Birding

Birding Basics

Size


An important characteristic when identifying birds is their size. It may help to select five or six common birds of varying sizes (for example, the black capped chickadee, American robin, American crow, red-tailed hawk, and great blue heron), then use these to gauge the size of other birds you see.




Shape


Look at the bird’s shape to get clues for identification: Is its body compact and stocky, or slender? Is its neck long or short? What about its legs? Is its bill short, long or hooked? Are its wings long and pointed, or rounded? Is its tail short, long, squared at the tip, notched, forked, rounded, or pointed?




Color & Pattern


Be sure to note the overall color of head, throat, breast, wings and tail. Just as critical, examine the eyebrows, eye rings, eye lines, or mustaches on a bird’s head. Look for wing bands, striping or patterns on the breast, back and tail. And don’t forget to notice the color of its legs.




Behavior


The way birds walk, perch or fly can lend a clue to their identity. Behaviors can be obvious or subtle. Does it bob its head or tail? Flick its wings? Stay on the ground? Fly in a straight line or in a bobbing manner? All of these are important clues.




Vocal Clues


Since birds aren’t always seen at first, listen for songs or calls. A birding app on your mobile device can help you identify songs and calls.




Habitat & Range


Knowing which species occupies a habitat can save a lot of time when identifying. Check the description in the field guide to see if the bird is supposed to be there!





Bird Identification Clues

Size


An important characteristic when identifying birds is their size. It may help to select five or six common birds of varying sizes (for example, the black capped chickadee, American robin, American crow, red-tailed hawk, and great blue heron), then use these to gauge the size of other birds you see.




Shape


Look at the bird’s shape to get clues for identification: Is its body compact and stocky, or slender? Is its neck long or short? What about its legs? Is its bill short, long or hooked? Are its wings long and pointed, or rounded? Is its tail short, long, squared at the tip, notched, forked, rounded, or pointed?




Color & Pattern


Be sure to note the overall color of head, throat, breast, wings and tail. Just as critical, examine the eyebrows, eye rings, eye lines, or mustaches on a bird’s head. Look for wing bands, striping or patterns on the breast, back and tail. And don’t forget to notice the color of its legs.




Behavior


The way birds walk, perch or fly can lend a clue to their identity. Behaviors can be obvious or subtle. Does it bob its head or tail? Flick its wings? Stay on the ground? Fly in a straight line or in a bobbing manner? All of these are important clues.




Vocal Clues


Since birds aren’t always seen at first, listen for songs or calls. A birding app on your mobile device can help you identify songs and calls.




Habitat & Range


Knowing which species occupies a habitat can save a lot of time when identifying. Check the description in the field guide to see if the bird is supposed to be there!