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

    • Laura
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      It would be interesting and helpful if classmates posting here also included their location.
    • Kara
      Participant
      Chirps: 20
      Activity #4 My Favourite Bird The Ruby-throated Hummingbird. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird, has a slender, slightly downcurved bill with small wings.  They're bright emerald green on their back and crown with a white belly.  The males have the ruby throat. They live in open woodland, forest edges, grasslands, parks and, hopefully, my backyard this summer. I have only seen females in my garden,  but I'm optimistic that I will see the male this year.  Southern Ontario has had an unseasonably cool and windy April, but warmer temperatures are coming our way and I have my feeders out in anticipation.
    • Kara
      Participant
      Chirps: 20
      Activity 2- Three birds with the same colour, birds that are orange and black Bullock's Oriole- Bright orange, black back, large white wing patch. Orange face with a black line through the eye and a black throat Blackburnian Warbler- vivid orange on face and throat, triangular facial pattern of black Black-headed Grosbeak- rich orange cinnamon colour, with a black head and black and white wings
    • Kathleen
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      Activity 4: One of my favorite birds is the Baltimore Oriole who is visiting my oriole feeder now.  He is a medium sized bird with a black head, orange chest, and bright white wing bars. I put out my “jelly” feeder to attract them.  Last year I saw both males and females aplenty.  My primary home is in Michigan, but since I winter in south Texas, I see the orioles first there—and not just Baltimores. We see Altamira, Bullocks, Hooded, and Orchard varieties.  They love fruit.
    • Kara
      Participant
      Chirps: 20
      Activity 1- Bird ID by Shape American Robin- large, round body, long legs and a fairly long tail IMG_5569 Goldfinch- sparrow sized or smaller, small head, long wings, short notched tail, small conical beak IMG_0028
    • candy
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      Activity 3. 3 birds searching for food.  Here in TX today, IIMG_3759 saw a Black Crested Titmouse at the feeder taking one seed at a time and flying back to the tree to eat it (I guess) and going back and forth many times.  A cardinal ate at the feeder and also foraged on the ground below the feeder for seeds.  In Iowa, I watched Bald Eagles  fishing in the Mississippi, diving low towards the water with their talons out and catching the fish in flight flying away with the fish in its talons.  Activity 4.  Favorite bird-Northern Cardinal.  Id'ed by its size and shape (larger than a robin with a distinctive crest), color pattern and markings ( the black around its eyes contrasting wit the red is so pretty), sounds (today, the female was chirping just like the Merlin app example; They also often sing more elaborate songs.)  I love the Merlin app having so many examples of each bird's songs.  It really helps me learn them!
    • candy
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      IMG_3785 Activity 1.  2 birds of different shape.  At my feeder today I saw a female cardinal with the characteristic crest on her head.  She had barely noticeable red on her wings and tail.  Also, a house sparrow with the small size, no tuft or crest.  Sparrows seem to usual but he was very pretty with his intricate wing colorings!  Activity 2.  3 birds-same color on diff parts of body .  My color is black:  Purple Martins-Identifiable with the forked tail and shape of beak  The habitat/behavior of using a raised martin house.  House Sparrow (again)-identified by his color pattern, behavior at the feeder and size and shape.  Great Blue Heron-identified by his habitat on the water and color pattern.  I identified all through Merlin.  What a great app!!  IMG_3728
    • Jerzy
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      Recently I have been watching a lot common grackles and red wing black birds. Both seem to hanging around together in some areas (as well as at the Cornell feeder).  Their shape differences are not very pronounced so it was useful to hone in on those. European sparling also joins the two species and Colours help to tell them apart - yellow bill and spots on the sparking, red and yellow stripe on the male red wing and Metalic blue head and brownish body on grackles. Northern Cardinal was the first bird that I could ID by shape, colour and sound.  With time I got to appreciate the female cardinal for her very diverse colour: Brown, yellow and red/orange.  Typically she is hiding in lower branches while the male is easy to hear and spot. Telling the difference between sharp shinned and Cooper’s hawks gives me grief. Apparently not only me - late in 2018 I photographed one in my yard.  Trying to report it properly on e-bird I first sent the picture to the local expert who vets submissions. He concluded that it was Sharp shinned. Unfortunately after I submitted my report I was told by a different “vetter” that it was Cooper’s hawk.  Fun. Since I started using Merlin I had no problems.
