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

    • Riccardo
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      ACTIVITY 3: Considering three common bird that I can see from my house: the common swift, the eurasian blackbird and the italian sparrow. The first catch insects flying in the sky all the time, the second catches insect in the ground moving leafes and the terrain, the last eats seeds and pieces of food in the ground.   ACTIVITY 4: One of my favourite bird is the eurasian blackbird, Turdus Merula. The male is glossy black overall, with bright yellow bill and eyering. It's a medium-sized bird, its dimension is more or less the same as the american robin. It has a rich caroling song mostly heard at the sunrise and at the sunset.IMG_3052
    • Richard
      Participant
      Chirps: 20
      Abirsa at 16 (1)Bird ID Practice: Activity 1 Shape differences.  This is one of my favorite pictures and the shape differences are readily observable.  The sleek smooth and slender shape of the the egret is easily differentiated from the stocker, broader body, more substantial bill and broader all over scope of the wood stork.  The great blue heron in the back is intermediate between the two others.  The ducks well they look like ducks out of water in this case. IMG_7778P3290382 Activity 2 Color is the color yellow.  My first use of Merlin helped me ID the great crested flycatcher.  He is bigger than the goldfinch (everyone knows what they look like) and this warbler.   The flycatcher has four (or 5) colors (blue shoulders, black wing, yellow belly, white and rusty colored tail.  I never got a good enough picture of the warbler to firmly identify it, but the size and shape and splashes or yellow pretty firmly classify it.  The goldfinches are the bright spots of yellow who arrive in MA in early spring and stay until they finish eating all of my sunflowers.
      • Aaron
        Participant
        Chirps: 16
        Where do you live? I might be able to help you ID this warbler.
    • Karen
      Participant
      Chirps: 11
      Good morning, all! I'm very much a beginner and really enjoying this course. Going through it very slowly. Activity 1: I can tell the difference between a hawk, eagle and osprey by the shape of their spread out wings. Plus body shapes are different. Activity 2:  I used the Merlin App to find out what kind of nuthatch I saw the other day! I determined it is a red breasted nut hatch by its black eye band. None of the other nuthatches had it. Activity 3: No luck on this activity today. I do know that ducks search for food by tipping their heads into the water. Nuthatches search for insects on trees (I think). Activity 4: One of my favourite birds is the Common Loon. Of course, its distinctive plaintive call is easy to identify. Also, it's body shape while floating on the water is distinctive to my eye. Something about the shape of its neck. It's back is what I call a checkerboard of black and white. I often spot one on a nearby lake. Then other day, one stayed near to the shore for me to watch close up for awhile. I even caught a picture of it preening upright in the water.
    • Marjorie
      Participant
      Chirps: 10
      Activity 1: Swallow (I think Violet-Green, but it might have been a Tree Swallow) have a very different shape (and flight) than a house wren. The swallows dive and swoop and glide, while the wren beats his wings quickly and rhythmically. Activity 2: Rust-red-brown (rufous!). American Robins have the red breast, a Chipping Sparrow (first for me!) has a lovely rust brown cap, and a Rufous Hummingbird is pretty much rust-brown all over! Activity 3: Robins hop-scratch with two feet, and then peck the ground. Sparrows eat seeds (or bugs?) off of grass and dry flower stalks. I watched the wren for a long time but couldn't see where he was getting his food. Activity 4: The Calliope Hummingbird is one of my favorites, and I saw my first for-sure one of the season today (we also have Rufous and Anna's). Tiny, bullet-shaped body, pale green back. Light underside, tiny vertical lines of spots going down chin and breast (female). Hover-zip flying style, perched on a twig for a bit, but generally moves around a lot and very fast. Habitat is mountain meadow and thickets near streams in conifer forests.
    • Mary Alice Smith
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      Activity 2: I am trying to learn warblers and today went looking for a Prothonotary Warbler that had been seen nearby. I was looking for a yellow bird. I found singing Yellow Warblers, which are distinguished from other warblers by the orange stripes on the male's breast. There were so many that I really got to know the Yellow Warbler's song. I also found Common Yellow Throat, distinguished by their black masks. I found another yellow warbler that I thought at first was the Prothonotary, but this warbler had a black strip through it's eye. I found photos of a Blue-Winged Warbler that matched the bird I say. When I played its song, I recognized it immediately. So, it was fun to work on identifying yellow warblers today in Rhode Island. Also saw and identified a White-Eyed Vireo, which also is a small yellow bird that appears in the spring in Rhode Island.
    • Barbara
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      I find myself using the Merlin app more and more.  It is very easy to use to identify a bird.  I even took a photo of what I thought were heron nests and took a picture hoping to get the bird and the nest.  I was not completely successful but Merlin did identify the bird as a Blue Heron.  Amazing!
