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

    • Brenda
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      Eastern Towhee size of robin, short beak, round short body Tufted Titmouse slightly smaller than robin, crested head, short beak
    • Rebecca
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      Activity 1: Yellow Billed Magpie and Eurasian Collard Dove, magpie has long legs, yellow bill, stands tall or crouches, dove has less neck, rarely see its feet. Activity 3: woodpecker hops up the feeder post and around the feeder from beneath, nuthatch hops up and then back down the feeder post head first, to a tree and back again, dark eyed junco hops around on the ground at the base of the feeder post.
    • Lexi
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      1. Sparrows and Cardinals 2. Male house finch - red and brown; Male American Goldfinch - winter colors brown with some yellow; European Starling - black and brown. 3. Dark Eyed Junco - ground feeder and bushes; Sparrows - ground and bird feeders. The sparrows will eat from any feeder and from the ground; Red-bellied woodpecker - side feeder (suet feeder designed for woodpeckers) 4. Northern Flicker. Medium to large sized bird, rust colored face, black bars on wings, black spots on belly, grey head with red spot on back of head.
    • Lennart
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      1: Sparrow and Blackbird 2: Female Sparrow, Dunnock and female Blackbird are all Brown, the Blackbird is much larger and the dunnock has a greyish throat and cheeks and also the bill is thinner than the sparrows.3: The sparrows fly to the hanging feeder, pick some seeeds an then fly back and forth from the Hedge. The Blackbird is more shy an waits until it is alone - it does Not fly onto the feeder but picks seeds or worms from the ground. The wood pigeon picks the seeds from the ground and does Not seem to mind about the sparrows. 4: The nuthatch is a small (little smaller than a sparrow) bird with a Short neck, long bill, very short legs. Its chest is rust brown and its back is gray. It has a black eyestrip. Sometimes you can see the nuthatch running heads down a tree Trunk.
    • Kristian
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      Activity 1: Two birds I used Merlin to ID were the Carolina Wren and Downy Woodpecker. They were at my feeder, and I used color to identify them. The Wren was gold on the belly and had a white eyebrow followed by brown nape and back, with a pattern that became more dominant as you reached the tail. Very alert and the bill is not too long with a slight downward curve at the tip. The Downy Woodpecker was a female with no red visible, but had a black crown and eye stripe mask, white belly, black wings with white spots. The Bill had a whiteish tan spot at the end of the bill on the bird's face Infront of the eyes. Activity 2: Three birds that have the same color or close to it that I used for this was the Robin with an orange belly, the red winged blackbird with a reddish orange wing patch, and a Eastern Towhee under the wing on the side. Activity 3: The first bird I observed was a Great blue Heron in a tree, very still and foraging for food from high up towards the top of the tree. The second bird was the Black Capped Chickadee which is a favorite of mine, and it behaved very quick, alert, came to the feeder, picked up black oiled sunflower seeds and would fly back to a branch or stay at the feeder, holding the seed with its feet, and cracked it open with its beak. The third bird I observed was the White Breasted Nuthatch. A little less quick and would also take food and fly to a branch. The Black Capped Chickadee and Nuthatch showed a dominance battle at points with each other at the feeder.  Both hopped and constantly looked up at their surroundings between eating. Our feeder is right at the edge of the woods on a hill where there are a good number of hawks and raptors in the area which might to me explain the alert behavior. Activity 4: My favorite bird is the Northern Cardinal. It has a red belly, darker red wings, short legs, black mask and throat patch, pointed crest on the top of the head, and orange bill. Beautiful bird.
    • Denise
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      I think I have a much better idea how to id birds now.  I don't go out much, but we have quite a lot of wildlife since we live near a canal.  I FINALLY have my binoculars adjusted and now know how to use them.  Thank you very much for that.  My harness is being ordered now.  I hope to participate in the bird count next week!
