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

    • 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.
    • Moya
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      I decided to sort out and identify some of the little brown birds that come to my yard. I now know I have  house sparrows with his dark head, white cheeks, fat black beak  and beige abdomen. I have his wife who is mottled brown with a beige abdomen and a yellow beak and a puffy light eye line. I also have  purple finches. The male is more easily identified  by his reddish head and back but the female is mottled brown  with brown spots spot on her abdomen and a white line in back of he eye. I also have pine siskins. Both male and female look like the female finch  ( mottled brown and brown spots on the abdomen) except they have a slender sharp beak and yellowish stripes on their wings and tail.  Now I can also see that I have a white crested sparrow and gold finches that are brownish in the winter. Game changer!
    • Rosemary
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      Today I saw large bodied Canada Geese grey and in white in color flying by and at my birdbath medium size birds Cardinals, Robins and Blue Jays.   The Robin was running on the grass to different spots to listen for worms, the sparrow was hopping around and then pecking  in the dirt.
    • Mike
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      Great Blue Heron, Whidbey island Washington at dusk0B4129CC-50C7-40EC-A5E7-E194F628BEA6
    • Manyu
      Participant
      Chirps: 42
      Activity 4 : Favorite bird : Shikra (Accipiter Badius) Shape like : Bald eagle Size : Between crow and goose. Color pattern : Pale blue, grey upper parts + Brown, orange bars + white thighs + lightly barred tail feathers + root of the bill is yellow Habitat : Open fields of semi arid regions, resident of India. Found all over India. Behavior : Sits upright on high trees. Flies like eagles. Hunts small rodents. Sound :  High pitch short duration peews with substantial gaps.
      • If I am not wrong this is the bird sitting on the Merlin App's "start bird id" tab. Can someone from Bird Academy confirm ?
        unnamed  
      • Actually, the silhouette on the start page of Merlin is a Merlin, Falco columbarius, a small falcon widespread across the Northern Hemisphere. But, they look a lot alike.
      • Manyu
        Participant
        Chirps: 42

        @Kevin Thank you for your reply Kevin.

      • Esteban
        Participant
        Chirps: 170

        @Kevin So that is why it is called merlin.

      • Manyu
        Participant
        Chirps: 42
        IMG_0159 Clicked by me.
    • Dr. Sara W.
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      I can sit in my backyard to do these activities, and on a road nearby. 1.  Two birds I can tell apart by shape are the Bluejay and the robin.  The first is larger and has a crest.  Inside the cover of the Peterson guide are roadside silhouettes that are fun to examine. 2.  Three birds with the same color:  black, but on different places of their bodies. a.  Black-capped Chickadee has a black crown and bib b.  Dark-eyed Junco with very dark coloration about the eyes c.  American Goldfinch:  male with black forehead patch, wings, and tail 3.  Three different birds searching for food today. a.  Hairy Woodpecker:  clings to suet feeder, pokes long bill in to get his food b.  Dark-eyed Junco:  was on the ground eating seeds from the feeder, also had a little bit of plant material in his mouth.  Making a nest? c.  Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker seen nearby over the past week or so, on two roads nearby:  on ground searching for insects and worms and flying low over meadowland 4.  Favorite bird:  the American Goldfinch.  This is a small finch 4 to 5 inches in length, with a small head, long wings, a short tail.  In summer the male is bright yellow with black forehead and wings.  The female is a dusky faded yellow with black and white wingbars.  The goldfinch is active and social, traveling in flocks, and is monogamous.  Pairs sing the same song.  They can be seen in fields, orchards, backyards.  They eat sunflower seed, thistle, elm, and nijer seeds.  They reside all over the USA and migrate South in the winter.
    • Manyu
      Participant
      Chirps: 42
      Activity 3 Bird 1 : Black kite was catching pigeons. Bird 2 : White throated kingfisher looking for mice. Bird 3 : House sparrow was eating flowers on aamla tree.
    • Manyu
      Participant
      Chirps: 42
      Activity 2 Bird 1 : Copper Smith Barbet   Bird 2 :  Black rumped flameback woodpecker   Bird 3 : Yellow Crowned Woodpecker  
      • Danya
        Participant
        Chirps: 20
        Your photos make me want the visit India for bird watching!
