4 easy way to identify birds

4 easy way to identify birds

All good birders have one thing in common, they know how to recognize birds. Sounds obvious, right? As a common people, how could we start out to identify birds in our backyard?

The best way for birding newbies to identify backyard birds is to use a balanced observation approach that includes four keys as size and shape, overall color pattern, behavior, voice, and habitat. A field guide may help you identify the most common backyard birds in your region.

When we use those to identify birds, we will be able to identify more birds and will more likely to identify them more often. What’s more, with some practice, you are gonna watching birds in a different way. If you do, I bet you’ll become better at identifying birds.

So if you've ever wondered how that hotshot birder is able to identify a bird as it flies by quickly, well, Let’s get start to reveal their little secret.

1.Size and shape are the first keys to identification.

If there’s one thing I could advise to a newbie, it would be the importance of identifying birds by using size or shape. Like most people, I started out by only focusing on field marks and plumage details. But what I didn’t know is how variable plumages can be, especially as they usually change from one season to the next. Though field marks may be helpful, it’s not actually what experienced birders use to identify birds. 
In fact, the way they identify birds are the same as we identify things we see every day. So, think of it this way. When you see a friend or family member from a distance, will you recognize them by a detail, such as eye color or hair style or clothes, or will you recognize them by their overall appearance, their height, their build, that sort of thing? Therefore, if you can apply this same technique to bird identification, you'll find it much more easy.

But here’s the thing, it will be better to practice your birding skills with a bird that you’re familiar with and really spend time watching it. After that, When we’re out birding or watch birds in backyard, we need to make comparisons, narrowing down the list of species to figure out what we're looking at.

So when observing a bird's shape, it’s important to start out with the overall impression of the bird.No matter we’re looking at a bird’s overall build or comparing individual parts of it, we usually use size and shape to identify birds, more than anything else.

In a nutshell, when you find a bird, first thing you need to do is to figure out what group or family the bird belongs to.

Next, have a great look at the overall size and shape and make comparisons to birds you already know.

And finally, if you get a good read on the bird, you could observe at the body parts and see how they relate to one another.

Please keep this in mind, size and shape alone may not be enough for you to identify every bird in every situation, but when you combine size and shape with other keys, it will become a powerful way of identifying birds.


2.Color Pattern is the second key to identification

Here we’re about to reveal how this easy-to-see clue can help you recognize more birds. We often get really frustrated when they try to make an exact comparison between the birds in the field with those we find in their field guides.

Even though the illustrations in the field guides are mostly accurate, they’re artistic depictions of birds in perfect condition. However, when we’re in the field, it’s rare that seeing birds in perfect plumages or in ideal conditions. This means that if you rely on those detail plumages, it’s highly possible that you will get frustrated and may miss out  the chance to identify the bird before it is gone.

So what could we do? Just try to ignore the details, focus on the big picture, and look at overall color pattern.For example, if you’re in a woodland and you see a bird like this Pileated Woodpecker and it flashes through your field of view quickly, maybe all you’ll notice is that it’s an black and white bird.This is a decent start, but you’ve got better chance to recognize the bird if you can describe the pattern of color on its body. Such as for this Pileated Woodpecker, I might say that it has a black body with a red crest, and white in the wings.If you get a really good look at the bird, you can look at additional features that are helpful for identification.

We all know that birds move really quickly. One minute you see them and the next they’re gone.In the heat of the moment, it can be really hard to know where to focus your attention. Therefore, it's important to train yourself to focus on the bird's body parts and patterns which are most stand out feature for identification. After trying a lot of different approaches, I found there's two parts of a bird that are most useful for identification:the bird's head and wings.

Facial features will be most useful for identification. One of the best starting points is the eye-ring and face pattern. An eye-ring is generally a bold, contrasting group of feathers or skin around the bird's eye. For example, Nashville Warbler provides, is with generally yellow below, olive above and a grayish head.

While We could look for more subtle details, please keep in mind that we’re training ourselves to see the patterns that really stand out.

Birding by color pattern is all about taking in an overall color inventory. As we all know that, the more time you spend watching the bird, the better you'll be capable of describing its color pattern and applying it to your identification.

Identifying color pattern is basic for a birder. And when you combine color pattern with the other three factors to identification, size and shape, behavior, and habitat, you'll have a solid foundation for identifying birds.

3.Behavior is critical component of bird identification

Watching the way a bird behaves, is what attracts so many of us. Besides that, the way a bird behaves is also a clue to its identity. Here we will explore the third key factor to identification:behavior and how it can help you make better observations and more easily identify the birds. 

Behavior is a critical component of bird identification because, like size and shape, it's consistent and unchanging within a species. We tend to focus on behaviors that are frequently occurring throughout a whole year. These are posture, foraging, and flight style. Unlike nesting and courtship behaviors, the above three behaviors are the things we see birds do every day.


