|Like all detectives you will need some tools to help you solve the puzzle. To begin your work you should have a pair of binoculars, a field guide and a tape recorder to listen to bird songs. Study your field guide and listen to tapes before you go outside. What you learn about size, shape, markings, habits and habitats before you look at birds will allow you spend more time watching birds and less time rummaging through the book. Use the guide in the field as a reference only after you have observed the bird as closely as possible.
you are looking at birds, they often don't stay still long enough
for you to make detail observations. If you can make
a quick sketch to help you remember what the bird looks like. After
seeing a bird you can't identify, first indicate identifying features
like the body shape, beak, legs and note the color pattern on your sketch.
birds are living creatures adapted to specific life styles they
exhibit a wide range of characteristics which aid in identification.
Since people are very visual creatures most
to identify birds by visual characteristics such as color
which can lead to incorrect identification. However, if you
are willing to spend a little time doing some background studying,
identify and enjoy the birds around you is simply a matter of
asking the right questions. If you can answer these basic questions
about a bird you should be able to identify it correctly. The
questions are basic and may sound a little familiar.
does the bird look like?
people focus on the color of a bird but this can be
misleading. Lighting and the time of year can greatly change
the color of a bird. An Indigo Bunting appears completely black
if it is sitting in the shade, but when it darts out into the
sunlight for a tasty morsel it will instantly and magically
turn a bright indigo blue like a neon sign. Hummingbirds are
the same way. You can't see the color on the male if the light
isn't right. Then there is the Goldfinch which is bright yellow
in the spring and summer but the rest of the year is a drab
green. So you can't rely solely on color.
|When looking at a bird first look at the bird as a whole. Ask questions such as:
big is it? Relate the size to something you already
know. It's a good idea to memorize three or four birds of
different sizes such as a sparrow, robin, crow and/or turkey.
Then you can note how the size of the bird compares to them.
shape is it? Tall and skinny, short and plump, etc.
Oftentimes a bird's silhouette is all you can see. Fortunately,
that's an excellent clue to its identity. Analyzing this
information should help you narrow down your possibilities.
|After you have an overall picture of the bird, then
look more closely at things like the beak, tail, wings, color,
is the bird located?
you spend more time observing birds you will discover many of
them seem to look alike. A sparrow has a certain look about
it - small and brown - but several finches, wrens and warblers
are also small and brown. Now what? Stop and take a look around
you. What type of habitat are you standing in? Are you mowing
the lawn, hiking a mountain trail, wading at the beach? Even
during migration birds prefer certain habitats and seldom deviate
from them. You are not going to find a Great Blue Heron in the
desert or a Roadrunner in a forest, Knowing what birds should be in what habitat will also help you eliminate species.
is the bird doing?
it soaring, hovering, or gliding? Is it wading in water
or perched high in a tree? Even something as subtle as the bobbing
of the tail could be a determining factor between one bird and
does the bird sound like?
can tell birds apart by their voices just like you can your friends.
In fact some birds can only be identified by their voice. Birds
such as the Whip-poor-will are seldom if ever seen but very
often heard. Other birds like some flycatchers look identical
and can only be identified by their voice. Learn the songs and
calls of the common birds around you first. Take them one at
a time. This will help you avoid spending a lot of time 'chasing'
a song thinking it is a new bird. Songs & calls are also the
first indication there are birds in the area.
these questions may seem a little daunting but they really aren't.
If you start with what you know and eliminate those species
it can't possibly be, you have a better chance of correctly
identifying a bird. But don't stop there. BIRD
does include being able to identify a bird,
the active word in the phrase is
That's when the fun really begins!