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Bird Identification

The ability to identify the birds you see and hear is a wonderful skill to have. Improving your identification skills will lead to greater enjoyment of the birds around you.  Once you can identify most of the birds you see and hear you can support various citizen science programs or even become a researcher or professional ornithologist.

Basics of Identification:
Here are a few of the things consider when trying to identify a bird.

  • Color pattern: The most obvious but can be the most confusing.
  • Size: Compare to another bird or object of known size.  More people misjudge size than any other feature.
  • Bill shape and size:  Is the pill pointed like a woodpecker or heavy like a cardinal?
  • Habitat: High or low in a tree, on the ground, near a lake, etc.
Male and female Scarlet Tanagers

Male and female Scarlet Tanagers

New to bird identification?
If so, here are a few things that you should know.

  • A few species, like the Northern Cardinal, do not migrate. They stay in the same area on a year-round basis.
  • Most birds migrate, sometimes long distances and sometimes a short distance.
  • In some species some birds migrate and others do not.
  • Many of the birds you see will only be in your yard part of the year. Some may be winter resident and some a summer resident.
  • Males and females of some species look very different, male and female Mallards for example.
  • Males and females of some species look alike, most hawks for example.
  • Birds molt their feathers; young to adult plumage or winter to spring plumage.  Depending on the time of year they can look very different.

Resources:
The Birdzilla.com web site has a very large section on bird identification,  It includs sections on improving your bird identification skills or helping you identify a bird you have seen.

You can send a photograph of a bird to NameThatBird.com and we’ll try to identify it for you.

The Nifty Fifty Bird Guide on the home page will introduce you to 50 common birds of New York. 

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Birding Quick Hits

Harris's Hawks of the southwestern United States hunt in packs to increase their chance of success.