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

    • Trina
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      My Spotted Towhee...comes around several times every day, always from the southeast.  Perches and bounces around my sumac grove, works his way to the ground cover, drinks at one of my birdbaths, nibbles on peanut/suet chips that the woodpeckers have left on the ground and hops on over to the mulch area behind my veggies.  Pretty funny - I know his MO!  I'd never seen this bird in my yard before this year.  I heard his distinctive call weeks before I ever saw him.  I submitted an audio recording to iNaturalist and in short order had a couple of people tell me it was a Spotted Towhee. Also, I've had a noisy group of four small gray/white birds come marauding thru.  Thought they were blue/gray gnatcatchers - but NO, Bushtits.  Their gregarious ruckus is unmistakable! More newbies this year, are both a white-breasted and red-breasted nuthatch.  Both like my peanut/suet feeders as well as the peanuts in the mix I leave for my squirrels.  Guess I need to invest in an official peanut feeder now! Saw a red-tail hawk thermalling today.
    • Trina
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
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    • Leiann
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Activity 3: Today I saw a Downy Woodpecker on one tree trunk going UP the tree looking for food, and a White-breasted Nuthatch on the tree trunk next to it going DOWN looking for food. They happened to both be in the field of view as I was looking through my binoculars.  Before this lesson, I didn't realize they had different directions!
    • Wanita
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      I put out a bird feeder tray and waited a few days.... I saw the odd bird, but today WOW !  I had a couple female house finches and a male house finch (red head and breast), and dark eyed Juncos and even a red breasted Nuthatch!  I took a lousy picture with my cellphone held up to my binoculars, but it wasn't good enough to post here.  In lieu of my picture, I will post a picture of the majestic Bald Eagle that was spotted by my husband in Tofino on the West Coast of Vancouver Island on July 6th.  Enjoy!received_827443007957352
      • Gretel
        Participant
        Chirps: 11
        Beautiful white cap!
      • Raphael
        Participant
        Chirps: 10
        Incredible photo!!
      • Alicia
        Participant
        Chirps: 23
        Wow - what a gorgeous picture! At first I thought you were going to say the eagle showed up at your bird feeder. :-)
    • Carla
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      Activity 3: I observed a crow, a woodpecker, and a smaller bird, a dark-eyed junco. We have a compost area in our backyard that's just out in the open (the bear kept knocking down our black bin!), and that's the crows favorite hunting ground. They will hop and bob along, and seemingly finickily choose what they'd like. I noticed that they either eat something on site, or will stuff as much as they could in their beak and fly off. I believe the one I was watching was a male, and was retrieving food for his young, which may have been in a nest down the hill and across the street. They also love peanuts! They will hold the peanut with their feet, and feverishly peck it open to get the prize. One after another, they go through peanuts rapidly! We have a suet feeder across our driveway, and the woodpecker (maybe a downy?) loves that! I will see them mainly on the suet, hanging out for longer stretches of time, happily munching away. The dark-eyed juncos seem to like the seeds dropped from the feeder, more than eating on the feeder itself. I'll often see them, maybe 3 or 4 gathered right below the feeder, eating. I have seen them on the feeder, too, just not as frequently as chickadees, sparrows, and cardinals. They also seem to hang out a little longer on the ground while they eat.