    • Jill
      Participant
      Chirps: 10
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      • Jill
        Participant
        Chirps: 10
        P.S: We figured out how to post our own picture of those American White Pelicans noted below. Persistence and patience are certainly traits to have with this hobby!
    • Jill
      Participant
      Chirps: 10
      These activities prompted us to check out a spring migration birding site along a nearby northern Minnesota river (a new birding site for us). Thanks to playing around with all the features at Merlin we identified American White Pelicans congregating on a river bank, wading in the water, and flying in small flocks. Discerning the Ringbilled gull from other gulls was a little trickier --but checking out the multiple views in Merlin's app helped a lot.  Photo credit goes to the Audubon Society as inserting our own images isn't working too well. Guess we'll have to ask the kids for a tutorial here! Also, playing around with a newer iPhone allowed us to video at 6X and take photos at 10X size. We'll have to bring our spotter for monitoring activities close up but using binoculars went better today thanks to the tutorial in this course.
    • Barbara
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      I used Merlin to identify 3 birds that I have seen recently in central Florida: Swallow-tail Kite, Palm Warbler, and Brown Thrasher. I see numerous herons and egrets in my area so want to work at identifying them.
    • W. John
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      [2] Yesterday, a large flock of White-throated Sparrows descended upon my yard and happily ate milo/millet that my resident squirrels love to scatter. I immediately noticed that some of the sparrows were of a slightly different colouring than the others. I used Merlin, my Peterson Field Guide (Fifth Edition), and Chris Earley's Sparrows & Finches to learn more about the tan-striped morph of this species. The white-striped WTS much more easily stands out amongst the other beige/brown birds in my yard, including the Mourning Dove, which has a much more uniform colour, and the Brown Thrasher, which has dark streaking on his underparts,IMG_1029 and white wing bars. The photo that I have inserted is of a tan-morph that had the misfortune to fly into a window. Happily, he survived the ordeal. [3] In looking at birds that are foraging for food, I went to Allaboutbirds to see whether the WTS has any particularly distinguishing characteristics when pecking at the ground for seed, which it does not. This was confirmed by the Project Feederwatch app. The Mourning Dove feeds in a similar manner but is less likely to fly from spot to spot like the WTS. In fact, I note that the dove does not mind sitting/standing in a pile of feed for relatively long periods of time. My faithful Dark-eyed Juncos, being sparrows, act in a similar manner to the WTS. As a bonus, a female Brown-headed Cowbird joined the group of WTS under a feeder and walked from spot to spot looking for seed. Although grey/beige, it is easily distinguished by size and shape of bill -- finch-like -- from the sparrows and Mourning Dove. The PFW app confirmed that the cowbird eats a wide variety of food, although I note that she seems to prefer milo/millet to cracked corn, both of which my posse of squirrels delight in scattering on the ground. [4] Today's favourite bird is the Dark-eyed Junco (slate-coloured) because most of them have already migrated north, east and south-east for the slowly approaching summer season, and I will soon begin to miss them. They are readily identified before I even see them by their trilling, high-pitched simple song. They are also the only two-toned grey bird in my yard, with the upper part of the body being a darker slate-coloured grey, hence their former name. The flit from spot to spot in my yard looking for milo/millet, although I do see them eating, one piece at a time, safflower. They also fly over to eat bits of nyjer and sunflower hearts that fall from tube feeders. This is a friendly and non-aggressive species that I thoroughly enjoy watching and feeding.
    • Karen
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      Activity 3: I watched a bluebird perch on a branch of walnut tree, fly down to ground to catch something and then return to its original perch.  It did this several times before flying to a perch in an elm tree nearby.  It resumed its routine of flying to ground, then back up to perch.  In between watching the bluebird, I also saw a phoebe perch on a branch on an apple tree, fly to the ground and then return to the apple tree, repeatedly.  A field sparrow was in the hedgerow that is around the orchard, and it hopped along the ground quickly before hopping up into the hedgerow and then returning to the ground a few feet away.  It was difficult to find when I looked away to check on the other two birds, but when I was patient, its jerky, quick movements would draw my eye and I would be able to locate it again.  I looked all three up on Merlin and listened to their calls.