    • Martha
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      I've got pretty good at identifying all the birds I can see from my window by sight, so I've been trying to learn their songs so I can tell which ones are around even when I can't spot them, which is getting harder now that the leaves have all grown back on the trees. When I hear a great tit close by I know they're going to show up at the feeder any second, so it's also helped me spot them more often.
      • Debra
        Participant
        Chirps: 1
        I, too, have gotten pretty good at IDing the birds I regularly see at my feeders: Chestnut backed chickadees, Juncos, towhees, nuthatches, song sparrows, now purple finches and black capped grosbeaks. I've been practicing learning their songs, but still hear new ones in the woods I cannot identify. I understand Cornell also has a birdsong ID class, may look into that.
    • susan
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      I have many birds feeding in the yard including house finches, sparrows, and gold finches which are feeding on seeds.  I also had a Baltimore oriole feeding on an orange and a wood thrush scrapping in the leaf litter under the corneliancherry dogwoods.  I like using multiple field guides for identification.  I find different field guides will have some different information which will help me positively identify the bird.  They also provide different pictures.  I will then go on the internet to listen to their song.
    • Riccardo
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      1547F117-9B62-4710-978A-D7CB43B69422 Eurasian blue tit (cyanistes caeruleus), Modena, Italy 99023932-7A74-4BA7-95A7-14CA93BE080E
      • Great tit (parus major), Modena, Italy ACTIVITY 1: Around my house I see a lot of Eurasian blue tit (cyanistes caeruleus) and Great tit (parus major). They could seem very similar at a first view and from far away. But the first is smaller, more rounded and has a shorter bill compared to the head.
      ACTIVITY 2: considering the European serin, the European goldfinch and the common firecrest they all have some yellow part. The first has the majority of the chest, the second has wing patches and the third a cap. Using the Merlin app it is possible to easily distinguish the from the size, the shape and the other body pattern that they have.
    • Lisa
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      I have been doing a lot of bird watching as a pandemic escape and the Merlin Bird ID app works fantastic.  Last weekend,  on my hike we spotted a lot of very different birds.  Activity 1:  I found a large hawk size bird and a small sparrow size bird but did not know either one.  With the app's questions, I easily came to a Black-crowned Night Heron and a White-throated Sparrow.  The Heron was such a find as it was sleeping in some bushes.  Activity 2:  I spotted several different kind of woodpeckers.  All had a combination of red, black and white.  I really had to work at telling the difference between a Hairy Woodpecker  and a Downy Woodpecker but I do think I got it once looking at the becks.  The other woodpecker I identified was the the Red-bellied Wookpecker.  It is easier than the other two because their pattern is different.  Activity 3:  I found three different type of birds looking for food and ID them but there food foraging was very different- Great Blue Heron was fishing in the the river, the Black Rumped Warbler was moving around the top of a blooming tree and a White-Breasted Nut Hatch looking for bugs on a tree trunk.  Activity 4: One of my favorite is the Baltimore Oriole.  First spotting of the season,  I used it color scheme-bright orange and black,  its size - robinish and it's call to ID it.   After doing this lesson, I tried the photo id option in Merlin.  I had a picture take of the Oriole and it ID it perfectly.  I would try using it.  My picture quality was not the best and it still worked great.
    • Peter
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      FCE40708-CC05-493B-8BB8-7FDDBCD55A4749EBBBE7-F2CE-4148-B905-906658E21D0BOsprey nesting and Great Blue Heron. Walking along a pond in Eagle, ID
    • Sarah
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      For Activity 1 I watched the Bird Cam at the feeder in Sapsucker woods at Cornell lab.  I used Merlin to ID a couple of the birds-but by size/shape I could right away tell apart European Starling from Black Capped Chickadee.  Other birds I ID'd at the feeder using Merlin were Red winged Blackbird and Baltimore Oriole (adult female).  The Bird Cams are pretty cool-they're a great feature to use especially right now! For Activity 3, I saw a mallard looking for food in the pond/wetland area in our backyard.  An American Robin was pecking at the ground around the neighborhood, and I also saw a Killdeer during my run that had been on the ground and took off as I went by.  The Killdeer was tricky to ID using Merlin, I didn't put in the right identifiers at first, but luckily I had seen it's back/tail as it flew away so I saw the orangey/brown color on it's rump/tail.  It's shape in the air and it's call helped me confirm that's what I saw as well.
