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Identifying Bird Groups by Silhouette

Birds in the same general group often have the same body shape and proportions, although they may vary in size. Silhouette alone gives many clues to a bird's identity, allowing birders to assign a bird to the correct group or even the exact species.

In the above illustration are 23 different birds. How many can you recognize just by their silhouettes? Look carefully - don't miss the ones hiding in the leafy tree!

Pay attention to the following:

  • body shape
  • proportions of the head, legs, wings
  • tail shape
  • length of the bill

Need some more help? See below for silhouette descriptions to help you.


  • Medium-sized finch-like songbird with long tail
  • Strongly conical, seed-eating bill
  • Crested head


  • Large size
  • Stout body, medium-length tail
  • Heavy, strong bill

Dabbling Duck

  • Typical duck shape, with heavy body
  • Short tail, held above water's surface
  • Horizontally flattened bill


  • Plump body, with short legs and neck
  • Small head
  • Pointed wings
  • Slight swelling at base of upper bill


  • Small to medium size
  • Conical, seed-eating bill
  • Notched tail


  • Slender body, long tail
  • Strong, slightly curved bill


  • Mid-sized crow-relative with long tail
  • Some have crest on head


  • Small bird of prey
  • Typical streamlined falcon shape, with long pointed wings and long tail
  • Short raptorial (sharply hooked) bill, feet with sharp talons


  • Medium-sized perching bird with relatively large head
  • Broadly-flattened, typical flycatcher bill


  • Large head, often with shaggy crest
  • Very short legs and tail
  • Long, strong, pointed bill


  • Chunky body, short tail
  • Strong legs
  • Straight, strong, pointed bill


  • Long, slender body, long legs and tail
  • Small, slender bill


  • Small size, chunky body, short tail
  • Straight, slightly upturned bill
  • Strong legs and feet
  • Clings to tree trunks, usually head downwards


  • Small to medium-sized shorebird
  • Relatively large head, short neck
  • Short, rather thick bill, sometimes slightly swollen at tip
  • Ground dwelling


  • Chunky, rounded body, with short tail
  • Small head, very short neck
  • Ground dwelling

For more silhouettes click HERE.