    • W. John
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      I became a bit obsessed with the photo of the Downy that was posted by Marlene. At first glance, I tried to use our learning in an earlier part of the lesson by looking at the size of the bill. With the bird being on a bit of an angle, it is tough. My first thought was that the bill seemed rather large for a Downy but then I noticed the black spots on the underside of the tail, which makes it a Downy. I next opened Merlin -- thank you, Cornell, for this great app! -- and swiped through the photos of both birds. The second photo of a Downy was taken on a similar angle to the one that Marlene posted, and the shape of the bill -- more conical and less pointed -- also suggests that it is a Downy. What do others think? And, thank you, Marlene, for posting that photo. It gave me something to obsess over this drizzly morning!
    • Reminder: Please only post photographs that are taken by you.
      • Manyu
        Participant
        Chirps: 42
        Sure. Noted.
      • Manyu
        Participant
        Chirps: 42
        Hi Lee Ann van Leer , Can you help me by deleting my activity 2 in this discussion.  I will redo it.
      • Manyu
        Participant
        Chirps: 42

        @Manyu Will insert the pictures clicked by me in by redoing the activity again.

    • Marlene
      Participant
      Chirps: 17
      I captured 4 male American Gold Finches at my window feeder yesterday. Although we normally think of Goldfinches as bright yellow birds, they actually have a few distinctive colors. In summer they are bright yellow with a black forehead, black wings with white markings and white patches above and below their tails. Lots of colors when you look closely. 20200427_080024[1]
    • Marlene
      Participant
      Chirps: 17
      I used my awesome Merlin App to identify the below woodpecker. I wasn't sure if it was a Hairy Woodpecker or a Downy. I had always thought it was a Downy, but after going through the bird ID lesson I thought maybe it was really a Hairy. The Merlin App identified it as a Downy. Would you agree? 20200427_181623[1]
      • Vicki g
        Participant
        Chirps: 21
        well - between those two - I do agree - the shorter beak. is this a female (no red on cap?)
      • Marlene
        Participant
        Chirps: 17

        @Vicki g Yes, the female. She hangs on this mesh feeder quite a bit lately and makes it easy to take her picture.

      • W. John
        Participant
        Chirps: 9
        I would agree that this is a Downy because I can just make out a few black spots on the underside of the tail, which is a definite indicator of a Downy.
      • Yes,  this photo is Downy Woodpecker, female. My personal mnemonic is Dinky, Descending, Downy  (You could substitute Dainty or Diminutive) (Dinky bill that is around half the width of the  head. Dinky as in smaller than a Hairy Woodpecker. Descending in that their call descends in pitch (while Hairy Woodpecker call remains on the same pitch). Humongous, Hurried, Hairy Their bill is humongous (compared with the Downy Woodpecker), their bill is equal to around the full width of their head and they are huge overall compared to Downy Woodpecker. Hurried is for their drumming which is very rapid or hurried compared to the other woodpeckers. You will find that the mnemonic devices you create yourself will be the most memorable. If you come up with any, throughout the course, feel free to post them. It might be interesting to learn some from all around the world.
    • Judi
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      I enjoyed using Merlin in the activities practicing bird IDs of birds in my yard.   I live in a rural area of the eastern panhandle of WV. The ID of birds ID’d by shape Cardinals and Blue Jays  were IDd first try.  The 3 birds with black and red; red wing black bird, rose breasted grossbeak, and the hairy woodpecker also easy to ID. My my favorite bird is a Baltimore Oriole. It is medium/small, the body is round.  It has a brilliant orange breast and black head and hood.  The tail is mostly black with an orange tip.  The wings are black with white stripes.  It has a very pointed straight grey beak. This bird visits my back yard regularly I have put out orange halves and an oriole feeder but I have never seen him use either.  He and his mate visit the yard at different times, I have never seen them together.  I haven’t found their nest this year but 2 years ago it was in a large walnut tree in easy view of our back porch and we could watch them taking turns to feed their young.
