Thursday, April 25, 2013

Beginning Bird Identification

Back in January 2012 I discussed how birds that look alike aren't always placed in field guides next to each other (Field-friendly bird sequence: Part one). Instead, they are arranged by presumed relationships (taxonomic order)--and these constantly changing.

Next I looked at some previous attempts to organize birds by general external physical characters. I proposed a sequence that placed all North American birds into 13 categories (Field-friendly bird sequence: Part two). Beginners should be able to quickly place a bird they see into one of these categories, then search for the exact species more accurately than in field guides ordered in taxonomic sequence.

Over the subsequent year I discussed one of the 13 categories each month. It is now completed. I've gone back and updated Part two with links to each discussion. I repeat it below for your convenience.

Swimming Waterbirds
Flying Waterbirds
Wading Waterbirds
Chicken-like Birds
Miscellaneous Landbirds
Aerial Landbirds
Flycatcher-like Birds
Thrush-like Songbirds
Chickadee and Wren-like Songbirds
Warbler-like Songbirds
Sparrow and Finch-like Songbirds
Blackbird-like Songbirds

What do you think? Do you find these categories useful for beginning birders?


  1. Looks like a pretty simple breakdown to me. It would be fascinating to see this implemented in a field guide.

    1. I think it would be fine for a very beginning bird walk or class.

    2. I like the list. Makes it easier to get started looking in the field guide. Something I will try my next time out.

    3. I'll see how the birds will fit in these categories. Sounds pretty easy.

    4. Let me know how it works, Marlowe. You need to combine this with a list of expected birds for your region and date.

    5. Going to the coast in a couple weeks. I'm trying to study some of the birds from the ebird list to get ready. I'd like to be able to recognize some of the shore birds by sight.