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

    • Kurt
      Participant
      Chirps: 29
      Activity 4: My favorite bird has a larger size, larger than a crow. It has a drab, brown color, with tufted feathers on the top of the head, and white feathers on the throat. My favorite bird has a distinct behavior of hunting for prey at night; it has large eyes for accomplishing this. The range of this bird is the continental United States, Canada, Mexico, and parts of Central and South America. This is a solitary bird. This bird has a distinct call, a "hoot" that comes in three then two (Hoo-Hoo-Hoo  Hoo-Hoo) My favorite bird is the Great Horned Owl; I had the fortune of seeing and hearing one while it perched on the lamppost outside my house. When/if I see it next, hopefully I can capture some photographs of it!
    • Mary Jane
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      Activity 2: I have been working on identifying waterfowl. First, it can be hard to see the details if the bird is far from shore and/or the water is wavy. Then, there is the trouble of females sometimes being duller and quite different from the male of a species, but very similar to females of other, maybe related species. The female Common and Red-throated Mergansers are very tricky. I usually make my decision based on the length of the bill (and maybe how full it is, if I have a good angle), kind of like the difference between the Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers. I also try to get a picture to see if Merlin is more confident in identification than I am. But then, sometimes I make my guess based on what others saw and listed on EBird, like today the Greater Scaup couple I saw was a bit distant, on grey, windy day. The male was not as well seen. Someone else said Greater Scaup on EBird, while I flipped open Merlin and my Kaufman to see if I could tell. Sometimes, you just have to add a question mark.
    • Boglárka
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      Getting to know the Merlin ID was a great experience for me: with its help, I was able to identify several bird species that I had not been able to do before, and it was a pleasure to learn how many wonderful creatures live in our garden.
    • Kathleen
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      By Shape - House Finch vs Downy Woodpecker. (House Finch) Small sparrow-like bird that spends the day at the feeders and happily chases away other birds.  Downy Woodpecker is larger and hangs off the suet feeder.  He visits only intermittently. By Color - Red - Cardinal is red all over.  House Finch is raspberry on head and back.  Common Flicker has spotted chest but a bit of red on the back of the head. By Food finding behaviors - House Finches eat seeds from the feeder almost continuously.  Downy Woodpeckers eat suet from the suet feeders intermittently.  Mourning doves eat seeds from the ground under the feeders for most of the day. Favorite Bird - It must be the Northern Cardinal because I gasp every time I see one.  Cardinals are bigger than a sparrow but smaller than a crow.  The Cardinal might be just a little bit smaller than the Blue Jay that visits once in a while.  The Male Cardinal is really red all over.  The Female is a lighter shade.....almost a salmon to dusty orange.  They are shyer than the chickadees or the finches and fly away quickly if there is any movement near the feeders.  I'm pretty sure I have a pair living in my yard which has a lot of tree cover because I can hear the cheer, cheer, cheer high in the trees when I am working in the yard.
    • Gwen
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      One of my favorite birds is the Dark-eyed Junco. It comes around this time of year. It’s a medium sized sparrow with a small head and slightly chubby. They are a dark grey almost silvery color with a white underbelly. They usually eat off the ground. I saw this one in my backyard. (Sorry it’s not a great photo but I didn’t want to scare it by getting close.) 55070167-73BC-462B-AC0E-98A9DDF1DCFC
    • Kate
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      I observed with my Grandmother two birds.  One was a Great Egret  and the other one was a Northern Cardinal. Differences were: Great egret -  long neck, white color, bill shaped like a spear to eat fish, large bird Northern Cardinal - short neck, red, bill shaped like a triangle to eat seeds, small to med size bird.
