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Have you ever seen a bird at your feeder that you really like, but just can't seem to figure out what it is? You should learn how to identify a bird, and this article will explain how to.


  1. Categorize the bird. There are 8 different categories that they can go into. As soon as you see the bird you should try to put it into on of these categories. The 8 categories are:
    • Ducks and duck-like birds
    • Gulls and terns
    • Long-legged waders
    • Shorebirds and small waders
    • Fowl-like birds
    • Birds of prey
    • Flycatchers
    • Warblers
  2. Size matters. You should pay attention to how big or small the bird is. You can use size relativity to get a general idea. Size relativity refers to being bigger or smaller than a sparrow, robin, crow, or pigeon, per say.
  3. Study silhouettes. The silhouette is an important part of identifying it. When it is flying and you can't see all of the details, just pay attention to its body, beak, tail, and legs. Ask yourself these questions:
    • Is the body short or long? Narrow or plump?
    • Is its beak fine, long, or short and stout? Is it dagger-shaped, hooked, or straight?
    • Is the bird's tail rounded, square, pointed, or forked?
    • Are its legs short or long?
    • Do the wings look rounded or pointed?
    • Do the wings have wing bars? If so, are they single or double? Bold or obscure?
  4. Pay attention to the bird's behavior. Different birds have different behaviors. For example, when woodpeckers climb up a tree, one might climb in spirals, and the other might climb in jerks. Also, they might climb using their tail as a brace or headfirst. If you know what a bird's behavior is like, this can be a helpful tool in identifying.
  5. Take note on where you saw the bird. There might be a bird that looks exactly like it, but is on the whole other side of the world. Range is a very important part in identifying birds.
  6. Don't depend on color. Birds have different plumages at different times of the year, so the color of their feathers might not tell you what kind it is. You should use color as a last resort.
  7. Use a field guide. It is best to use a field guide last, because you will have all the information recorded when you go to look it up. Painted pictures in field guides are often better than photos, because photographs sometimes have lighting problems. Most field guides have categories that the birds are put into, or they separate them by family.


  • Painted pictures in field guides are best to use.
  • You can purchase field guides inexpensively, or look at one from your local library. Your local Audubon Society will also have field guides.
  • Photographing the bird after you see it also might be helpful in identifying it. It will also be a nice memory.