    • Lorin
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      Went to my favorite local patch (Boardman Wetlands, NCPRD) in the evening on a hot day for this one. 1. Picked a crow and a barn swallow. The crow was easy, and it was the first bird choice Merlin gave me. Some others were more interesting, such as Wood Duck and Eurasian Collared Dove, when the only color I gave was black. I used red, blue and white for the Barn Swallow and it was the second choice on the Merlin list, right below the Cliff Swallow which also worked given those parameters. 2. Picked the colors black, white and red and it gave me my birds: Downy Woodpecker, House Sparrow (although red is  bit of a stretch on that one) and House Finch. Lots of good bird choices on the list. 3. The swallows (Barn and Violet Green) were hunting for insects on the wing over the marshlands and ponds. The mallards were dabbling in the increasingly shallow and murky marsh, butts in the air, but I'm not sure exactly what they were after, even after all the birding I've done. Whatever they can get in their bills, I suppose. The Lesser Goldfinches nibbled tentatively at the buds on the trees. 4. Hard to pick a favorite bird; this is the only bird I didn't see tonight but I did see it the other day at this location: Green Heron. I spent all year chasing this bird, and got one bad look at it about 40 miles north of here earlier this year so I was thrilled to get a good long 5 minute look at it out in the open just the other day at my local patch (without my camera of course).  We are in a wet, temperate climate, just a few miles north of the 45th parallel. This was my first good, long look at it. It was smaller than I'd imagined; rather the sized of a large chicken. But what an extraordinary bird. Those greenish wings with the grey outline, the rust red neck mottled with dun stripes, the intense eye and the yellow lines on the face. Stalking secretively through the marsh, one wary eye on me at all times. I've always found this bird eerie, intense even: if there's ever a bird that reminded me that dinosaurs still roam the earth, it's this one. I'd hate to be a frog when this guy is stalking the marsh. Fascinating, beautiful, and alien. He did not vocalize.
    • Dominique
      Participant
      Chirps: 21
      Activity 4: Olive-backed sunbird: it is a small bird (smaller than a sparrow) with dark olive green back whereas the underside (belly) is bright yellow. the beak is slender and curves downwards. The male has an iridescent dark throat and upper breast (like a long bib), whereas the female is duller overall and doesn’t have that iridescent dark marking. Common garden bird in Malaysia, and it  moves fast and feeds on flower nectar.
    • Dennis
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Activity 1: Two swallows that bugged me in ID-ing are the barn swallow and the chimney swift. The swift is just a cigar shaped bird with wings and the swallow has the forked tail. Activity 2: Blue, black and white. Blue Jay, Tree Swallow and Tufted Titmouse. Slightly different shades of blue and patterned differently. Activity 3: I went for a short walk today and saw barn swallows at a lake. They were basically snagging insects out of the air, apparently up to 100 ft. I also saw a Northern Cardinal. He tends to hang out in lower trees and bushes and forages on seeds near the ground. Finally, Black Crested Night Heron was sitting next to fisherman at the lake and looking to steal their fish! Activity 4: Think my favorite local bird so far has been the Barred Owl. He is a large bird, bigger than a crow and obviously owl shaped. He is a brown and white bird with vertical stripes and horizontal lines on front and neck, respectively. His wings are checkered like and face has circular brown lines over white. His sound is notable 8-9 notes and he is a nocturnal animal staying often in trees in mature forests, nesting in tree cavities.
    • Armando
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      The Phainopepla is my favorite local bird, so I'll use this as my example. For it's shape, it's crest sticks out quite tall to me, and you can see most of the individual feathers in the crest. It sits on a perch somewhat straight up or with a slight forward lean. It also has a long tail. It's color pattern is all glossy black on males with red eyes. Females are more dark gray with white edging on wing feathers. I've noted a flycatching feeding behavior with some of the specimens I saw in the field. They wait on a perch, and quickly fly out at some prey and return.
    • Yvonne
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      I can't seem to keep my remarks when I go back to look at other activities..  I am using the Midwestern Birds backyard guide to help me with these discussions as my bird watching is somewhat limited.  AS we all venture out over time I expect to increase the number of birds I see.  The 2 I have chosen to look at are woodpeckers.  Colors are red, black and white and of course the bills are different and the size of head.  The bill is longer on the Hairy Woodpecker and the head is somewhat  larger. The woodpecker that feeds at my bird feed is a Downy Woodpecker, it the Downey is much smaller both bill and head. The Downey's red patch is a little larger, but it is definitely smaller.
