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How to ID Birds

Are you amazed at how quickly birders can identify birds? Actually, it's just like getting to know your human neighbors. When you move into a new neighborhood everyone is a stranger, but soon you recognize people based on their characteristics, such as habits, shape, styles of walking, and the places where you see them.

Paying attention to individual differences can help you identify birds, too. You can recognize many birds simply by noting their shapes, even if seen only in silhouette. Other useful characteristics are a bird's posture, size, flight pattern, and the kind of habitat in which the bird was seen.

Start by learning to identify general groups of birds-- warblers, flycatchers, hawks, owls, wrens--whose members all share certain similarities. As your observation skills improve, familiarize yourself with the field marks--colored or patterned areas on the bird's body, head, and wings--that help distinguish species.

Use the following features to help you:


Field marks



Flight pattern