To identify birds by their behavior, we need to break down our observations with a series of questions. At this part, we only focus on posture, foraging, and flight style. Firstly, let's take a look at posture.A bird’s posture can be divided into two simple questions: where and how."Where" is the easy part. Since there’s a great number of variation, most bird species prefer certain places.

For instance, Male Indigo Buntings will perch and sing at the tops of trees at forest edges, while Ovenbirds are commonly found lurking in the forest under story. As for hawks, like this Red-tailed, prefer to perch out in the open and sometimes can be seen on the side of highways.

After examining "where", we need to have a look at how the bird is perched or standing. Does it stand hunched over or is it posture more upright?  A warbler’s posture is more horizontal, while cardinals used to sit very upright.

Also observe if a bird exhibits any repeated movements or ticks.These motions, like the tail dipping on an Eastern Phoebe are often unique

to certain species and are very helpful for recognization.

As for foraging behavior, the first thing we're going to do is break the behavior down with a set of simple questions, where does this bird forage? For instance, Ducks typically forage on the water, while wading birds are most commonly seen stalking prey in the shallows.

What’s more, Do not forget feeders. There are a large number of birds that frequently visit backyard feeders to forage on seed or suet. Even the birds coming to your feeder have different foraging styles. A Black-capped Chickadee, for example, used to snag a seed and quickly takeoff for a nearby branch before enjoying the food, while a Rose-breasted Grosbeak prefer to stay on the feeder eating as much as it can. Finally, after you’ve looked at where and how, please try to work out what the bird is eating.

Flight style is hard to describe, but you should manage to broadly describe what you're seeing, and pay attention to wing beats and directness of flight. So if we look at a tern, you'll know how they hover on snappy, shallow wing beats, before plunging into the water and catch fish. Short-eared Owls fly with deep moth-like wing beats, punctuated by short glides, while ducks are recognizable by their wickedly fast wing beats.

Though figuring out flight style may seem difficult, if you stick with it you are about to recognize the differences between species.  That will help you identify them more easily. You will notice that the diversity of bird behavior is astounding. While it seems like one of the more difficult keys to employ, the fundamentals of birding by behavior are actually quite simple. It's all about your observations. And to make good observations, all you really need to do is spend time watching the birds you see.

4.Habitat is an important signature of bird’s identity

When we are watching birds, we are more like detectives searching for clues to allow them narrowing in on a group of suspects.The more evidence we can gather, the better chance we could identify them. 

Over millennia birds have evolved its own physical adaptations which are best fit in the habitat they live in. These habitats represent everything a bird needs to eat, reproduce, protect itself from predators, generally speaking is survive.

I believe that habitat is as much an icon of a bird's identity as its color pattern, behavior, or song. When those living around an aquatic habitats are as much about being a heron as living in a field is to being a Meadowlark. A better birder needs to understand and read habitats. Before reading habitats, it’s better for us to recognize several types of habitats where birds live.

Habitats can be broken down into four very general categories.These are: forested or woodland habitats which can be either coniferous or deciduous. Water habitats include lakes and ponds, swamps and marshes, open ocean and shoreline, while Scrub Shrub Habitats are short woody plants and bushes. Eventually, Open Habitats are those like grasslands, agricultural fields, and tundra.

As for identification, These four key factors need to be considered, size and shape, overall color pattern, behavior, and habitat. Because they're the basic for us to accurately identify birds. But unlike the other three factors, habitat is something we should consider twice, which are both the first and the last questions we should ask ourselves.

Generally speaking, the first thing you want to do when you arrive at a location is identify the type of habitat and ask yourself what species of birds are you likely to find there. Once you've spotted a bird, please spend time observing it using the first three keys and finally reconsider the habitat question by asking could the species of bird I think I'm seeing actually occur in this habitat at this time of year?

Remember the four key factors to identification aren't about memorization. They're about observation. And the more time you spend in the field watching, the more you'll find your ID skills improving. Each time you're out in the field, you're presented with a variety of clues. Sometimes you just need to slow down in order to see them more clearly.


Smart Bird Feeder is a helpful tool to identify birds.

It take times and practices to identify birds. As birds move pretty quickly, one minutes you see a bird, the next moment it’s gone, even before you can describe its color pattern. A smart bird feeder will be pretty useful in our backyard and it’s very easy to install and use, what it needs are a cell phone and 2.4G wifi. Find a good spot, get it set up. You will get notification from JJ home app when it senses a visiting bird.  With a powerful algorithm, the JJ home app will identify the bird species and send you all information of the visiting birds.

You may get upset when a rarely seen bird visiting the feeder when you’re out of home. Well, with this smart bird feeder, you get the notification from JJ home app, just click up the APP and watch the close-up live of your feather friend, no matter where you’re. More importantly, you could record videos of those visiting birds and save it!



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