Identifying wild birds can be an overwhelming task for the beginning bird watcher or backyard birder. Though, field guides are filled with beautiful illustrations and photos, the birds seem very similar-looking and arranged without rhyme or reason. However, recognizing and identifying wild birds is easier if you focus on the four keys to bird identification – Size & Shape, Color Pattern, Behavior and Habitat.
Bird Identification – Size and Shape
Look at the bird’s body, head, bill, wings and tail. Does it have a round or long thin profile or silhouette? Is it’s bill short and stout, or long and thin? Does it have a long or short tail? Using these observations and a field guide, you can put the bird into a group or family of other birds. Then comparisons can be made to other birds, as well as to the bird itself to create a short list of possibilities, and then move on to the other identification keys – color pattern, behavior and habitat.
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 first in the series – Recognizing Birds – Size and Shape. The other videos in the series can be found here – Color Pattern, Behavior and Habitat.