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

    • 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.
    • Judy
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      Activity 1 I chose the mourning dove and chickadee to I'd with Merlin. Merlin took me straight to both of them.
    • Marjorie
      Participant
      Chirps: 31
      Activity 1 It was my  first time to try out the Merlin app so I kept it simple and  identified a European Starling and a tree swallow in my back yard.   Activity 2 tree swallows2 Activity 2: I made comparisons between a European Starling, a Tree Swallow and a Barn Swallow which were all possibilities  based on the three colors I noted along with the other information when I searched in the Merlin App. We put our bird house and nesting boxes up today hoping for blue birds but the Tree Swallows are the first ones to show an interest.   Activity3: Three birds that I noticed looking for food in my yard today were Cardinal (eating seeds at feeder), Robin (poking for worms in grass), Downy Woodpecker (hanging out and eating from a suet block).   Activity 4: My favorite bird is a cardinal and I was able to identify it by color,  sound and size.  That was an easy on since I already knew the cardinal but it helped me practice and I will have to try some harder ones soon.
    • Bill
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      Activity 1: I was able to identify a Bewick's Wren and a Bushtit based on shape, with the Wren's tail attitude a clear differentiator. For Activity 2, I was able to differentiate a Downy Woodpecker, a Red-breasted Sapsucker and a Red-winged Blackbired easily based on the distribution of the black, red and white colors on their bodies. For Activity 3, I found a Robin digging with it's beak for worms in the garden dirt, a Spotted Towhee that was jumping back and forth to scratch open the surface of the ground for insects and a Dark-eyed Junco that was maneuvering through my patio pots to strip seeds off of last year's remaining dead flower stalks. One of my favorite birds right now is the Red-breasted nuthatch, which can be easily identified with it's distinctive black and white stripes on it's head with a chestnut colored belly, and it's extremely small stature with quick movements. The way that it hangs upside down from suet cakes or feeders as well as it's downward moving creeping on tree trunks is unique and it's cute little low volume nasally chattering is like nothing else in my yard! I love this bird!
    • Jennifer
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      Activity #3: I saw a Downy Woodpecker hopping up a tree storing seeds from my feeder. I saw an American Robin hopping on the ground looking for food. I saw a Tree Sparrow at the feeder eating seeds. Tree Sparrow IMG_3883
    • Amber
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      Activity 1: I was able to distinguish a dark eyed junco from a northern mockingbird based on shape. Activity 2: I was able to distinguish a red headed woodpecker from a red bellied woodpecker based on the red placement of the head and the differences in black/white patterns. Activity 3: I saw white breasted nuthatches who travel down trees looking for food. I saw red bellied woodpeckers crawling up trees. I saw robins hopping around fields looking for food in the ground. Activity 4: I was watching some waterfowl and found a red breasted merganser which is a medium sized bird found in a lake that will dive for food. The male has a red breast with a dark tufted head, orange long thin beak and red eye. it has a black back and prominent white on wings.
    • Boozie
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      I viewed the Cornell Feeder Watch Cam on March 9. So many woodpeckers. I thought I had identified the Downy Woodpecker because of the rounded head and short bill. When another very similar but larger woodpecker flew in and they were side by side, I knew I was right and the larger bird was the Hairy Woodpecker. I've never before seen them together!