    • Ann
      Participant
      Chirps: 16
      All these birds below come to our feeding area - we throw some seed on the ground and put some in a feeded.  We also have a hummingbird feeder.  The area around the feeding area is undeveloped Sonoran desert with lots of trees and plants. Activity 1: 2 birds different just by shape.  Curve bill Thrasher  and Gambel Quail. The thrasher is slimmer and has a curved bill. The quail is plump and has shorter legs plus a top notch. Activity 2: 3 different birds same color but different parts of the body.  These are in the grey category but quite different. Albert's Towhee a drab grayish brown all over except a bit darker face and pinkish bill that resembles a cardinal bill.  The feed mostly on the ground scratching with both feet.  Morning doves are grey mostly on the back - breast and belly are whitish. They also have tails more pointed than the Albert's Towhee.  The Curved Bill thrasher has a grey back but the breast and belly has spots but the bill is slightly curved. Activity 3: Look for three different birds searching for food today. The Gila Woodpecker visits the seed feeder and the hummingbird feeder.  We think the Gila and Northern Flicka may get more of the hummingbird food that the hummingbirds do. The also get insects off the tree trunks.  The black throated sparrow tries to horn in on the doves at the feeder - they have some luck but they are very polite (no bullies).  They also peck around the ground and explores the creosote in the area for insects. . The Cactus Wren rarely comes in to eat the food we put out. We see them hoping everywhere - sometimes flipping twigs and small rocks to find food. Activity 4: Favorite bird - Phainopepla.  The are robin size (7-8 inches), slim with a spiky crest.  The look black unless the sunlight is right and then they are really shiny (almost purple).  The have red eyes.  They feed on the mistletoe - some say they even plant mistletoe seeds (but maybe not on purpose). When they fly, there a white wing patch. ,
    • Debbie in Golden
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      I have been bird watching most days (even for just a few minutes before work) since I started this class. I have used Merlin to identify about 10 different bird species within a mile or two of my house. We do have hawks nearby and even in my own yard, but I am struggling still to identify the difference between the hawks.   Regarding activity 2, I think I have been able to identify 4 different black birds in my area - red winged blackbird (easy with the red patch on the wings!), common grackle with the navy shiny hood, the American crow and the black-billed magpie.
    • Michelle
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      I used my Merlin app, the Bird ID and Explore Birds features, using characteristics and my location to scan through lists with pics, descriptions, sounds. Wonderful. I sat in my backyard and walked in Caroline park, filled with California natives. 1) Northern Mockingbird with well proportioned slim elegant body and medium neck, sitting on a wire with long narrow tail pitched up, ¿for balance? Lesser Goldfinch with small ovoid body and conical beak. 3)Maybe Coopers Hawk soaring and circling above; House Sparrow scratching dry leaves in a shaded quiet area; Anna’s Hummingbird hovering with whirling wings at a tubular flower at head height.
    • I took a photo of a bird at my feeder.  I used the Merlin Bird App to identify the bird with a photograph I took.  It was a House Sparrow. I posted the information onto my Facebook account.  I have let a lot of people know about this course and I think that some friends have enrolled.  It is a great resource and I hope to be able to use it soon when I explore the outdoors.
    • Lisa
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      1.  We have a lot of grey- or dun-colored birds in our neighborhood, including three different kinds of doves (whitening, mourning, Inca), all of which are easy to tell apart from the chachalaca, which to me has a shape that is sort of a cross between a chicken and a miniature dinosaur!  All are often on the ground, but even in dim light the shape, size--and the weird call--make the chachalaca easy to pick out. 3.  In my back yard this morning, I saw two different feeding strategies.  A number of birds came to the feeders to eat seed, and a male grackle caught a small frog that he was repeatedly dunking in the birdbath!
    • Brad
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      I love Northern Cardinals.  The are medium sized, the males are mostly Bright red with a black face.  They emit loud chirps regularly in my bacxkyard and often camp out on branches of large trees.
    • Susan
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      My favorite backyard bird has a black head, white breast with red streaks on each side. Its back and wings and tail are black with streaks of white.