For beginning birders, it is often a wild bird’s brilliant color that attracts them to birding. Field guides are filled with detailed and beautiful illustrations and photos of wild birds, but the images can be misleading because field marks change throughout the season. Recognizing and identifying wild birds is made easier by using the four keys to bird identification – Size & Shape, Color Pattern, Behavior and Habitat.
Bird Identification – Color Pattern
When using color to identify a wild bird, it’s best to take an overall color inventory of the bird. Notice how the color is arranged on the bird’s body, rather than trying to specifically match the colors to those found in the field guide. Ignore the subtleties of the color and placement (plumage changes throughout the season), and check patterns in places like the wing bar, eye ring or spectacles.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has created an excellent video series to help the beginning birder develop their wild bird identification skills. Below, is the second in the series – Recognizing Birds – Color Patterns. The other videos in the series can be found here – Size & Shape, Behavior and Habitat.