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

    • 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.
    • Jeff
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      We were recently on vacation in the Gulf Coast of Alabama and were able to see a variety of gulls - something we don’t see much in Minnesota Of course we saw the larger and very familiar Herring Gulls that even we recognize by their shape and behavior.    But then we also I saw some slightly smaller gull -like birds that had black heads and so I thought I would look them up and make an ID.     But when I got home I see that I should have looked closer - it could have been a Laughing Gull or a Franklin's Gull.    The difference in wing marking would have helped me make the distinction.    Next time I will have to look closer.
    • Michelle
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      Two birds by shape: Mourning doves: Bigger than most birds in my yard, round heads, long necks, plump bodies, long tails. They remind me of Bosc pears with feathers. Red-bellied woodpecker: Round head, but shorter neck, longer body, and shorter tail than the mourning dove.  
    • Patricia
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      2 different birds just by shape ·        Mallard duck easy to spot as his rear center tail feathers curl upward. Very cool. ·        Wild Turkey Large bird standing 3-4 feet tall. Bare red or blue head, long neck, Wattle, large body and big feet. The males are especially recognizable when mating as they pan their beautiful tails and drop their wings in an effort to grab attention and show off.   3 different birds that have the same colors:  I picked green, white, and brown. ·        Mallard Duck -  At a glance Mallards are easy to recognize with it’s beautiful glossy green head, yellow bill, white band on neck, brown chest, and white sides. ·        Northern Shoveler  - This duck also has a green head and neck. White breast and brown flanks and belly. Their Bill is a great identifier as it is large and black verses the mallard’s yellow bill. ·        Red-Breasted Merganser  - This duck also has a green head but unlike the mallard and the northern shoveler it is also has a shaggy crest. In addition it’s bill is long and red. Their neck is white and has a brown chest with white-gray sides. 3 birds searching for food. ·        Rufous-Sided Towhee -  Towhees love to search for seeds under my shrubbery. They jump with both feet, then scratch around looking for seeds or insects. They are Robin sized with black heads, necks, and black wing. The rufous color is under their wings and sides. They have a white belly and also sport a long rounded tail boasting white outer spots. All adding up to a strikingly beautiful bird. ·        Northern Cardinal – The Cardinal’s come to my feeder. They love seeds and insects.  They have strong beaks which allow them the ability to crush a seed in their mouths and spit out the hulls. This is one of my favorite birds being mostly red with the red crest and black face. ·        The Tufted Titmouse – The Titmouse like to come to my feeder where I can get an up close look at them. They sport a gray crested head and gray body with peach colored sides and white neck and underside.   So cute they have a small bill that they pick seeds up in then smash the seed against the feeder until they get to the good stuff. Favorite Bird ·        Pileated Woodpecker -  This large crow sized bird is easily recognizable with it reaching 17-19” making it the largest of the living woodpeckers. They have striking colors with the body being mostly black with black and white stripes on the face and neck. Their most beautiful feature is the bright red crest, crown, forehead, and mustache (no mustache for the females). Pileated woodpeckers are shy, preferring to live in the deep woods where you will be more likely to hear them before you see them. They have a loud call Kuk - Kuk - Kuk - Kuk - Kuk - Kuk - Kuk – usually dropping in pitch. Since I live in a forest I am able to see them frequently.  They fly onto a tree; using their sharp claws and strong tail for balance, they proceed to circle the tree upward pecking and knocking bark off looking for insects and bees.  Pileated Woodpeckers are non-migratory so I can enjoy them year round. They do have a big range from British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, South to N. California, Montana e. Nebraska e. Texas, Gulf Coast and Florida.
    • Bruce
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      For activity 1, I found a Snowy Egret and a Black-crowned Night Heron. Snowys are easy to recognize by their long neck and legs.  The Night Heron is more rounded and hunched with a long plume behind it.  Activity 2 were all black and white sea birds: Bufflehead (white on the back of head), Western Grebe (white on the front neck), and a Surf Scoter (white on back of neck, and between eyes).  Activity 3 : Buffleheads diving into the harbor,  Black Phoebes darting for insects, and California Towhees scavenging under the bushes. Activity 4: Say's Phoebe recognized by it's shape which is similar to the more common Black Phoebe, its salmon-colored underbelly, and its crazy acrobatics diving for insects around sunset.
    • Jana
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      For activity one I chose Killdeer and Mourning dove. Their shapes allow you to easily tell them apart. The killdeer is tall and slender with short stocky neck and longer tail. The dove is rounder and has a longer neck with a smaller head. For activity two I chose red: Red-winged black bird (red on the shoulder), Northern Cardinal (red with black face), Rose-breasted Grosbeak (red breast) For activity three I chose: American kestrel (soaring and hovering over grassy field), Horned lark (scratching and nibbling along side of road), Northern Cardinal (visiting my bird feeder for sunflower seeds) For activity four I chose Eastern Meadow lark: stocky with short tail, long bill and legs, bright yellow underparts with black breast and and striped head, found in grassy fields and prairies, distinctive call
    • Esteban
      Participant
      Chirps: 170
      In the first activity, a birds that can be easily identified in the panama cams, are the chachalacas and the hummingbirds. In the second activity 3 birds that  have the same colors are gray, brown , and white, like the southern pochard  the ring- necked duck and the  lesser scaup In the fourth activity ( guess this ) I describe a pink bodied bird  with grey bill, larger  than a goose , with a flat beak
    • Teri
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Where I live on the west coast of Canada, we seem to have several species of ducks that are black and white. I have trouble identifying them unless I have a species chart with me. I've learned that noticing their specific markings, especially on their heads, is very important for identifying who I am looking at. I also find that if I take a close-up photo of the bird, I can then take my time identifying which one it is with my field guide and/or with Merlin. Now I just need to commit each species of black and white ducks to memory (Bufflehead, Barrow's Goldeneye and Common Merganser).