    • Manyu
      Participant
      Chirps: 42
      Namaste to All,  I am Abhimanyu from North-western India. Activity 1 Bird 1 - Balck kite - Milvus Migrans - I see it daily, this is s mean machine. Hunts pigeons and other small birds. Sharp calls, glides down in big circles and attacks doves and smaller birds. Loves electricity poles to sit on. I have also noticed that it has fixed times of meals. Picture not clicked by me , searched for the name in my pocket field guide which is a customized guide just for my city Jaipur. Funny things : Yesterday I saw this bird of prey being chased away by a dove. Schwarzmilan Activity 1 : Bird 2 : Greater Coucal Smaller in size than the black kite but bigger than a pigeon. Black kite is broader than this bird. Greater_Coucal_IMG_3647
      • Debbie in Golden
        Participant
        Chirps: 3
        These are beautiful pictures! Thanks for sharing.
      • Manyu
        Participant
        Chirps: 42
        IMG_2912 IMG_20181209_183936_095 Clicked by me.
    • Mark
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      1. Grey Butcherbird and Noisy Minor. Butcherbird is sleeker. Easy to identify on Merlin. 2. Australian Raven, Pied Currawong, Australian Magpie. All have black. Raven is all black. Currawong and Magpie black and white. Magpie has white on nape of neck which can be seen at some distance and for me is a defining characteristic. 3. Sulphur Crested Cockatoo. Sitting in Eucalyptus tree eating seeds and tip pruning tree. Laughing Cookaburra sitting on tree branch looking for prey on ground. Dives and takes small lizard. King Parrot in camellia tree. Taking pollen / nectar from flowers. 4. Any Albatros. Large bird, flying effortlessly on wind. Large wing span, shaped for efficiency, found. Often hard for me to identify exact species as usually in flight moving with the wind. Amazing birds. Need to know more  and learn more. Merlin some use. King
      • Marie
        Participant
        Chirps: 2
        P1030049P1011654 Hi fellow Australian! Just thought I'd put in some photos to illustrate some of what you've written. Pied currawong and a magpie. Happy birding Marie
    • Lesley
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Activity 1: practice using Merlin app to identify two familiar birds with different shapes: Dark-eyed Junco, and Black-capped Chickadee: the app was immediately effective in identifying both from the data I put in. Activity 2: use the Merlin app to identify three different birds that have the same colors on different parts of their bodies (and I went for birds of the same size and shape): Robin, Varied Thrush, and Spotted Towhee. Again the app gave the correct identifications for each given variation in data: feeding habits. Activity 3: Identify three birds using Merlin based on different feeding habits (but I chose similar size and shape): Downy Woodpecker (on trees), Golden-crowned Sparrow (on the ground), and Pine Siskin (at the feeder.) And Merlin gave me the correct answer right away. Loving this app -- and would totally trust it with any new bird sighting! Activity 4: Use the bird ID strategies to describe a favorite bird: Bald Eagle: Size: Goose or bigger; Shape: Upright raptor when perched, long, flat wing span when in flight, finger-like wing tips, head projects beyond body (unlike a vulture); Color and pattern markings: Brown, mottled with grey, and white: obvious white head and tail feathers on adults, juveniles all brown with white patches under wings in flight and on underbelly; Behavior: perches in tall trees, especially with bare branches, hunts over water or forest, soaring and swooping, flies in family groups; Range: all year here in the Pacific coast region of BC, Canada, reliably seen especially in spring and early summer over the ocean and around the forest treetops; Sounds: screeching cry and high-pitched chuckles, unmistakeable when heard nearby.
    • Link
      Participant
      Chirps: 14
      Most of these were done from my yard. Activity 1: European Starling and House Finch. The starlings have long, slender bills. The finches have a lot stubbier bills that are taller. The starlings are a lot bigger than the house finches, they are about the size of a robin. The finches are sparrow-sized. Activity 2: The European starling, Eurasian Collared Dove, and House Sparrow, all sport the color black. The European starling is all black with brown speckles.The male House Sparrow has black as a sort of bib and as spectacles. The Eurasian Collared Dove only has black on the "collar" on the back of it's neck. Activity 3: The European Starling (there are a lot by my house if you couldn't tell,) likes to probe in the ground for bugs to eat. Robins do this, too, but like to pull up whole worms! I've seen house finches eating the leaf buds on one of our trees. Activity 4: Red-tailed Hawks vary in color pattern, but usually have brown backs and heads, and can have tan undersides with black speckles. Their cry is a high, piercing KyEEAAHHH. They often glide high on thermal drafts, then descend with claws outstretched to snatch their prey.