    • Pam
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      Activity #4: We have these beautiful Red-shouldered Hawks in our area. I've always wondered what they are. I figured they were hawks of some sort, but did not know what type. Now that I've starting my birdwatching hobby, I've discovered what type of hawk. My Merlin ID app picked up the sound yesterday morning and I started looking around for it. I found the hawk sitting at the top of the tallest tree in our backyard. It was perched on a dead branch at the very top. When I see them in various places, they are usually perched at the top of a tree on a branch with no leaves. Later in the day after I saw that one in my backyard, I saw one flying and was able to distinguish it from the black vultures by the lighter color with underneath. The three things that helped me identify this bird are sound, color, and behavior.
    • Marcel
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      864207C4-049F-4115-9E22-29C1C5497EA0A61FAB59-A08D-4686-AAB3-92BC9646D25A9354E342-B336-4577-B9A5-990D3D202554Activity 1. My two birds that I have been seeing in the backyard lately are the Black capped chickadee and the white crown sparrow. The chickadee is more of a plump bird as the sparrow looks like it is standing tall with more of a neck then the chickadee.
      • Gwen
        Participant
        Chirps: 12
        they're so cute! some of my favorite birds. they're simple but are really adorable. those pictures are really good too!
    • Peter
      Participant
      Chirps: 10
      Notes below taken to support a sighting of Wilson’s Phalarope at the Reifel Bird Sanctuary in Great Vancouver, Canada, a species that is uncommon in this part of the world: Three individuals were observed in the West Field of Reifel Bird Sanctuary, from a position along the West of Seaward Dyke. The birds were wading in the very shallow water along the southern edge of the northernmost of the three sections of the West Field. Athlon Midas 10x50 binoculars were used for observation, from a distance of approximately 25 m. All three individuals were approximately the size of an adult crow, had grey heads with a band of black running across the eyes, and white belly and flank. One of the three individuals had a marked smudge of brown on the neck, the other two less so. Bills were long, slender, and straight. All three individuals were periodically engaged in what appeared to be feeding, very purposeful walking and energetic and earnest moving of the bill to where the prey was and very rapid thrusting of the bill into the very shallow water. Merlin Bird ID indicated Wilson’s Phalarope is uncommon in the area the observation occurred and so a great deal of time was spent comparing body shape and coloring with other possible species: (i) Greater Yellowlegs and Lesser Yellowlegs – the three observed birds had black, not yellow, legs; (ii) Dunlin – the necks of the three observed birds were longer than the rather stubby neck of the Dunlin (as indicated in the Merlin Bird ID photos); (iii) Virginia Rail – the bills of the three observed birds were black and not orange; (iv) Marbled Godwit – the bills of the three observed birds were shorter in proportion to body length than for the Marbled Godwit (as indicated in the Merlin Bird ID photos); and (v) Whimbrel – the bills of the three observed birds were straighter than for the Whimbrel (as indicated in the Merlin Bird ID). The observations and identification were confirmed with two other birders and on the weekly species list of sanctuary.
    • Tanya
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      Tufted Titmouse 4-14-19 Tufted Titmouse: This tiny little bird flits around and rarely stays still. It hangs out primarily in the trees, with regular visits to a feeder for a seed. It will flit back several times a day. It has a beautiful dark gray crest and a white bib shading to pale yellow. Its gray wings taper to a darker gray wing edge. It has a very distinct call. I would swear the body must be primarily lungs! This is a loud little bird! Occasionally, it will perch at the top of the feeder while fluttering its wings and calling very loudly. From what I understand, that may either be a mating ritual or a juvenile wanting its parents. No matter, it's adorable!
    • George
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      Activity 4 - Black, crow size is distinctive, foraging on the ground  and roosting in trees, very distinctive vocalizations. One of my favorite birds is the American Crow. We walk daily and have a cadre of birds that join us. I always have mixed nuts and peanuts for them and they recognize us immediately. Over time they have become very brave and vocal, not aggressive but like us to know they are there. I choose to believe they are saying thanks for the goodies. Corvids or very smart. When I gesture that I am out of nuts. They seem to know and go about their business.