    • Adam
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      Activity 1: One larger bird that showed up at my feeder was the northern flicker, which is one of the largest birds I have seen by my feeder, and in comparison, A more medium sized woodpecker with a red cap has also been seen, which is smaller than the flicker (downy woodpecker).   Activity 2: two different birds I have seen frequently this year, were both black and yellow. One was larger, and had a black cap, while the other was about 2/3 the size and had black all up and down the dorsum of the bird. the larger bird was in fact a goldfinch (american) while the smaller was a lesser goldfinch.   I was not at feeder today, but last week I saw three very different birds at feeder, one was small, and had a reddish/orange breast, and would walk down the feeder towards the ground (red-breasted nuthatch), another was small and dark headed with gray (mostly) body and hopped around the grass and rocks, and stick piles. Finally, a small brown bird with red breast and red cap loves to sit on the tray or cylindrical feeder. Activity 4: My favorite bird is the American Robin! medium sized with yellow bill, dark head, and beatiful orange breast. Likes to hop around my yard looking for earthworms, and fly to tops of trees and roofs to sing its beautiful song. Has a wonderful song which has a beautiful vibrato as well as very characteristic sounds. Common but amazing, and reminds me how much of how I love to be aware of birds around me. I have even seen a robin show up at my tray feeder on days, and it was the first bird recorded at my feeder this summer!
    • Crystal
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      Activity 1: Two birds I could tell apart based on shape were a California Towhee and some House Finches. The California Towhee is a larger “robin-sized” bird with a long tail compared to the Houses Finches which are a smaller “sparrow sized bird”. Activity 2:  Three different birds that have black on them would be a Black Phoebe, a Dark-eyed Junco and a Lesser Goldfinch. The Black Phoebe is a medium sized flycatcher that is almost entirely black except for its white belly, making it look like it is wearing a tuxedo. The small Dark-eyed Juncos markings vary within its different populations. The ones I see most commonly are the Oregon subspecies, where the males have a dark black head opposed to the slate-colored ones which are almost entirely gray. Finally, the Lesser Goldfinch are a small yellow bird that has black wings and males have black on the top of their heads. Activity 3: Three different birds searching for food would be a yellow-rumped warbler, a red-breasted nuthatch and a white-crowned sparrow.  The yellow-rumped warbler can be seen flying through the air like an acrobat chasing small insects and also moving quickly from branch to branch. The red-breasted nuthatch makes his way around and upside on the branches of a tree, I often see them on pines checking out pinecones.  Compared to the white-crown sparrows who hop and peck around on the ground. Activity 4: One of my favorite birds is the Northern Flicker. According to Merlin bird ID it is described as a large brown colored woodpecker featuring a large black crest on its front with black polka dots below and black barring on its back. When in flight a large white patch can be seen on its rump. The underside of its wings can be red or yellow depending on the location where you see it. Typically, the yellow is seen in Eastern North America versus the red in Western North America. They are found in trees but can also be seen on the ground looking for ants or worms.
    • Nathan
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      • Activity 1 - When I was out photographing birds in one of the nearby forest preserves, I saw both a Great Egret and a Double-crested Cormorant. Although it was pretty easy to tell the difference between the two based on their colors, the egret is significantly larger and has much longer legs than the cormorant. 10072023_012
      • Activity 2 - On the same outing, I found a couple of White-throated Sparrows as well as an Orange-crowned Warbler. These birds are similarly sized, but after looking up their distinguishing features, I learned that the White-throated Sparrow have a flash of yellow right around their eye, while the Orange-crowned Warbler doesn't and often has yellow on their lower tail feathers.10072023_027
      • Activity 3 - I saw many different food-finding behaviors when I was out looking for birds. Mallards and geese were out in the lakes searching for food near the surface of the water, and I saw a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and White-breasted Nuthatch up along the tree trunks searching for insects!
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      • Activity 4 - My favorite bird is the Blue Jay, and they are very easy to identify in my area by their striking blue and black colors, average size, and well-known (and loud!) song. They seem to like foraging in both trees and on the ground, and are also common at feeders.
    • Penelope
      Participant
      Chirps: 38
      Activity 1: The difference in shape between a Blue Jay and a Yellow-rumped Warbler. Blue Jay's are several sizes larger with bigger beaks and longer legs. Easy to identify with noticeable crest, as well. ABrilliWarbler BlueJay1
    • Gess
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Activity 1 I identified a Sparrow and a Dove by their shape.
    • Gregory
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      Activity 1: Swallows have forked tails, but chimney swifts do not. Activity 2: Indigo buntings are a medium hue of blue almost all over except wings, blue jays are blue on the back, crest, wings, and tail feathers, and eastern bluebirds are blue on the back, tail and most of the head. Activity 3: Great blue herons fish by quickly stabbing their beaks into the water from a standing position, mallards dabble and tip their tails out of the water as they do so, and grey catbirds pry berries from fruits (seemingly usually around head height). Activity 4: Canada geese are large with long necks, moderate beaks and legs, and short tails, they have black necks and heads with white chinstraps and light brown bodies, and they have an iconic clear and somewhat high-pitched honk preceded by a subtle low vocalization.