    • Vicki g
      Participant
      Chirps: 21
      ok - keeping things quite basic here, as that is where I am. I am looking mostly at water and marsh and shore, and so - Activity 1 by shape are the cormarants v. geese, ducks, and smaller birds, swimming in the marsh that I need someone with me to identify! I am skipping activity 2 for now - it was not a good birdwatching day today. Another rainy chill day here - I do hope to spend some time with the binoculars on my porch to distinguish the various black birds that are not crows. Activity 3, I watched glossy Ibis pecking amongst the marsh grass - I found them by scanning with my binoculars, because at first arrival at my spot only saw a large number of gulls as rest in the marsh. In another spot in the same area, I watched gulls and Osprey hunting by circling above, and moving to a harbor, watched a pair of ducks (white with dark caps), repetively "bottoms-up" for their food.  My newly adopted temporary favorite bird, the Glossy Ibis - I now look for or stay-aware for - in the marshy grasses, distinctive by the buff and purple/other colors, slightly smaller, even slenderer than the white snowy egret. And in a group. I am a both enjoying the "enlightening" of this course, and a little discouraged today. I am hoping for more "distance-walking" soon with one or another birder-friend. Almost everyone I know can identify more local birds than me. It helps to keep learning them one at a time.
      • Vicki g
        Participant
        Chirps: 21
        replying to myself which is reidiculous, of course -  but after being discouraged yesterday I had emailed a friend with the location, habitat, size, feeding manner and colors of the pair of ducks I'd watched - and got a swift reply of "buffleheads!" - which I'd had in the running for an ID but did not feel secure with. It seems the lessons of this course are informing how I observe, describe and listen ... so that is very satisfying.
    • Sandra
      Participant
      Chirps: 31
      Activity 4: Favorite bird. I like small cuteness. I saw a Black-capped Chickadee for the first time a few weeks ago. Her brown, black and white colorings are not flamboyant, but soothing somehow. Why have I not seen one before? They are year-round inhabitants of British Columbia. Little is hard to spot. I think I was captured by her song. Their body shape is more symmetrical; with a larger head.  I like that they feed on seeds, and not gross worms etc. As much as it would be lovely to have birds at home, I do not believe in animals of any kind in cages. belmontApr2020 (14)
      • Sandra
        Participant
        Chirps: 31
        I just finished watching 10 Fun Facts about Chickadees| Smart, Tough, & Friendly. I am amazed by their communication and smarts. How does something so small be so intelligent and complex?
    • Sandra
      Participant
      Chirps: 31
      Activity 3: An American Coot was deep diving for plants. Not sure if she is going to share. The Northern Flicker, a member of the woodpecker family, was in woodpecker form making a monster hole in the tree, but feeds on the ground. How does that happen? I did not get a picture, and I found it disturbing, but a Bald Eagle flew overhead with what sounded like a live Starling in his grip. A few weeks ago I saw a Great Blue Heron grab what looked like a mouse in the grass. I had to look it up, as I did not know they would eat those. I am fascinated with birds, but being a vegetarian that grossed me out. lol apr11,2020 (6)ThomMrshApr2020 (4)
    • Cindy
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Activity 1- I can easily identify the Northern Cardinal and Black-Capped Chickadee at my feeders by their different shapes. Activity 2 - Three birds with red on their bodies - a pileated woodpecker with its striking red crest which we see in the trees behind our property, a red-bellied woodpecker, seen at our feeder, whose red is not on its belly but on its head, and a beautiful red-headed woodpecker which I identified with my Merlin app while on a walk. Activity 3 - the robins pick all over the back yard looking for worms. Blue jays seem to be first at the feeder and on the ground beneath each day, scavenging for their breakfast. The house finches are so cute and eat so daintily as they sit on the feeder in pairs. activity 4 - Not necessarily my favorite bird but for sure my favorite bird sighting so far this year. A bird that was new to me, Cedar Waxwing, is a Cardinal-sized bird with a crest and a striking black mask, as well as a band of yellow across the bottom of the tail. We heard rustling in a stand of trees along our driveway and saw birds flying in and out, making a bit of a racket. This went on for 5 minutes or more as I realized they were eating the berries in these trees. There must have been 20 or more birds having quite a feast!D476F105-C079-4FD5-817D-5D013BABE518
