Build Birding Skills Four Simple Steps to Better Birding

When I was new to birding one of the most frustrating things was seeing birds that I was unable to successfully identify. Counting birds that I was 50% sure on was never really my thing, so instead I honed my skills to increase my accuracy. With over 900 species of birds that come and go in North America it’s easy for any new birder to feel a little overwhelmed by the differences and distinction in field marks, songs, habitat and more. Often times your field guide can seem crammed with 100 similar-looking birds randomly arranged. Hopefully this guide will help to provide some advice to help you master successful bird id skills.

Size & Shape

white-faced ibis flight

Size and Shape are your first two main indicators of what family a bird might belong to. This will take some work, but there are a few areas to constantly practice; Become familiar with silhouettes, Judge size, Measure the bird against itself among others.

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Color Pattern

varied bunting

Color and field marks are often the first and easiest way to identify a bird. be careful though as females, juveniles and other variations can throw you for a loop.

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burrowing owl flight

Behavior including posture, movement, flight pattern, song and feeding style will tell you a lot about each bird and often will reveal the species from this alone.

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birding mt. lemmon

Habitat and range are often overlooked when trying to id a bird. Often times the range alone can rule out other birds. ie. Tufted titmouse vs Oak Titmouse.

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