For a more complete bird guide, consult a field guide. See Backyard Feeding Resources for a list of field guides.
If, after consulting a field guide, you are still unsure of a bird's identity you can:
- Find knowledgeable birders in your community to help. Call a local nature center or Audubon and ask for someone who is familiar with local birds.
- Send your sketch or photo of the mystery bird to Project FeederWatch for assistance. Be sure to include the following helpful information:
- a description of the bird
- location (city and state or province)
- a description of the habitat in which you found the bird
- any behavioral observations, including feeding behavior and type of food consumed
- which species the bird associated with
- the size of the bird in comparision with a common bird
If you are new to birding, start slowly. Study the birds at your feeder until you can identify them at a glance. Then gradually add more birds to your repertoire, always taking time to study them and learn their nuances. Sparrows, shorebirds, and gulls tend to be the most difficult; you may want to save those for last. Even the best of birders are unable to identify every bird they see. Sometimes a bird is in a transitional plumage, or a view of a bird might be too brief or distant.
Learn more about bird identification on the Lab's All About Birds web site.
Tricky bird identifications
Some bird species, such as Downy and Hairy woodpeckers, are extremely difficult to tell apart. Visit the Tricky Bird IDs page for help with these particularly challenging species. In addition to these two woodpeckers, you can find pages for:
Hawks: Coopers vs. Sharp-shinned
Collared-Doves: Eurasian vs. African
Finches: House vs. Purple vs. Cassin's
Sparrows: Chipping vs American Tree
Chickadees: Black-capped vs. Carolina