      • Rachel
        Participant
        Chirps: 3
        Hi Sarah, I id'ed Killdeer by saying, size of a robin, black, white and buff/brown, found on the ground, and that got me the Killdeer as first choice! Happy birding! Rachel
    • Mary
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      For activity 2 we went to the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge and saw so many birds, even a Trumpeter swan (we think, as it was hard to see the bill color to be certain).  But what was challenging was seeing eagles, ospreys and turkey vultures.  At times it was hard to say for sure what was flying overhead due to the dark colors on all.  We used the Merlin app and it did help. For activity 1 at my home feeder, I can tell the difference by the shapes because I know the birds that regularly come to my feeder, and have identified them in the past.  It is more difficult to tell just by shape in the wild, it is needed to know the size also, and maybe the color or sound will help to.  We saw tree swallows and sparrows and the shape of the bird and its flight was enough to help differentiate. I love learning these new ways of looking at birds in this course!!!
    • Moya
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      Act.1  today I saw two black birds one was a crow and one was a starling. They differed by size and shape  (as well as behavior). Act3 Today I watched three birds looking for food. The cat bird was  on the ground flitting in low bushes and  sorting through leaves (looking for insects). The dove  was also on the ground  but stayed under the bird feeder looking for seeds.The cardinal flew from branch to branch in the trees and onto the bird feeder to eat seeds. Act4 I like the gold finches . They are small like a sparrow. Their coloring in the winter is an olive/brown color  with darker stripes on their wings. In the late spring an summer the male is bright yellow with black wings, cap and tail. The female is more green on her back  and a duller yellow on her abdomen. They like seeds and perch on flower stem and grasses to eat seeds. They live in fields, bushes and roadsides. They have an undulating flight and  have a sweet, high four syllable song.
    • Aixa
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      The Merlin app is very useful. I have been able to learn more about other species in our area that I was having trouble identifying such as  the Eastern Phoebe. A couple of pairs of  Eastern Phoebes are nesting nearby. Am still working on identifying some other species ... it is a great exercise.
    • Aixa
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      Canada goose pair spotted in the neighborhood. Enjoy seeing them fly overhead.   IMG_2238
    • Mary Ann
      Participant
      Chirps: 13
      I am in Yorktown, Westchester County. Activity 1: This morning  on my walk, a red-tailed hawk swooped down and landed on a tree branch in front of me. It just sat there as I stood still with no camera!  Right after that, a downy woodpecker came by. Definitely, two different shapes! Activity 2: Yesterday, at Croton Riverwalk, I used to Merlin to identify a pair of red-winged blackbirds and a grackle, obviously blackbirds. Activity 3: At my birdfeeder, the chipping sparrow with land on the feeder to feed. The mourning doves will feed underneath the feeder, while the robins are hopping all over my yard. Activity 4: So there is an famous eagle’s nest at FDR State Park, that can be seen off the Taconic Parkway. It has become a pandemic escape to go over to the park in the evening and watch at least one eagle perched in the trees. The nest has eaglets in it and it is a joy to watch.
      • Mary
        Participant
        Chirps: 5
        Mary Ann, I’m in Croton... the Croton Pt Park is really good for birdwatching, lots of eagles, turkey vultures and ospreys.  The Riverwalk you mentioned gets killdeer families and cormorants. MaryFM
    • Andrea
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      I have found the Merlin app most helpful and oh so easy to use! I have used it numerous times. The amount of information in the app is really something. Just a little swiping and you can find the sound it makes and a map. Describe a bird; small in size, larger than a sparrow, smaller than a robin; habitat forest, eats at bird feeders, small thick orange beak, bright yellow  head, belly and back, bars on the wings mostly black in color, black forehead.
    • Richard
      Participant
      Chirps: 20
      Coopers Hawk side2  Bird ID Activity 1: This is a photo from last year just after I got my 40-150 sense for Olympus.  I think this is a coopers hawk from my previous searches through the bird guides that I have.  It is a juvenile that I saw hunt in the neighborhood a few times.  A feature not captured in a photo is its fan shaped tail that appears white with black stripes, ie the white is 50% broader than the black on the tail.  Merlin from my descriptions suggests a red shouldered hawk is more likely in Florida. Pertinent to this exercise though, another bird hunts in the neighborhood as well.  It is a little smaller with a long forked tail.  It is a swallow tailed kite.  I don't have a good picture but once you have seen one fly nearby, it is impossible not to recognize.
    • Kim
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Activity one: the black headed grosbeak and the hooded oriole are the two birds in my yard I used for comparison. They are very similar in color but the grosbeak has a much broader beak than the oriole. The body is also slimmer on the grosbeak and more rounded on the oriole. activity two: I had a woodpecker in my backyard that does not come up in the app for my location. The markings are most similar to a yellow bellied sap sucker. I have also found a picture of a red naped sapsucker that is also very similar. It was definitely not the hairy woodpecker or the ladder-backed woodpecker that came up in the app. Activity three: the roofers hummingbirds search for food among the flowering shrubs in my backyard. The spotted towhee hops around in the grass, and the Woodhouse you activity three: the roofers hummingbirds search for food among the flowering shrubs in my backyard. The spotted towhee hops around in the grass, and the Woodhouse’s scrub jays prefer the suet over the birdseed. activity four: hooded oriole, Size is between a sparrow and a robin, shape is rounded like a robin, black mask and bib, bright orange head and chest, black wings with white bars. Beak is dark, narrow, and slightly curved.
