Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Identifying Birds

One of the main identifying features I personally use to identify birds is bill shape. There are other clues such as size and shape of the bird, it's color, in what habitat it was seen, and perhaps even it's call, but for me, bill shape can quickly narrow the choices.

The Short-billed Dowitcher  (L) I saw a couple of weeks ago stood out from the Lesser Yellowlegs it was found among because of it's bill shape. While the habitat and general color of the two birds was the same, the bill jumped out as being quite different.

The first time I ever saw a Northern Shoveler, I knew exactly what it was because of it's distinctive bill. The spatulate-shaped bill looks very much like a garden trowel.

A Brown Thrasher can be easily confused with Wood Thrush. Both are reddish-brown birds with streaked breasts. The bills, however, are quite different.

Several years ago, I saw a bird flying at a great distance, but knew I might be able to at least identify it by it's silhouette. Up until the other day when I saw the six Glossy Ibis at the marsh, it was the only other Ibis I had ever seen. While I couldn't identify which Ibis it was, the distinctive profile did allow me to narrow it to that family of birds.

Most of the pictures in this blog are not very good but a bad picture beats a bad memory. This shore bird I saw one summer at the marsh caught my attention for a couple of reasons. One was the unusual, upturned, long, slender bill. The other reason it jumped out was the blue legs. It turned out to be an American Avocet, which isn't even suppose to be found in this area.

Sometimes, it is a combination of characteristics that help to identify a bird. The conical shaped beak on this Eastern Towhee is common to quite a number of other birds, but taking the distinctive markings into consideration, as well as the red eye, not seen in too many other perching birds, and the two-note song, one can be fairly confident about it's identification.

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