    • Elizabeth
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      During the past Project Feeder Watch season, I realized that I was able to distinguish the Mourning Dove even at a distance before I could get my binoculars for a positive ID.  I knew when I saw that long pointed tail and that small head and slender neck, that I was looking at a Mourning Dove.  During the same time period, I also learned that I could easily tell when I saw a nut hatch (either red or white breasted).  They have a distinctive “pointed” sort of shape and of course can go up and down (head first) on a tree!
    • Alicia
      Participant
      Chirps: 24
      Activity #4: I love pigeons and since I live in Chicago, I get to see a lot of them. I find them beuatiful and resilient, even though many people in the city do not care for them and the mess they can leave behind. Size & Shape: Smaller than a crow. Plump with short legs. Color Pattern & Markings: The pigeons I currently see are light grey in color with black wing bars. My favorite feature is the iridescent green neck. Behavior: They peck around on the streets and parking lots foraging for food, mostly leftover from people. They roost on top of buildings and wires. Habitat: Across the globe, even in urban areas. Cliffs and caves naturally. Common in cities and farmlands. Range: The rock pigeon is found from southern Canada and Alaska south through the United States, Mexico, and Central America. The rock pigeon is native to Europe, North Africa, and southwestern Asia. Sounds: Prolonged cooing.
    • Shelby
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      I’ve had family members contacting me lately to help them identify birds out at their cabin. With what I have learned so far, I have been able to successfully identify the Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, Purple Finch and the Baltimore Oriole. Such fun being able to help and use my new knowledge!
    • WLMII
      Participant
      Chirps: 17
      Activity 1: I tried to go for birds that aren't completely obvious like a Northern Cardinal or Canadian Goose.  I've noticed I can tell the Common Grackle https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Common_Grackle/overview , the European Starling  https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/European_Starling/overview , and the Brown-headed Cowbird  https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Brown-headed_Cowbird/overview apart just by their shape.  This is a recent discovery I made while driving through an area that has all three of these birds.  I was able to identify them rapidly and (mostly) pay attention to driving. Activity 2: Coincidentally, all three of the birds above have similar colors and work for activity 2.  All three are blackbirds with iridescent glossy effects on their feathers.  The brown-headed cowbird lacks these colors and effects on its brown head and its iridescence is more subdued than the other two birds.  The Common Grackle seems to have large regions of color/iridescence while the European Starling's colors are more mixed and nearly seem to be displayed feather by feather. Activity 3:  Today three of the birds I saw obviously looking for food were the Blue Jay, the Green Heron, and the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.  The Blue Jay was going back and forth from low tree branches to the grass near a trail.  Whatever it was finding, a bug I assume, it would pick up, tilt its head back, and quickly gobble down the snack. The Green Heron was quietly and slowly searching through the tall reeds lining a shallow pond.  I didn't observe him make any catches. Finally, I saw what I believe to be a female or immature Blue-gray Gnatcather.  It was darting around, back and forth across a path from tree to tree. Constantly searching, something caught her eye.  She hopped up to what appeared to be part of a branch.  Suddenly she snapped it up and it began to thrash.  It was some kind of insect larva.  I have photos of this event:0N9A92540N9A92560N9A9261 Activity 4:  Right now, my favorite bird is the Pied-Billed Grebe. It's a cute bird that at first appearance may be confused for a small duck.  Closer inspection shows it to have a shorter and sharper bill with a black ring (in season) vertically crossing both the upper and lower bills.  The ones I've seen this year were reddish-brown and their bills were light gray.  They have a long neck like a duck but a very understated pointy tail.  Unlike ducks, they look very wet when returning from a dive.  Unlike most ducks, they completely submerge and stay submerged for some time.  They dive for fish and other aquatic animals. I have not been able to hear them make a sound yet.  This is the first year I even knew they existed but I am now a very big fan.
