Who’s that bird? In this case, that’s a Red-bellied Woodpecker, more specifically a female Red-bellied Woodpecker. Suppose, however, that you did not know that this was a woodpecker. Where would you start in the identification process? Thankfully, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has several ways to help you identify birds, both on the Cornell FeederWatch Cam and beyond.
Watching Bird Cams
A good first step in identifying an unknown feeder cam visitor is the Cornell FeederWatch All About Birds webpage. All of the species that have ever visited the Cornell FeederWatch Cam are listed there beneath the live view, with full-color images that link to more information. This is a great starting place to learn about your mystery bird allowing for quick, visual access to all of the feeder’s visitors at a glance. Want to see more? Check out more images in the digital archives at the Macaulay Library.
Ask Merlin For Help
Another useful tool for bird identification is Cornell Lab’s Merlin. This free tool asks you to input information about your mystery bird, then suggests the most likely species. On the All About Birds Bird Cams website simply click on the Bird ID button located at the top right of the webpage and the tool will guide you. The tool will ask for the bird’s location and in the case of the Cornell FeederWatch Cam the closest town is Ithaca, New York. Merlin will then use this information to help identify your bird.
You may also use the Merlin App on your smart phone or tablet. The app is available free on IOS and Android and has content for over 7,500 species worldwide. The Merlin App allows you to enter a photo (a screen shot will do) of your bird, in addition to your observations such as location, size and color(s). The photo feature on the app can be especially useful for Bird Cam viewers who may be able to grab a quick screenshot when their mystery bird is visiting. After installing the app, download the ‘Bird Pack‘ (also free) called US and Canada: Continental and you’re on your way to solving the mystery. Each Bird Pack provides a field guide to the species of that region with photos, sounds, and helpful ID information for the bird species that occur there. Install the app and begin your bird identifying journey right there on your smartphone.
Learn Birding Tips From The Experts
Looking to learn the basics of bird identification? Then check out Cornell Lab’s Inside Birding, a series of how-to videos for learning to identify birds. Each short video guides you through four basic keys to bird identification with clear instruction and examples.
Got your basic skills down and want to focus on FeederWatch Cam birds? Our Cornell FeederWatch Cam Youtube Playlist contains hundreds of highlights of the species that visit our cam. These videos contain short clips of actual cam footage of each species either visiting the feeder, or the surrounding trees. Seeing these birds as they appear on Cam with their names on screen and real time audio, can go a long way toward helping reinforce the species identification.
Level Up Your Skills With Bird Academy
The Cornell Lab’s Bird Academy hosts a plethora of courses aimed at helping bird enthusiasts of all levels become more adept at identifying birds. These courses allow you to start at your level and set your own pace. Offerings include courses covering identifying species within specific bird groups or courses covering general characteristics such as color and pattern. Head on over to Bird Academy and peruse the wide range of courses and start your journey to becoming a more skilled birder. The Be A Better Birder series (pictured below), specifically courses 1: Size and Shape, and 2: Color and Pattern are great course to start with.
Ask The Cam Community
Want to learn about your unknown bird in a more interactive way? You can interact with other bird enthusiasts on the Cornell FeederWatch Cam Twitter. You’ll find active communities of Bird Cams staff, volunteers and viewers interacting and discussing what they see on cam. Post screenshots or simply note the time of a bird’s visit and join other viewers in learning about these birds.
Whatever resources you use to sharpen your birding skills, drop by Twitter and let us know about your experiences, or share your favorite tools. Happy watching!
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