Birding is a popular pastime that naturally leads to an interest in bird identification. Simply adding Bird houses or bird feeders to your garden or lawn will introduce you to a variety of birds, many of which you may never have noticed. Much of the thrill of birding comes from bird identification. New species are still being discovered, and many birds such as bluebirds differ drastically through the United States. Specific bird species may also be declining due to predators that are taking over their homes, nests, and harming their eggs and babies. Being able to accurately identify which birds you have in your bird houses helps to keep aggressive birds from taking over. You can also attract specific types of birds based on the foods you offer.
Tools for Proper Identification
The first step in bird identification is simple observation. You may be able to observe your visitors close enough to identify characteristics without the use of binoculars or a camera, but binoculars are recommended for distance, and cameras are handy for details your mind may forget. A birding journal or notebook is useful for documenting characteristics as well.
Colors and Markings
Physical characteristics that are important in bird identification include colors, markings, and bill or beak. Many birds have a variety of colors throughout their body, changing from the tops of their heads to the tips of their tails. Often the color of the abdomen alone is a defining characteristic between two otherwise identical birds. Note the colors of the bird's eyes, as well as the feathers around the eyes. Birds can have very specific and special markings from a splattering of dots across a black tail, to stripes and bands - some blurry, some sharp.
Bill of the Birds
The bill of the bird can be sharp and curved, short and rounded, large or small, up high or down low. The more closely you begin to examine different birds, the more familiar you will become with the wide range of bills. Bills can give a bird the upper hand in nesting battles due to the strength, size, and shape for puncturing smaller birds and their eggs.
Size and Motion
While birds will vary in size based on age, many times size is the only physical difference in birds. Size is more than just body length, but also wingspan and feather length. A bird's songs and chirping is also more than just a pretty melody, so take note of pitch, mouth movement, and overall tune. Birds such as Hummingbirds can fly backwards, and Doves and Sparrows are ground eaters. Birds having a problem accessing your bird houses or perching at bird feeders are also giving you tips regarding who they are.
Birds do not all live throughout the world, and some birds are so geographically regional that they can only be found within a handful of states. Typically only birds who rely on insects as their primary source of food fly south for the winter, and some birds are drawn to water and wet environments.
Identifying Your Birds
Once you have taken as many notes and pictures of the birds you wish to identify, it is time to pull out your bird guide or access birding websites. Be careful not to exaggerate any markings and sizes, and if you do not recall specifics that are being mentioned throughout your research, revisit your bird friends if possible. Accurate identification will help with future bird identifications, and the research will help you become aware of more traits or survival skills you may be witnessing. Keeping all of your notes, pictures, and discoveries in a birding journal helps you to share with others, as well as keep track of where you have been, what you have seen, and in time, migratory patterns.
Birding is an enjoyable and challenging hobby that can be shared and enjoyed with fellow birders throughout the world. Bird identification helps to teach young and elderly alike patience, the benefits of note taking and attention to detail, and can help with the rebuilding of certain bird populations. Anyone can succeed at birding, from the avid birder who attends seminars and joins birding trips, to the beginner who just wants to have a functional and decorative birdhouse.