Complete guide to bird identification for beginners

Once you start bird watching, identifying birds correctly can be a problem. Many species are very active so you have a small window to indentify them. The outdoor conditions often make things even harder. If the lighds are dimmed, or if the sun gets into your eyes, figuring out which bird you saw can be tricky. Read our guide and learn how to figure out what you just saw.

1. Keep your eyes on the birds

When a bird flies into your field of view, grab the field guide and try to identify it right away. Try to keep your eye on the birds as you study the guide. Listen to the song, watch how it moves, what it eats, and of course the colors of the bird. If you can’t identify it right away, write some details of what you saw in your notebook. Try to keep the bird in sight for as long as possible.

2. Listen to their song

The bird’s song can help you identify it quickly. If you know how each species sing, you will be able to know what birds are around you, without even looking at them. You can then take a look at the guide and figure out which species it is in seconds.

3. Look at the size and shape of the bird

The size and shape of a bird can help you place the bird in the right family. Always look at the size and shape of the birds first. Is it small as a sparrow? Does it have the shape of a turkey? Is it a pigeon? Think of the bird’s silhouette and watch their general shape. Is the bird able to walk with ease or does it have trouble walking? Does it have long legs or not? Answer these questions and you’ll be on track.

4. Analyze their facial and bill features

When you figure out which family the bird belongs to, look closer for more details. Start with the head and look for colors and distinctive stripes and features like nape color, eye lines, crow strips, and so on. The shape and the color of the bill can also tell you more about the bird.

5. The shape of the tail and wing bars

After observing the head, look at the bird’s body. Look at the colors and markings while the birds are in the air. The length and position of the tail could tell you more about the species.

6. The length and color of the legs

The length of the legs will tell you a lot about a bird. Are the legs long or short? Look at their color too. If you can, take a look at the feet to determine if they are webbed or if they have talons. The shape of the toes can also help you identify the bird easier because some species have a distinctive toe shape.

7. Look how it moves and flies

Watch the birds while they walk, look at how they hold their tails, do they jump or walk? Also look at how they fly. Are the moves gentle and steady? It’s all in the details.

8. The feeding habits

Try to figure out what the bird eats and how does it do it. Does it eat insects off a tree bark or does it peck the ground looking for worms. Does it hunt for food in shallow waters? The feeding habits can help you determine the species for sure.

So, here are some of the basic rules you should stick by when bird watching. Make sure you record every species you come across and you’ll be a pro in no time.