    • Frederick
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      Activity 1  Female Cardinal at the feeder. Not so much a "bird cam" as a dslr at the feeder with flash units pre-set and fired wirelessly. Freezing temps resulted in snowflakes on the beak. I didn't use the app to identify, as the female cardinal in Pennsylvania is very easy to pick out. female cardinal snowflakes
    • Frederick
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      Activity 4 I had fun watching a wood duck on our pond. She had ducklings behind her on the water.  The curious identification challenge was that one of the ducklings was not a wood duck. You guessed it, it was a merganser duckling. The mother merganser must have put some of her eggs in the wood duck nest box and this was the fun result. femalewoodduck
    • Sandy
      Participant
      Chirps: 14
      Activity 4 In 1976, the Toronto Blue Jays played their first season of baseball in my home town.  Up until that year, I had never seen a Blue Jay --the bird-- in person, do it  was surprising to me, in 1976 that I would see bluejays suddenly appearing in my family's backyard.  I honestly believed that it was a marketing ploy where  the Blue Jay organization actually released live bluejays  into the city of Toronto to help create the excitement of our new ball team. Well excitement it did cause, but not for the sport.  In Toronto, our main viewing of birds were house sparrows and European Starlings.  I can't remember hardly any other bird in my yard so when this beautiful blue bird showed up, I was really impressed. The bluejay was easy at that time to identify due to the pictures of bluejays that were diplayed with the city ball team, otherwise, I may have had problems distinguishing it to a blue bird perhaps.  But if I used a field guide or had access to Merlin , I would have quickly learned  the differences. A bluejay is about the size of a blackbird.  it has the predominant colours blue and white with a bit of black trim.  A bluejay as well, has a crest of feathers on the top of its head.  I noticed bluejays like to stay within the branches of a tree but when they want to be heard, they have a loud screechie sound as opposed to a trill or song.  When in flight, they make their calls and fly high and straight.  They like to visit feeders and really love peanuts.  I have always had a fondness for bluejays even when they boldly screech  at me while awaiting  the next  toss of  peanuts.  I like to set out peanuts on my back deck banister and watch them fly in and scoop up that peanut.  Blue Jay in Flight (2)0023-02-19 Blue Jay
    • Sandy
      Participant
      Chirps: 14
      Activity 3 Today in Ontario, we awoke to about 10 inches of snow.  We went from green yesterday to all white today.  In anticipation of the snow, I had put out more suet and checked my feeders yesterday. This morning I had to shovel a pathway for my dog in my backyard in order for him to do his morning routine.  As soon as I stepped outside, I noticed that the buckthorn tree was filled with starlings, a few chickadees, 2  white breasted nuthatches and a pair of crows.  The bigger birds were waiting for (starlings and crows)  me to toss some dry cat food out to them while to chickadees took turns flying to the small bird feeder.  The 2 nuthatches were frantically scurrying up and down the tree pecking away at the bark.  It was a busy morning for birds. Once I had tossed out some catfood for the larger birds, I noticed that the crows, one-at-a-time went down and collected what offerings they wanted and the starlings, although fluttering around, gave them space to get first setting at the table. It appeared that as the crows took turns eating, while one went down to to eat, th other one was on guard acting as a sentinel.  I didn't see them going down together to eat at the same time. Once Mr. and Mrs. Crow (whom I'll call Edgar and Allena) had flown up to the rooftop to eat and stash their food, then the starlings settled and it was choas and bad manners at its best!!  Man they are fast, bold and furious in their approach to food that including alot of bickering.  It seemed like 2 minutes later, my backyard was quiet and had returned to whiteness with no more birds around. Crow FIMG_1433Chickadee B
    • Sandy
      Participant
      Chirps: 14
      Activity 2 The 3 birds I chose are the White Breasted Nuthatch, Downy Woodpecker and Hairy Woodpecker.  All 3 speices visit my feeders, are black and white in colour, and love to walk all over my ash tree while taking time to peck as well at the tree leaving lots of evidence of their visits. The Nuthatch is easier to identify as it is smaller, black, white and gray with the colour splats being solid and not spotted or lined.  wb nuthatch The two woodpecker are almost identical in appearance and habits, but according to Merlin, are distinctly different.  They are black and white, with white being spotted and the back of their feathers.  The males sport as well, a red spot on their heads.  The downy has more spotting on its back and has a much smaller beak, while the Hairy has a beak nearly as long as its head, less white spotting on its back and more white on the underside of the tail.  Merlin has an excellent side-by-side picture which really helps point out the differences.  I still struggle determining which hairydowny wp
    • Sandy
      Participant
      Chirps: 14
      Activity 1 - here in Ontario, Canada, I have always felt sorry for the bigger birds that cannot use my feeders due to their size.  When it starts to really get cold, I usually buy some cheap dry cat food and will throw out some  each morning after I put the dog out out.  These birds are waiting for me now and will call out, expecially the crows to their mate, when they see me.  Yes, they have me trained.  I find beauty in the the blackness and intelligence of the crows and have really grown to appreciate the cunninest and antics of the starlings.  They keep me amused for hours. Meet Edgar the crow and note the disgusted look on the starling as he tries to land on my empty suet feeder. crowStarling
    • Marleigh
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      Activity 1: I watched the Ontario Bird Cams. It was easy to identify the Common Redpolls, Pine Grosbeaks, and the Black-capped and Boreal Chickadee by size, shape, and color even though I have never seen them in real life. I apologize, I should have marked my last post as Activity 3.