    • Kristen
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      I chose to complete Activity #3. We live in Central NY and have several frequent fliers to our feeders at this time of year.  The three birds that I have identified searching for food are a dark eyed junco, a red-tailed hawk and a red-bellied woodpecker. The juncos in our yard either sit on a perch on our feeder to eat seeds or they spend time under the feeder picking up any seeds that spilled into the snow. They have a behavior of hopping forward and back to move the snow and uncover any seeds that fell. They almost dig a little indent for themselves where they snuggle in and shield themselves from the wind and snow. The red-tailed hawk that lives in our area was perched in a barren tree yesterday for over 2 hours watching for prey to happen by. He could look over a snow-covered field from his vantage point as well as watch over our open back yard. We have yet to see him catch anything but we have found, on 2 separate occasions, an area of snow covered with feathers and blood where he had a meal. We could make out feather marks in the snow. The third feathered friend we've seen today is a robust male red-bellied woodpecker. He has striking black and white bars down his back and a brilliant red on the back of his head. He enjoys hanging from the suet and will frequent the feeder with a seed mix as well.  
    • Laurel
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      I was not familiar with the Junko until this lesson, and spying them in my yard. With help from Merlin, I was able to identify this bird. I also have learned to identify the house finch. The section on how to use binoculars was quite instructive and helpful! I've also learned to identify the downy woodpecker and distinguish it from the hairy woodpecker. The downy woodpecker likes the suit feeder just outside my patio glass door.
      • Karrin
        Participant
        Chirps: 47
        I agree that the section on binoculars was interesting. (I had NO IDEA that such a thing as a diopter even existed!) Do you think you'll be getting a pair of binoculars for birdwatching? I really want to, but there are SO MANY choices!
    • Kathleen
      Participant
      Chirps: 28
      Activity 1: Blue Jays and Starlings are in trees outside my window, now. The jays often have a prominent crest and have a more slender overall shape with medium to long tails. The starlings have no crest and tend to have a fuller body with a short tail. Activity 2: The male Downy Woodpecker, the female & male Pileated Woodpeckers, and the female & male Red-bellied Woodpeckers all have red in varying places on their heads. The male Downy has a small red cap on the back of his head. The male and female Pileated Woodpeckers both have large prominent red crests but the male is the only one with a red malar. The male and female Red-bellied Woodpeckers both have subtle areas of red on their bellies. The male has red on his crown and nape, but the female only has red on the nape of her neck. Activity 3: The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird is among my favorites. The hummingbird is so spectacular that I always feel a little as if I have been visited by an angel! My description is as follows: SIZE - tiny - the smallest of birds; SHAPE - long, thin bill, spherical body shape, long wings, relatively short tail, COLOR & PATTERN - bright red throat, black mask, green crown and bright metallic green on upper parts, white belly; BEHAVIOR - hovers to feed on flowers; solitary and aggressive toward other hummingbirds; female cares for offspring in nest; HABITAT - primarily woodland, but visits gardens often; RANGE - throughout eastern U.S.  but mainly in Florida and Mexico in the winter; SOUNDS - males chirp early in the morning; both males and females make humming sounds.
    • Loyal
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      Watched house finches, white-crowned sparrows, mourning doves, and a squirrel share the bird feeder this morning. The house finches actually perched on the feeder, while the sparrows hopped on the ground pecking at seeds knocked out by the squirrel. The mourning doves sat on a fence waiting for all the other birds to leave, then pecked on the ground.
    • Jeff
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      A1: Carolina Wren compared to Black Vulture.   Size, Wing Span, Talons, Color are a few physical differences.  The vulture sours and uses air currents in its search for food, while the Carolina wren, forages around  in seemingly every nook and cranny it can find. A2: Cardinal, Red Bellied Wood Pecker, Downey Woodpecker.   All have red in their colors or markings.  The Cardinal being almost completely covered in red. While the Red Bellied Wood Pecker sports a crown of red extending into its nape.  Finally the Downey Wood Pecker having a cap of red on its head. A3: Black Vulture , soaring and searching the air currents for its meal.  The Carolina Wren searching wood piles, rock piles, under decks, steps and other tiny haunts to find a morsel of sorts. Then there is the European Starling, looking for a free hand out at the bird feeder, being a thief and stealing scratch grains from the chicken feeder. A4: American Kestrel:  Robin sized, perched on power-line overlooking two ponds and a grass/weed mixed field.  Hovering and Stooping as it attempted to capture its prey.
    • Colleen
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      1) Two birds that I can tell apart by size or shape are the  Canada Goose and the Trumpeter Swan.  (I'm obviously a novice.) 2) Two birds that have red are the: Red-bellied Woodpecker - red cap extending down to the nape of the neck Downy Woodpecker  - just a touch of red on the back of the head; mostly black and white 2) 3 birds that were searching for food are the: Red-breasted Nuthatch; Redpolls; and 4) One of my favorite birds is the Goldfinch: Size:  small - between a sparrow and a robin Colors:  gold & black habitat:  Minnesota area where I'm from Sounds:  high pitched