The Cornell Lab Bird Academy Discussion Groups Joy of Birdwatching Activities: Bird ID Practice

    • Beth
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      Activity 1: Two birds feeding at my feeder today, the chickadee and the nuthatch, have very similar coloring. The chickadee is smaller, but their body shape and orientation at the feeder sets them apart. The chickadee faces in toward the food port with a rounded body. The nuthatch feeds upside down. It also looks outward quite a bit at the feeder, which makes its body a crescent shape. So size and body orientation tell me at a glance who is who between these largely white, gray and black birds.E0B52A6C-3BAE-4D06-99EA-E96A69C20087E81E0C30-7161-4219-847F-11DE167CEADB
    • Lisa
      Participant
      Chirps: 15
      Activity One.   Two birds that are easy to identify by shape are the Mourning Dove and the California Scrub Jay. The Mourning Dove has a graceful curving silhouette with its small head, long neck, larger body and long tail. The California Scrub Jay has a shape similar to an American Crow but a bit slimmer, longer tail and often have a forward leaning somewhat aggressive posture. Activity Two.   Three birds that have yellow, grey and black we have seen are the Hooded Oriole, the Lesser Goldfinch and the Black-headed Grosbeak. We only saw the Black-headed Grosbeak once but it was clearly distinguished form the Hooded Oriole by the dramatic dark stripes on the head. The Lesser Goldfinch looks similar to the female Oriole but is smaller and with a shorter beak. The male Oriole is a standout because he is such a bright yellow. Activity Three.   We watched Mourning Doves, Song Sparrows and California Quail feeding on the ground together. The Doves move in a unhurried and methodical manner. The Sparrow peck, move suddenly forward, stop, make a quick dig, peck. They are so fast. The Quail move slowly around but are more aware of keeping covered and together. There is always a guard on the fence.
    • Megan
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      4. My favorite bird this summer has been my teeny ruby-throated hummingbird buddy.  He seems to be becoming a little more comfortable around me and my dogs and cat.  My hummingbird feeder is located close to my kitchen window so I see him daily!  I can usually hear him coming before I see him (he sounds like a bee buzzing!).  He will occasionally make a couple "squeak" noises too.  When I try to get a slow motion video of him he typically takes off before I can have my camera ready.  I do have some spotty footage and it hardly seems that it's in slow-mo!  He looks to be small enough that I could have him sit in the the palm of my hand.  If he does get spooked by something he quickly flies off like Superman on a mission; to either the field or forest area behind my house or in the neighborhood nearby.  He doesn't come back right away, maybe 30 minutes later.  When he does come to feed, it isn't a quick visit and he's off.. He often sits and seems to guzzle down the liquid.  I've also noticed him sitting on a tree branch behind my house (while my noisy niece was splashing in a pool below). (I'm located in upstate NY)IMG_9046
    • Leigh
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      Activity 3: Birds looking for food 1) I saw two birds flying back and forth from high tree tops to lower trees. They  stayed together as they moved between locations.  By using binoculars, and being able to discern some hints of  pale yellow brown on their bellies I guessed they were cedar wax wings, which Merlin confirmed. Further reading helped to positively identify  based on their size and color and how they were perching in trees. 2) I heard and saw a woodpecker in a heavily wooded mountain setting in the Adirondacks of NY. She was small, with black and white coloring, no red on the head. There was a black eye stripe, white belly, distinct black bars on the wings.  She was pecking on the trunk of the tree, moving around and up and down the trunk, constantly in motion.  I had a hard time determining if it was a downy or hairy woodpecker. I didn't have my binoculars. Upon careful examination of photos of the beak, which seemed fairly small I'm going to guess it was a downy woodpecker. Merlin confirmed this, suggesting downy woodpecker as the most likely species. 3) We are seeing lots of grey cat birds enjoying the berries in our honey suckle bushes in the back yard.  We can hear their distinct call. They like to perch briefly on the top of the fence as they approach the branches which are filled with berries! My other  Cornell app, BirdNET,  helped me to originally identify cat birds by their distinctive song.