    • Jeanne
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      One of my favorite birds is the American Kestrel. I really enjoyed learning about the differences of this raptor compared to the others.  I didnt know that there were so many other sub-species and the American Kestrel is the only one in the New World. The Kestrel is the smallest of the raptors about the size of a mourning dove! The male  and female have different markings as well; which I didnt know! The male has a small rusty coloring on the top of his head with a grey-blue band underneath but above his eye. The males also have the beautiful grey-blue color on their wing while the females do not. The males chests are white with black dots, while the female has brown dashes. These raptors hunt by hovering 35 to 65 feet over fields and they have ultra-violet sensitivity so they are able to hunt voles successfully.  I also find amazing that they do not build their own nests; they use other bird nests; I would like to know which bird nests they prefer to use!
    • Marcy
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      Activity 1-I have used the Merlin App to identify many birds near my home. One bird I identified just by its shape was the Wood Duck.  I knew it was a duck, but its crown had such a distinctive shape that as soon as I saw it on Merlin I knew that was my bird! Activity 2-3 birds with similar colors that I have identified using Merlin and my field guide are the black, grey and white 1) black Phoebe, 2) Black-throated Sparrow and 3) Dark-eyed Junco.  They are all similar in color and I had to really watch and observe and research a little to find which bird I was looking at. I have to say how surprised I am at the variety of bird I have found right in my own yard! Activity 4-How could I pick just one favorite?!  One I have really enjoyed in this new birding journey is the White Crowned Sparrow because it was one of the first small birds I became confident identifying regularly on my own and because I enjoyed watching them at my yard feeder every evening this Spring.  It is small, sparrow-sized. It is mostly brown with small white and darker brown spots on its wings.  On its crown are distinctive black and white stripes. It has a yellow beak.
    • Marcy
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      Activity 3- Yesterday I watched a flock of Cedar Waxwing birds eating Mulberries from my tree. They would fly in rather quickly and spend a few minutes foraging the berries.  I was surprised to see them swallow the whole berry straight down!  After a few minutes, they would fly off.  I would wait for a bit and then they would come back and forage again. I also watched a Scrub Jay eat the berries.  He hopped along the fence and then would hop to the tree and eat.  Sometimes he even ate the berries off the ground. Today I saw a female Nuttall's Woodpecker hang upside down to get to one of the berries!
    • gabriel
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      One of my favorite birds is a California quail. Identification is easy as it looks very distinct. SHAPE: The quail has a "bottom heavy" appearance with a small head and large, bulbous belly. The legs are short. The head of males has a prominent feather sticking out the front of its forehead. BEHAVIOR: They tend to forage in groups  on the ground with one member standing in an elevated position, seeming to be on the "look out." They move as a group and when slightly startled, rather than flying, they'll run into the underbrush.  They don't seem to fly unless they're really startled. Often, even then, they will fly low to the ground into the nearest bush for cover. When they run, their short, fast moving legs are almost invisible so the birds seem to hover along the ground (they have a very smooth "gait" so they don't bob up and down when running). COLOR: mainly black and brown with a little white. Deep blacks, crisp whites. Scalloped pattern on belly.
    • John
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      Chipping Sparrow I believe this is a chipping Sparrow, based on my use of the Merlin Bird ID app.  But the picture was taken with an iPhone, from my back porch so image is not real clear.  Any ideas?
    • Penny
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      I watched the Cornell Lab Feederwatch birdcam today for the first time.  And I'm addicted!  I enjoyed observing the different ways the birds used the feeder and which foods they preferred.  Those jays definitely like the peanuts!  And thanks to Merlin I now know the difference between an American crow and a common grackle and a rusty blackbird. I'm definitely a newbie at birding!!
    • Duncan
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      Activity #3 I saw a white breasted nuthatch on our feeder always pointed down while it feeds.  The mourning dove feeds on the ground and looks up between bites.  The black capped chickadee enjoys perching on the feeder and flies away before it eats.
    • Beth
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
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    • Eleanor
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Activity 4: My favorite bird is the Bluebird. It sits up and forms a straight line from its head to its tail. It is bigger than a sparrow and smaller than a Robin. It has a blue head, back and tail. A red chest. They are in my backyard which is open and my front yard which has only one tree with open space around it.