    • Judy
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Activity 2 - Goldfinch and Warbler.  Goldfinch slightly longer, but only by about.5 inch.  Male goldfinch has black cap, black wings.  Male warbler has black”mask” , like the Lone Ranger.
    • Camille
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      Activity 4: Wood Thrush 1. Size: similar to a robin 2. Color/Markings: primary colors white and brown. Dots on chest. 3. Behavior: Looking for food on the ground Photo from Cornell Lab All About Birds Screenshot 2023-07-26 at 3.56.49 PM
    • Thane
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      trw233Activity 2- Snapped this image (best one I could get😬) while hiking in the mountains. The ID from Merlin came back as a Lesser Goldfinch. Using the Sibley guide to confirm, did not match up. Looking at the coloration and beak shape and size, thought it might be a female Western Tanager. I posted my photo and suspected ID’s to a local bird watching Facebook page. The group was very helpful in correcting and confirming my identification as a female Western Tanager. Great learning experience!
    • Joanne
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      I am brand new to bird watching. Looking through my binoculars, saw a robin, sparrow, and blue jay this morning. Just installed a hummingbird feeder in my yard, saw one for the first time at the feeder a few minutes ago. I’m using the Merlin app to identify birds by their sound when walking through a nearby forest preserve— having a hard time seeing them, though. Never knew we had such a variety of birds so close by!
    • Mark
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Activity 1 I have seen various various woodpeckers in my yard. It is sometimes difficult to tell them apart since they can be the same size and have similar plumage coloration. I saw a woodpecker last night at a bird feeder. I wasn't sure if it was a downy, hairy, or pileated woodpecker, which I have seen in the past. I used the Merlin app to help be determine that it was in fact a hairy woodpecker because it had a long bill as long as its head compared to a downy woodpecker which has a short bill. I also was able to tell that it wasn't a pileated woodpecker because of its small size compared to the much larger pileated woodpecker. Plus the shape of its neck is much shorter than a pileated woodpecker.   Activity 2 I saw three different birds (a black-capped chickadee, an American goldfinch, and a blue jay) in my yard with the color black on different parts of their bodies. A black-capped chickadee has a black "cap" on the top of its head and a black patch on its throat. In contrast, an American goldfinch has black feathers on its forehead and wings. Meanwhile, blue jays have black "necklaces"around their necks and black and white markings on their wings and tails.   Activity 3 I saw a mourning dove foraging for food on the ground under some bird feeders in my backyard. They eat pretty quickly and then fly off. I've seen house sparrows eat from my bird feeders for lengthy periods of time. I have also seen them hop around on the ground looking for food. The are many cardinals that come to eat seeds from my bird feeder. They love sunflower seeds. I have also seen them hopping around on the ground foraging for food. I read that they also forage in bushes or up in trees. Activity 4 One of my favorite backyard birds is the American crow. It is the largest of the small birds. It has a short, stout bill and tail. It has a short neck. It has broad wings compared to other crow species. It is completely black with wings that can appear purplish in sunlight. They make a loud caw, caw, caw, sound. They are highly social and live in flocks. They are often aggressive towards other birds. They live mostly in open habitats over much of Canada and the United States.
    • Jena
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      I was so excited to find out about the Bird Cams!! The cam at Cornell was very active. I saw a couple of different woodpeckers - one make one maybe a female same species. I also spotted a dove. on the MT Osprey Cam, it looked like a sterling was hijacking the nest!!