    • Yulia
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      Activity 1: Pelican, flamingo Activity 2: Vermilion Flycatcher/Saca-Tu-Real (red body, black wings and tail) Peruvian Meadowlark/Loica Peruana (black bird with red chest) Austral Negrito/Colegial Común (black bird with red/orangish back) Activity 3: Neotropic Cormorant/Yeco (diving in the ocean) Oasis Hummingbird/Picaflor del Norte (drinking nectar from flowers) Grey gull/Gaviota Garuma (digging holes in the sand with its beak on the beach each time a wave recedes) Activity 4: Rufous-Collared Sparrow/Chincol is a sparrow sized bird with a crest. Gray head with black stripes, gray beak, white rim around its eyes,  rusty colored nape, white throat and belly, black markings on each side of its throat, black spotted brown back, black stripes and white spots on brown wings, black stripes on a brown tail, long pinkish legs. It can be seen on fences, wires and bushes both in the urban and rural areas. It hops on the ground, digs soil with its beak’s sidewise movements looking for seeds and insects. It also eats flower petals.  Usually it can be seen in groups of 2-3 or more birds. It makes nests in bushes and trees. Its song is distinctive, loud and melodic. q
    • Julie
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      Brown towhee In reply to Activity 1, yesterday, I went birding and had a hard time figuring out if the birds I was seeing were mourning doves or another kind of dove. I at least knew by the size and shape that they were definitely doves or pigeons. I find that I am using the shape of the bird to figure it out a bit more now--that's a sparrow shape or a duck shape or a tern shape. And that makes me feel like I am making progress. But it's still really difficult to identify all of the birds I see when I go out. These, for example, are *I think* California towhees, but it was really hard to tell, even after looking at multiple field guides and the Merlin app.
    • Lydia
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Activity 1: sparrow- small size, short neck, fairly short tail cat bird- medium sized and long tail Activity 3: sparrow- hopping for seeds on ground cat bird- eating off of suet hummingbird- drinking sugar water from hummingbird feeder Activity 4: cat bird- 1. dark gray body, legs, and beak 2. darker line across eyes 3. eating from suet feeder and using tail for balancing
    • Kenton
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      Tennessee Warbler I saw a Tennessee Warbler at a feeder. It was doing okay is my full experience.
    • Deb
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Activity 4: I have the good fortune to be able to watch a young male cardinal (which could be confused with a female) being taken care of by its father. Over the past several weeks since it has fledged from a nest in our neighbor’s yard, it has been taught to take a morning bath in the wet lantana from the spray of our irrigation system and after many failed attempts, successfully land on the top of our fountain for a drink. (lucky thing since it is over 100 most days now.) I am amazed by the patience of the elder cardinal who, morning after morning, showed his offspring how to take a bath and grab a drink. Junior, as we call him, is often seen begging for food and crash lands in his attempts to follow his father around our back yard. Slowly, his red feathers are starting to appear on his chest in random patches.  It will not be long before he will be brilliantly red. I hope they stick around for a while longer, they are a joy to watch!
    • Mark
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      A1: Canada Goose and Trumpeter Swan. The swans have much longer necks. Both waterfowl are found in a pond nearby my house. A2: Lazuli Bunting, Indigo Bunting and Varied Bunting. Each of these birds are blue. The Lazuli Bunting has a light brown - orange breast whereas the Indigo Bunting has brown wing patches. Varied Buntings have red and purple hues. A3: Canada Geese were eating grass, a Ring-Billed Gull was scavenging garbage and an American Robin bobbed for worms. A4: My favourite bird is smaller than an American Robin. They have bright green backs and wings, purple chests, bright yellow bellies and light blue tails. Their heads can be black, red or yellow. Their beaks are off-white. They are native to northern Australia. They are chatterers with a persistent chirp. My favourite bird is... Gouldian Finch.
