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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.

Cardinal

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

Crow

  • 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

Dove

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

Finch

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

Grackle

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

Jay

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

Kestrel

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

Kingbird

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

Kingfisher

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




Meadowlark

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

Mockingbird

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

Nuthatch

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

Plover

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

Quail

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


For more silhouettes click HERE.