Bird ID Tips

You head out on a fun afternoon of bird watching.

You see plenty of birds!

But, you have no idea how to identify what you see.

Try these tips for correctly identifying the birds you see.

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Look at Size

Often birds are categorized into three groups: smaller than a robin, between a robin and a crow, and larger than a crow. By looking at the size, you can instantly begin narrowing down what birds you are seeing.

Check-out the Shape

Is the bird large and stocky like an owl, Or, is it small and compact like a songbird. Looking at the general shape of the bird will help you determine the general group of birds - owls, hawks, seagulls, ducks, songbirds, etc. - to which your specific bird belongs.

Consider the Color

One of the first things you will notice about a bird - after its size and shape - is its color. Looking at the color of the bird is a quick way to narrow the field of potential birds you saw. If the bird you saw was yellow, it was definitely not a cardinal, owl or chickadee. It could, however be a goldfinch, warbler or meadowlark.

Make Note of Markings

Most birds are not one solid color. They have unique characteristics which can help you identify exactly what bird you saw. For example, if you saw a yellow bird, it could be a goldfinch, warbler or meadowlark. But, if that yellow bird had a dark brown or black "V" on its chest, it is most certainly a meadowlark. Or, if the yellow bird you saw had a black mask on its eyes, it is probably a Common Yellow-throat Warbler.

Remember Your Range

If you are in Nebraska, there are about 450 birds that you could have seen, but a Green Parakeet is not one of them! Once you have narrowed down your potential birds, look at the bird's range. If it is not typically found in Nebraska, it is not likely that you saw that bird!

Heed your Habitat

Some birds can be found in nearly any habitat - urban, farm, ranch, prairie, forest. But, most birds have a preferred habitat. Prairie Chickens, for example, need vast expanses of prairie. So, if you are standing in the middle of a city or town, it is not likely that you are seeing a Prairie Chicken. In addition to the bird's range, be sure to look at the bird's habitat preferences.