    • Christopher
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      I have just begin birdwatching casually, so just observing whoever may be passing through the front or back yard, so I will be a bit flexible with my responses: Activity 1: I can tell apart Common Grackles and Robins by shape as the grace is less rotund and has a more striking tail. Activity 2: I have identified Common Grackles, Cardinals, and Red Wing Blackbirds as three birds that have black coloring. The grackle has it as an eye ring and pupil, the blackbird is almost wholly black except for the patch of red, and the northern cardinal has a black mask behind its beak. Activity 3: I have seen morning doves, robins, and song sparrows prospecting amongst the lawn for something to eat, whether insect or seeds I could not tell. Activity 4: It's tough to pin down a favorite, but I think my favorites are the most uncommon for me to observe casually, whether Orioles, Mockingbirds, or Merlins. I'll describe the Orioles because the first time I saw them was yesterday; they appeared to be mating or competing for a mate by hopping from tree limb to tree limb. They appeared to be feeding at flowers on a nearby shrub, and they featured very striking and easily discernible colors with an orange breast and black upper body and white wing flashes.
    • Allison
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      Activity 1:  When I first began feeding birds, I had lots of small brown birds which I assumed were all wrens.  I soon realized that most were actually sparrows.  I first used characteristics of shape to separate the wrens from the sparrows:  the wrens' tail position (cocked up) and their longer, curved beak.  I can now use color as well, but I am still trying to figure out all the striping patters on the sparrows!  Activity 2:  We'd gotten used to seeing downy woodpeckers, so we did a double-take when the first red-breasted grosbeak appeared.  The black and white and red colors are striking!  I don't think we've seen hairy woodpeckers or red-headed woodpeckers in our yard so far this year, but I'll be watching for them.  One day this year I had three brown birds in the yard, on the ground, at nearly the same time:  a wren, a thrush and a thrasher.  It was a bit like small, medium and large.  I haven't seen the thrush again, but the other two are reliable visitors.  Activity 3:  Just today I've seen the mourning doves waddling across the ground looking for seeds, the black-capped chickadee visiting quickly to grab a seed to carry away, and a gray catbird lingering at the feeders to peck at cranberries and the grape-jelly topped orange half.  Activity 4:  In the previous lesson I said that nuthatches were my favorite and that I primarily used their behavior (climbing down head-first) to identify them.  Their lovely bluish-gray, black and white coloring distinguishes them from the other smallish birds.  Their profile differs distinctly from the tufted titmouse which is similar in size and color.
    • Michelle
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      Activity 4 Favourite Bird White-crowned Sparrow. My favorite bird is always my last “best” bird. They can be the best because they are rare, they can be the best because it is the first time I have ever seen one, and they can be the best because it is the first time that I confidently and correctly identified them myself for the first time. That happened to me today (May 1, 2020) with a White-crowned Sparrow that was fleetingly at my feeders. I find sparrows challenging, and I have been working on them, so this was a bit of personal achievement for me. White-crowned sparrows are sparrow sized and shaped; not unusually large or small. They are a grey and brown bird with a clear grey breast and bold white and black stripes on their heads, like a bicycle helmet. They are ground foragers and tend to the forest edges and scrub areas. They can winter in my area which is far south-western Ontario near the Detroit River, but they breed up in the far north boreal forest. So this guy was going somewhere when he stopped briefly at my backyard feeder.wcsp
    • Michelle
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      Activity 3 3 Birds Foraging Behavior American Robin, House Sparrow, Mourning Dove. I list these 3 birds because they are in my backyard regularly and have very different foraging behaviors. Only the House Sparrow feeds directly from the feeders. The Mourning Doves forage from the ground. The Robins never come near the feeders but hop about on the grass or in the gardens looking for insects at this time of year.
    • Michelle
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      Activity #2 3 birds the same colour Chipping Sparrow, American Tree Sparrow, Field Sparrow. These are three little brown birds that take some practise to separate in the field. All three are rufous brown, grey, and black. All three have unstreaked breasts, rufous crowns, and eye-stripes, so you have to remember to carefully note the important features as these little birds bounce about. Here is what I look for American tree sparrow: bi-colored bill, black spot on the chest Chipping sparrow – no spot, white supercilium and brown eyeline Field Sparrow – pink bill, light colored legs, slightly white eye-ring, generally “pink and buffier” than the American tree, and Chipping Sparrows. American Tree Sparrow atsp Chipping Sparrow chsp Field Sparrowfisp
      • Moya
        Participant
        Chirps: 5
        Thank you for those helpful observations!!!