    • patty
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      Activity 1: two birds easily that I can tell apart by shape- Robin and white crowned sparrow Activity 2: 3 different birds that have the same colour (red/orange) in different parts of their body- Northern flicker, red on the nape of his neck; Spotted Tohee, red down the sides; Varied Thrush red/orange eye stripe and throat Activity 3:Food behaviours -Black capped chickadee taking sunflower seeds from the feeder to a nearby tree and using his feet to hold the seed while he cracks it; Oregon Junco feeds on ground with a jump forwards and back to  scratch the surface for seeds; Red rested Nuthatch who creeps along tree trunks often upside down Activity 4: Black capped Chickadee identified by song; Chickadee dee and hamburger; size and shape like a sparrow; colour pattern of black cap and  throat and white chest
    • Sandra
      Participant
      Chirps: 31
      Activity 2: So many ducks! There is the female Mallard, the Gadwall, and then i saw a group of hybrids; all mainly brown. I did not know there were hybrids. I have discovered a great many more ducks just in the last month. And then there are those migrating through. Makes my head spin!
    • STUART
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      Field Guide Ref : Field Guide to Birds of North America, Brinkley, NWF Merlin
    • STUART
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      Acivity 1 Observations at our feeder. Two species similar in size, some of same gray color but distinct shape differences. Female Gold Finch ( Cardulis trots) at a distance and Tufted Titmouse (Baeophulus bicolor). Most remarkable shape difference is the presence of the crest or "tuft" on the Titmouse, but there is also rounded bill top and bottom versus a more straight and pointed topped bottom bill on the Finch. Activity 2 Red Wing Black Bird (Agelaius phoecineus) - Striking scarlet lesser coverts, highlight by yellow median coverts .    Brown Headed Cow Bird (Molothrus after) - Brown crown down to nape.      Common Grackle - Bronzed  (Quiscalas quiscula) - Beautiful blue sheered head down to the nape.  All three observed at home feeder. Activity 3 Home feeder observation. Red Bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes Carolinas) uses feet to hang from feeder perches or other structure to retrieve from seed bin, sometimes completely inverted.  Red Winged Black Bird prefers pecking on the ground under the feeder but will approach the feeder perches when ground seed is sparse.  Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) hops along ground to peck seed but is always first to feed from feeder bin perches while blackbirds swarm the ground underneath. Activity 4 Favorite is not the most beautiful in appearance but most interesting are its call library of all the birds that visit our feeder.  It has a wonderful dialogue that sounds like bubbling water at times but can shift to a high frequency repetitive chirp for flight communication. Bubbling is described as a flocking call in the field guide.  Other marks are a subtle brown head to neck blended into the bluish black body.  Unlike the Red Wing and Grackel, its body shape is rounder including a rounded beak.  The Cowbird is seen in our pastures sometime in a fairly good size flock and at one pair appears to have nested in our Kestrel box this year.
    • Mary
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      1. The difference between the shape of the Hairy Woodpecker and the Northern Flicker, to me, is in the silhouette - the Northern Flicker being more streamlined with a rounder body. 2. Three birds with white on their body: the Black-capped Chickadee, the Mountain Chickadee, and the Black Phoebe. The Black Phoebe's white chest makes it easiest to distinguish. The difference in the two Chickadees is a bit more challenging. The Black-capped Chickadee gives itself away but the Mountain chickadee can masquerade as a Black-cap if one doesn't look carefully at the horizontal white stripe over the head. 3. Robins search the lawns for food - worms and ants and so on. The Red-winged Blackbirds peck beneath the feeder but also feed from the feeder. The Chickadees feed from the feeder but also perched on the Cone-asters for last years' berries. 4. Cassin's Finch frequents mountainous regions where I live. They are a small sparrow-like bird with distinctive color markings of red, gray, and white. They seem to love the feeder and protection of the cottonwoods and evergreen nearby. They seem to often be in  pairs - the colorful male with the brown, white striped and freckled female.