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The Joys of Identifying Birds

One pastime that many individuals enjoy during the winter months is bird watching. Birds are magnificent creatures that have unique personalities. If you have a birdfeeder, you have probably seen those personalities in the form of dominant birds hogging a feeder, birds eating on the ground by themselves, and social birds flying around each other. 

A bird’s personality, or behavioral traits, is only one of the keys associated with bird watching. To be a successful bird watcher, you should learn the following: basic size & shape of birds, color patterns, behavior, and habitat. Once you understand the basics, it is time to get down to the nitty gritty and learn the different field marks, songs, and calls. 

The size and shape of a bird is one of the most powerful tools used when identifying it. When trying to determine the size and shape of the bird, you need to focus on the silhouette of the bird. The silhouette will quickly tell you a bird’s size, proportions, and posture. By focusing on the silhouette, you will quickly be able to rule out many groups of birds.

After you've taken note of a bird's overall size and shape, turn your attention to the size and shape of individual body parts. You can start with the bill. Look for details like how long the bird’s bill is relative to the head.

After you have focused on the basic size & shape of the bird, it is time to look at its color pattern. Focus on the overall color pattern instead of matching every detail to the pictures in your field guide. Also, remember that birds molt and their feathers wear. When looking at the color, look at the various patterns formed by contrasting colors and the predominant color of the bird.

Next you should look at the behavior. For starters, determine the posture that the bird poses. You should ask yourself if it has a horizontal or a vertical posture. Once the bird starts to move, note how it moves. Does it hop from place to place, bob up and down on the water, etc. Next, pay attention to how the bird eats. It pays to become familiar with foraging styles. Additionally, it is important to note if the bird stays in a flock or likes to be by itself.

The final thing to think about before you grab the field guide is their habitat. A habitat is a bird’s home, and many birds are choosy. By knowing the habitat, you can narrow down your list of possible birds.

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