    • Sarah
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      Activity 1: It is easy to tell a hummingbird which comes to our hummingbird feeder, red-tailed hawk which hunts occasionally in our field, and blue heron by shape, all of which visit our property. Activity 2: different shades of blue, birds on our property 1.   bluebird 2.   blue jay 3.   blue heron Activity 3: Blue heron search for food in the pond for frogs and small fish in our pond. Goldfinch search for seeds in yard. The cardinals keep returning to bird feeder area searching for seed droppings. The black vulture sailed overhead searching for road kill. Activity 4: The adult Canada geese have a long neck and big body. The neck is black, with a white band up its cheek. The feathers are brown, with white tail feathers. The pair was in a pond in a park in the National Forest. One was on a nest and the other was paddling nearby.Canada goose on nestCanada goosecardinal pair
    • Danica
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Activity 1: Evening Grosbeak- A large finch with a pale short thick bill, a dark head, yellow belly and brow, black wings with white patch and a black short notch tail. Pine Grosbeak- A large pink finch with two white wing bars and pale grey highlights, and a black stubby bill. Activity 2: Black-capped Chickadee- Tiny, plump, grey bird, black cap head and throat, white cheek and belly, short, stumpy black bill. Dark-eyed Junco- Grey all over sparrow with white belly, pinkish bills and white outer tail feathers White-breasted Nuthatch- large grey nuthatch, white face, black cap, light grey under parts, black and grey  wing bars, long, narrow black beak Activity 3: Common Redpoll- feeders Blue Jays- feeders and ground beneath feeders Black-eyed Junco- ground beneath feeders Activity 4: One of my favorite birds is the Northern Hawk Owl. I am always so amazed when he flies over my car to say hi on my way to our Cabin. He is a medium sized owl with a long tail. Brown overall with white spotting on the belly and wings.
    • LeAnn
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      We spent the morning watching a Greater Blue herons and double breasted cormorants nesting in a rookery of about 50 nests.  It was on an island in Stanley Lake in Westminster/Arvada Colorado.  They do have nesting Bald Eagles nearby.  We have seen them soaring but haven't located a nest
    • Janet
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      One of my favorite birds is the gold finch. He comes to a thistle feeder, especially spring, summer and fall. Or at least he is bright yellow with black on his wings during those seasons. He is about the size of a sparrow and waits in the trees before hitting the feeder. He is skittish and flies away if I get too close.6997F368-0971-4637-BE2B-F7F7EE0CF8E5
    • Janet
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      We have a feeder in the yard. The song sparrow perches on the feeder to eat sunflower seeds and spits a lot out and the blue jay pecks the ground under the feeder. The chickadee flies to a feeder perch, grabs a seed and flies (swooping up and down) to a tree branch nearby to eat the seed.DB5B510B-5269-4BC9-A460-509E7C4BA4A01FBD6BFA-53C2-4826-9848-E43D1720585A37893864-2723-4887-916A-16919D201837
    • Janet
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      2. I chose a cardinal, a chickadee and a goldfinch—all have black on them, but the cardinal’s is a mask, the chickadee’s a cap and the gold finch has black on its wingsCF1F0D9F-8722-47E7-A264-07D441FFC601DF01A985-B736-4A11-90E8-9D4495E3B9A307400993-A4B9-4B74-9B7A-58180ACF7641
    • Janet
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      0E751D03-4787-4B61-A2C0-B7B440AD55A6BBFBC87D-8917-4665-8D58-53C9290BD4CE
    • Janet
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      An easy comparison of birds by shape would be a cardinal versus a mocking bird. The cardinal’s crest is a dead give away.
    • Karl
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      A Downy Woodpecker has the smaller beak compared to the Hairy Woodpecker, also I noticed it going up the tree looking for insects.97A5C931-5D87-49DE-8B1F-A9E558F76338
    • Karl
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      • Thanks to Merlin photo ID, I was able to find out this was a male Purple Finch  8983F3D3-1086-4884-92A2-3AA98F5F78A2