    • Juli
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      For activity number one the two birds I identified by shape were the blue jay and the chimney swift. Even though I was familiar with these birds and able to identify them easily by shape I did try and enter them on Merlin to use it for identification. For both birds it told me there were no matches. I moved on to activity number two. For this activity I decided to focus on birds with the color red. For my first bird I chose a red-winged blackbird. I put it in Merlin and it came right up. Then I put in a Northern cardinal, and again it came right up. For my third bird I tried a downy woodpecker. When I put it in Merlin it told me there were no matches. I tried changing some of my choices like the size and then rather than viewed at my feeder, up in the tree it was in previously. Still no matches. Then I decided I would try a ruby-throated hummingbird. Onces again it gave me no matches. I then gave up on Merlin and closed it. Then after a little time had gone by I decided to try again. I opened it up and put in the statistics for the downy woodpecker and it came right up as the first choice. Then I went back to activity number one and put in both the blue jay and the chimney swift. Both came right up as the first option. For activity number three, I observed the red-winged blackbird sitting on a lotus flower at a nearby pond. He went from flower bud to flower bud picking them apart and eating parts of them. I also observed an Eastern kingbird also sitting on the lotus flowers where it perched and hunted for bugs. It would zoom out and grab a bug and then return to the same lotus flower it had been perched on. Then came the most exciting bird I observed feeding. I watched an osprey circle the pond up in the air and then suddenly  it tucked it's wings and slammed down into the water causing a large splash, and then coming out of the water with a fish in it's talons. It flew off with the fish and unfortunately flew out of view. One of my favorite birds is the Eastern Bluebird. These small, often plump appearing little birds have rounded heads and bodies and are between the size of a sparrow and a robin. The males are a brilliant blue with a rusty reddish-orange breast and a white underside. The females are like a muted version of the males with a brown head, back, and wings with a muted blue cast and washed out rusty reddish-orange breast and a white underside. These birds perch on telephone wires, fences, and branches in areas where they can look out over open fields where they hunt for their favorite foods, insects. You will often see them fly to the ground and grab a bug and then go to the same or another perch to eat their catch. They are cavity nesters that readily take nest boxes. The male feeds the female while she sits on the nest and both parents take part in rearing the chicks. When not tending to nest or young, Eastern bluebirds can often be found hanging out in small groups.
    • Ashley
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      Activity 4: My favourite is the Northern Cardinal. I notice the male more often than female, males are mostly red with a black face especially around the bill and their size is between sparrow and robin. I usually find them briefly at the bird feeders or on the lower branches of trees.
    • Bill
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      Activity 3  Great blue heron wading and eating fish, Turkey vulture eating carrion, American goldfinch eating flower seeds.
    • Jamies
      Participant
      Chirps: 10
      Activity 4: Hi everyone, my name is Jamies. I have been traveling back and forth from Edmonton and Calgary. I have spotted many birds. My favorite bird is the American White Pelican. This bird has a body white in color, bigger than a Canada goose, has a big long yellow beak and eye ring. I would have uploaded a photo of it if I have a powerful camera with great zooming function. I only use my smartphone to take bird photos right now. Activity 1: The two birds I can distinguish by their shapes are red-winged blackbird and ring-billed gulls. The blackbird is smaller in size, and a male is black with a red shoulder patch. The beak is triangular shaped and pointed. The ring billed gull is smaller than a goose, but larger than a crow. It has a black ring around the beak. It also has white chest and belly. Also, this gull has a yellow beak.
    • Ryan
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Trying out these activities at my bird feeder 1. Steller's jay (large small bird, crest on head) vs black capped chickadee (tiny, spherical) 2. 3 birds in portland that are back American Crow - all black Red winged black bird - mostly black w red shoulders (male) Brown headed cowbird - black mostly but brown head 3. Food strat at feeder - spotted towhee, black headed junco - picks at food on ground - black capped chickadee, downy woodpecker- eat from hanging feeder
    • Janet
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      20191117_094526 Activity 4: The Malachite Sunbird is a slim bodied, nectarivorous bird, although will eat insects, especially when feeding their young. This is a photo taken from my nectar bottle bird feeder, such an electric colourful striking bird, it is a beauty, one of my favourites. The Malachite sunbird has a long down-curved bill, enabling it to nectar feed from flowers or feeders. It seems that this bird's plumage is all one colour, metalic green, but it does have blackish green wings and its belly is an electric teal blue, this bird has a very slender long tail up to 25cm long. This sunbird is found in hilly fynbos areas, feeding off aloes and proteas. It is found in parks and gardens as well. The call is quite distinctive and often I hear the call before I see the bird, and then I start looking up to see where it is, it is a shrill tseep-tseep sound. The chicks are fed by both parents until fledging time, and the chicks will up to a certain time return to the nest to roost.
    • Jeremy
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      A beautiful female cardinal had similar colors to the male. I found these near my friend's bird feeder. The hood of the female was the biggest difference as well as some of the color schemes. That helped me notice the difference between the male and female.
    • Kara
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Activity 3, using three birds I observed yesterday (July 21, 2020) here on Nantucket:
      • Cedar Waxwing: It perched on top of a leafless tree next to a tall bush full of red berries. It would fly back and forth from the berry bush to the perch, grabbing a berry from the bush before taking it to the perch to gobble it down.