    • Marleigh
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      In the winter we have a steady supply of birds coming to our feeders and drinkers. Here is a beautiful Northern Flicker female waiting for the suet, and by chance, a Mountain Chickadee at the suet in the same picture. Our White Breasted Nuthatches really like the suet as well. We also have Cassin's Finches, Dark Eyed Juncos, Canyon and Spotted Towhees that like to forage for seeds on the ground and rarely visit the suet. Our Woodhouse's Scrub Jays like the suet and the seed on the ground. 2023_02_03_NoFl_0251
    • Tess
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Activity 1: Watching the Bird Cam link, I identified a nuthatch and a sparrow on my own by shape, color and markings. I did need some help deciphering which type of sparrow was on the screen, though.
    • Razgirl
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      Activity one: I was looking out into my backyard and I identified two birds. I noticed that one was very tall. I chose that the bird was goose sized or larger. it’s main colors were blue, brown and gray. The bird was wading so on the list, I found that it was a great blue heron. The other bird I saw was about goose  sized And its main color was black. The bird was on the ground and I identified it as a double crested cormorant.
    • Claire
      Participant
      Chirps: 10
      Activity 4: I don't really have a favourite bird yet, but a bird I have only seen a few times which I really like is a smallish bird (bigger than a sparrow, smaller than a robin), with bright blue head, back and wings, orange throat and sides, and white belly. It has a short neck and short bill. It is found in southern Ontario year-round, though I rarely see it. The Eastern Bluebird!
    • Claire
      Participant
      Chirps: 10
      Activity 1: I used a boreal bird cam, so looking at an area further north than I live. I saw two species of bird on a feeder, which I used Merlin to identify using size, colour, location, feeding habit. Really great tool! I've only used it for sound ID before, so using it this way with a bird feeder was great practice. I identified one bird as a Pine Grosbeak - I recognized it at sight as a finch based on its shape and beak, which was progress! I became sure of my ID once a female joined the fun at the feeder. The second bird was a little more tricky - a sparrow of some kind, I saw right away. It had a red cap, a bit of black on the face, but otherwise just looked like a generic sparrow to my untrained eye. It was after I started going through the suggestions, and reading the descriptions, that I noticed it had a notched tail and that some had a pink wash on their breast. I was able to ID it as a Common Redpoll. This is such a great way to hone my observation skills from the comfort of my living room! Helpful activity :)
    • Donna
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      I’m 75, live in an apartment with a patio. We’re not allowed to hang feeders, but hummingbirds are ok. We were surprised to find a chipmunk had discovered the sweet treat.3296648B-42F5-46F4-AD30-B2420A0962DA
    • Jo
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      I saw a Mourning dove at the feeder and a sparrow at another feeder.  Very easy to identify by their size, shape and coloring.
    • Valerie
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      My sister sent me a photo yesterday of a new bird at her feeder: a orangish-yellow bird with a body shape like a robin, but with a longer beak.  Given our location, I thought it could be an oriole, though I've never seen one before.  Merlin ID alternately suggests a female Baltimore or Orchard Oriole.  Based on the color/markings, I'm leaning Baltimore (larger wing bars, more orange in tone).