Learning Center

Identifying Birds

For the novice birder, learning to identify the birds that you see can be very challenging. The following are some of the basic principles in learning what to look for and how to better identify birds seen. Make sure to start with a helpful bird book or guide that lists all of the following bird traits with real pictures, not drawings if possible.


Is it as near the size of a sparrow? Is it as big or as long as a dove? Approximately, how many inches long is it? What shape is the body? Long, round, etc?


What are the main colors you see on the bird? Look at specific areas of the bird: chest, wings, head, back.


What shape is the tail? Is it forked? Does it have a fan tail? Are there any distinctive markings on the tail?


Are there any identifying marks around the eyes? Are there any rings, stripes, etc?


What shape are the wings? Are there any wingbars? How many? Are they short, long, curved or pointed?


Is the bird alone or traveling one or more birds? Does it dwell near the ground, on tree trunks or fences, or up high in the trees?

Flight Pattern

Does it glide, bob, fly in straight lines or twitter quickly from one place to the next? Is its movement erratic or smooth?


Listen for any sounds the bird makes. There can be many different sounds and songs a single bird has. Is the pitch high? Is the call repeated, if so how many times?

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