      • Snowy Egret: It stood in shallow water at low tide near where the bay transitions to a salt marsh, actively running back and forth through the shallows and aggressively poking its beak into the water to spear fish.
      • Downy Woodpecker: It scurried up and down a tree and drummed on the bark, looking for insects to munch on.
    • Tricia
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      Activity 1:  Australian Raven and Pied Currawong are similar in size and colouring.  The major difference in shape is that the Raven has a shaggy bunch of feathers at the front of its throat. Activity 2:  Australian Magpie, Magpie Lark and Pied Currawong are all black and white birds.  The Magpie has white on its nape, shoulder, and rump, with a band on its wing.  The Magpie Lark has a white belly and a white stripe down the side of its head as well as a band on its wing.  The Pied Currawong just has a white stripe on its wings and white underneath its tail. Activity 3: On my walk tis morning I saw a Little Black Cormorant diving for food in a small lake, an Australian Magpie sitting on the ground sing its beak to explore its surroundings looking for food, and a Red Wattlebird in a shrub looking for nectar. Activity 4: One of my favourites, and a regular visitor to my garden is the Galah.  They are parrots, larger than a crow, but smaller than a goose.  The have grey wing and back, with a pink body, neck and face.  They also have a crest, which is a paler shade of pink.  They are common throughout Australia, all year round.  Their voice is a very harsh screech (although not as harsh as the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo!)
    • Joseph
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      I went with American Goldfinch.
      • They're tiny little songbirds.
      • The male has a bunch of black-white zebra stripes on his wings.
      • The male also has a cheery little black cap on his head.
      • And, oddly enough, they like to be at the veeeeery top of tall trees, or at least on a jutting-out branch.
      (this was Activity 4)  
    • mei
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      This is exercise 4.  One of my favorite birds is spotted towhee, the one of the first I learned to identify .  Its size is between a sparrow and a robin.  It has rust colored flank, white belly, black head/hood, black wings with white spots, and devilish looking red eyes.  It likes to forage in the low shrub and on the ground, but will perch at a higher branch to sing.  I don't know how to describe its sound other than to say that it is a very loud and distinctive trill.  It uses both feet to scratch away leaves or dirt to find its food.  So in an area with lots of dried leaves and other debris son the ground, between its song and its foraging technique, it's easy to "hear" and ID it even without being able to spot it right away. DSC_0401
    • susan
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      671EAA97-332E-4EFD-AE1A-A1D4E83F623DE68712A0-6A63-45EF-88F7-0E455ECBC53FA spotted towhee in my yard.  We’ve never had this kind of bird before.
    • Meg
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      I downloaded Merlin and used it to identify a barred owl and a gray catbird. The catbird was trickier because I was trying to identify it by size and color, and it didn't even come up as an option. I finally had to snap a photo of it, which quickly helped me identify it.  I've never heard of a gray catbird before, so I was happy to learn something new.
    • Eric
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      ACTIVITY 2: The past July 14, 2020, I went to a natural reserve in Ponce, Puerto Rico because the previous day a man reports a Gull-billed Tern on eBird (rare in PR and a potential LIFER for me). Upon my arrival, I began to search for my Gull-billed Tern. Among a lot of birds, I was able to quickly identify Least Terns, Roseate Terns, Royal Terns, Sandwich Terns, Wilson's Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Black-necked Stilt, White-cheeked Pintal, and other. Two terns caught my attention as they seemed to be the Gull-billed Tern. I took photos to ID the bird but, to my surprise, these two birds proved to be juveniles of Roseate Tern and Sandwich Tern. So, I lost my possibility to get a LIFER. No Gull-billed Tern for me for now. IMG_4228IMG_4250
    • Kathy
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      Activity 1:   I went out for a walk and saw some birds  with forked tails.  I was able to find them in Merlin  as barn swallows. ( I had never noticed them before)   I also went to the park today and  saw a larger  bird flying above with reddish tail feathers and identified it as a red tail hawk.     I had never paid much attention to the shape of birds tails, body shape, and size before, so it has been good to be more observant of these things. There were many different birds at the park, but too far away or too fast to get a good photo to put into Merlin.   I took a photo of a large black bird on the top of a tall tree.  I thought it was probably a crow, but wanted to see what Merlin said- it said it was a wood duck, which I thought was funny, as there was no water around the park.