Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Wild Bird Identification

Wild Bird Identification is an intriguing task and requires some scientific knowledge other than some general knowledge. Watching birds is fun, but it is even more fun if you can put a name with the bird. Most of us know what a Robin looks like. We probably fed Mallard Ducks at the pond. We could even identify a Bald Eagle or a Canada goose without much effort. But what do you do when something totally new appears? Learning Wild Bird Identification is easy if you become familiar with the birds in your yard. As you get better at bird identification, you can expand to birds in your home town.

A field guide will help you attach a name to the birds you see. Field guides are books with pictures and descriptions of the birds. A field guide typically shows birds of just one country or even one part of a country and hence field guides are important for Wild Bird Identification.

Here are some tips to make wild bird identification easier. First see "How big is the bird?" Is it as big as a sparrow, a robin, a pigeon, a chicken or an ostrich? Is the bird fat or skinny, long or short? Look at each part of the bird. Is its bill short or long, thick or thin, curved or straight? How about the tail? What shape is it? Is it forked? Are the bird's wings pointed or curved, long or short? After you do all this then notice the main colors of the bird? The colors of a bird can play tricks on you. A bird's colors look different when the bird is at the top of a tree at sunset than it does at noon. Check the color of each major body part. Sometimes just the color of a bird's legs can help you in Wild Bird Identification.

Finally, look around you. Are you and the bird deep in a forest, on your lawn or 50 miles out at sea? Each bird likes a certain habitat and serves as another criteria for Wild Bird Identification. Habitat refers to things like plants and trees in the area, the climate in the area and the type of water nearby. See if the bird is swimming or wading. Can the bird climb trees? Does it wag its tail a lot? If you can answer many of these questions, you have a very good chance of finding your bird in the field guide. When you understand how your field guide arranges all of the birds, it will become even easier to quickly turn to the right page. The birds are arranged in Taxonomic order. Really good birders can "see" more birds with their eyes closed than you and I can see with our eyes open! They know the songs a bird sings. Even one chip note might tell them a bird called a Rose-breasted Grosbeak is hiding in the bushes. Finally, you need to know the names of the parts of a bird. You already know most of the important names. You will soon discover that birders seem to have given a name to every little line on a bird. This is how one takes a step for wild bird identification.