    • Ruth
      Participant
      Chirps: 17
      Activity 1 - I watched the bird feeder on the Bird Cam.  The two birds I watched were the Mourning Dove and the Florida Scrub Blue Jay.  Each bird seemed to like the sunflower seeds or seeds on the flat surface of the bird feeder, yet the Blue Jay like the suet better.  One commonality in their habitat is the open forest.  The Dove is less migratory than the Blue Jay. Activity 2  -   The three birds I observed through the Field Guide was the Grosbeck (Red Breasted), Cardinal (female) and the white headed Woodpecker.  The Grosbeak has the Red, Black and white colors and the Red is found on its chest.  The White headed Woodpecker has the red on the back of the head.  The female Northern Cardinal has a red beak and red wash on the wing.  ( black color is minimal).  I think I would have difficulty identifying the Grosbeak  and the Woodpecker at first sight by shape or different Woodpeckers and Sapsuckers.  I will get it. Activity 3 -  The three birds I observed above live in habitats which are open .  Grosbeak behavior lives solitary or in pairs during breeding.  Forages in trees, shrubs and on the ground eating seeds, insects, tree flowers.  Woodpecker behavior drums on tree trunks and demands territorial rights on utility poles, buildings and eats insects and larvae and eggs, but also seeds, nuts, berries, spiders and snails.  The Downy Woodpecker feeds on branches but further out.  Cardinal behavior is solitary or pairs during breeding.  Forages in trees, bushes or on the ground.  Eats insects, seeds grains, fruits and snails.  Drinks sap from holes drilled by sapsuckers. Activity 4 - My favorite birds is the Lark Sparrow, California Quail, Egret, and Hummingbirds.  All of these birds are gregarious with me and all get my attention.  I have been observing the Egret and its behaviors.  It is the Great Egret and its shape is a long neck and thin legs with white feathers or plummage with a yellow beak.  I do not hear a sound/song but I am certain there is one.  In my observation, the G. Egret feeds in open areas such as marshes as habitats.  I have seen it flies singular and, in a flock.  Roosting occurs in trees at night (I have not seen this).  It eats small aquatic insects, frogs, snakes and crayfish.  There is some migration.  Ruth Bates
    • Christine
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      As I was walking from the parking ramp to my building, for work, I saw a bird in the shadows. No doubt it was a mourning dove. I could tell by its shape & was confirmed once I got closer. Also saw my favorite bird, while walking at the park! Yellow body, black & white wings, black cap on the very top of its head, smaller than a Robin, has a very specific flight pattern- kind of like waves, up & down, up & down—-an American Goldfinch!
    • Stephanie
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      I got onto the Sapsucker Woods bird cam and there are 5 or 6 gray and black birds I can't identify, but a blue jay kept flying in and taking peanuts. Two red-winged blackbirds are there, and I think a grackle flew in to grab a peanut, too. I used Merlin ID, which suggests that the gray and black birds are European starlings, but they don't have the yellow bill that Merlin ID says. Otherwise, they look like the picture. They're smaller than the blue jay, have a long pointed beak, and the markings on the wings are similar to the starling. They're mostly eating the suet and occasional seed on the tray.
    • Jessica
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      Activity 1: Two birds that I saw outside and was able to tell apart based on shape were the American robin and the American crow. Robins are medium-sized, with a round body and a very upright posture when standing in the yard. The crow is large, and has a thick neck and squared off tail.   Activity 2: The black-capped chickadee, American goldfinch, and red-winged blackbird are all birds that have black on them. The chickadee has a black cap and throat patch, but the rest of the bird is grey, cream, or white. The male goldfinch also has a black cap, but is otherwise bright yellow. The female is a more neutral colour. Both the males and the females have black on their wings as well. The male red-winged blackbird is mostly all black, aside from his red/yellow wing patches. However, the females do not seem to have any noticeable amounts of black.   Activity 3: Yesterday, I saw a white-throated sparrow searching for food in the yard using the double-scratching foraging method. I was able to identify the bird based on the markings using a field guide, but observing the double-scratching behaviour hinted that it was probably some kind of sparrow. Another one I see often is the American robin as they run through the yard, pause, and then peck at the earth until they come back up with an earthworm or grub. I also commonly see woodpeckers (usually downy or hairy woodpeckers) on trees in the forest, where they are easily recognized by the way they tap into the sides of trees to feed.   Activity 4: One of my favourite birds is the American crow. They are large, thick-necked, and have a tail that is rather short and squared off. They are all black in colour. When they fly, they generally flap their wings at consistent intervals (I thought the visual comparing the flights of crows and ravens in a previous lesson was really cool!). These birds are found across most of North America, and make a distinctive 'CAW, CAW' sound. Crows are one of my favourite birds because they are so clever and impressive to look at.
    • Judy
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      My favorite bird is a chickadee. They are very small birds that have a black cap and bib against a white background with a tan belly. It is easily attracted to feeders. Is range includes the southeastern US plus southern Midwest.
    • Judy
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      I identified three birds based on their eating behavior a mourning dove, a cardinal, and a downy woodpecker.  The downy woodpecker was not guessed by Merlin as the first bird because Merlin does not differentiate based on type of feeder (a suet cade vs a platform seed feeder).
    • Judy
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      I compared 3 birds that had black on them (chickadee, cardinal. and red-winged blackbird (Activity 2). Merlin identified all of them on the first try.