds.

5 months ago

Brown-headed Cowbird



Brown-headed Cowbird




A short-proportioned blackbird with a quiet, observant manner. Females spend summers on the lookout for other birds' nests.

5 months ago

Barn Swallow



Barn Swallow




Long-winged, long-tailed, and masterful in the air. Swallows' wings are broader and more triangular than swifts' wings.

5 months ago

SlideDesc



Kingbird




The heftiest and most tyrannical of the "tyrant flycatchers." Erect, thick-headed, with a broad, flat bill.

5 months ago

SlideDesc



Meadowlark




Plump, with long, straight bill and short tail. A musical bird of grasslands and fenceposts.

4 months ago

SlideDesc



Mockingbird




A flashy bird with a fairly small head outweighed by a long tail.

4 months ago

SlideDesc



Shrike


A hunched-over, bull-headed bird with a thick, hooked beak.

4 months ago

SlideDesc



Woodpecker


Typically canted back from a tree trunk, leaning against its tail feathers, long beak aimed at the bark.

4 months ago

SlideDesc



Quail




Short-legged, round birds with short necks and small heads, typically seen in large groups on the ground.

3 months ago

Movement

3 months ago

As soon as a sitting bird starts to move, it gives you a new set of clues about what it is. 

3 months ago

 You’ll see not only different parts of the bird and new postures, but you’ll also sense more of the bird’s attitude through the rhythm of its movements. 

3 months ago

There’s a huge difference between the bold way a robin bounces up to a perch, a mockingbird’s showy, fluttering arrival, and the meekness of a towhee skulking around.

2 months ago

You can also tell a lot from the way the bird moves: notice whether it hops, like many sparrows, or walks like a pipit; whether it always hitches upward like a woodpecker or scurries around like a nuthatch seemingly unaware of gravity.

2 months ago

On the water, some ducks, such as Mallard and Northern Pintail, tip up (or “dabble&rdquo to reach submerged vegetation. 

2 months ago

Others, including scaup and Redhead, disappear from view as they dive for shellfish and other prey. 

1 month ago

Among the divers, you’ll notice that some species, such as eiders, open their wings just before they dive. 

1 month ago

These ducks flap their wings for propulsion underwater, and they almost always begin a dive this way.

3 weeks ago

Flight Pattern

1 week ago

Certain birds have flight patterns that give them away.

5 days ago

 Almost nothing flaps as slowly as a Great Blue Heron – you can see this from miles away.