    • Eleanor
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Activity 1: Two birds I can identify by shape are the Cardinal and a Wren. The Cardinal is long from its head to the end of its tail. It has a crest on the top of its head and its tail is long. The Wren is smaller than the Cardinal and  has a cocked tail. The Wren 's back is curved from its head to its tail and has a plump body.
    • Gabriela
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      Activity 2: three different birds that have the same color  but on different parts of their bodies. Great Crested Flycatcher,  Spot-Breasted Oriole,  Praire Warbler  all have some yellow on them. The Praire Warbler has yellow all over it's throat, chest, belly, and rump. The male has a vibrant yellow face with some black streaks. The Spot-Breasted Oriole is almost all vibrant yellow (sometimes orangish) except for its tail, wings, and throat. The Great Crested Flycatcher has a slim body with a big head. Its belly has a soft banana yellow color. It has a cute spiked hair-do.
    • Karrin
      Participant
      Chirps: 47
      I threw out some birdseed on my deck, downloaded the Merlin ID, and waited / watched. I was able to identify  birds (in addition to the obvious cardinal): (1) Carolina Chickadee, (2) Eastern Bluebird, (3) Eastern Phoebe, (4) House Sparrow, and (5) Carolina Wren. (If you guess that I live on the East Coast, you're right - I am located in Virginia!) I am excited to add other birds to my list. As an aside, I really enjoyed the sounds portion of this lesson. I didn't realize that I have been hearing a cardinal every morning! (I wish the Merlin ID had a way to identify birds by their sound because they are hard to see.)
      • Marcy
        Participant
        Chirps: 8
        My kids and I have been having fun learning about the different sounds too.  I have a hard time hearing the difference between sounds, but one of my daughters has a talent for it (she is 11!).  I am getting better with practice. I've downloaded an app called "SongSleuth" to help us ID bird sounds. I'm still learning how to use the app, but I think it will come in handy (I have a friend who has had a lot of success with it).
      • Carla
        Participant
        Chirps: 3
        There is a relatively new app called BirdNET that is a sound identification app associated with Cornell Labs. I only learned about it about a month ago, and have used it a handful of times...it works great! The only difficulty is if there are a lot close range bird sounds at once...when you record the sound, you highlight the section where that sound was, so it's tricky to just isolate and highlight the bird you're looking to ID when there's consistent chirping.
      • Elizabeth
        Bird Academy
        Great news! Merlin now has a Sound ID feature. Click the "Get Sound ID" button when you open Merlin, or download the latest update. You can find more information here. Currently this feature is only available for birds in the US and Canada, but more species will be added over time.
    • Laura
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      I used Merlin to id a male cardinal and a house sparrow.  The process is a very simple one and very satisfying. I'll try to identify 3 birds with same colors but on different body parts tomorrow, and then get back to this response.
    • Gabriela
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      Tufted Titmouse! Just ID'd my first one with the Merlin app and the Cornell Birdcam, all from the comfort from my recliner chair. At first, I  thought it was an Eastern Bluebird (EB) because I put the wrong location on the app. While the female bluebird and the tufted titmouse (TT) share a dusky blue and orange, the TT has a crested shape. In the pictures it's also rounder than the EB but in the bird cam all the birds were puffed up as heck (winter time).
    • Chloë
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      Activity 1.  I can tell the Northern Cardinal by shape, because of the the crest and the long tail, also the Mourning Dove, they are so sleek. Activity 3. We have a Red Shouldered Hawk who uses our property as part of his territory.  He will sit on our fence and keep a close eye on the ground where he knows we have moles, occasionally I get to see him leap downwards with his talons out and then fly off with the poor rodent.  His patience and stillness is wonderful to watch. Activity 4.  I haven't actually managed to see this bird, but I have been identify the Yellow Bellied Sapsucker, by his call, drumming rhythm and flight pattern.