Every part of the bird you're looking at is a clue to what it is.
Henslow's Sparrow Photo by Luke Seitz
April 20, 2009
The combination of size and shape is one of the most powerful tools to identification. Though you may be drawn to watching birds because of their wonderful colors or fascinating behavior, when it comes to making identifications, size and shape are the first pieces of information you should examine.
With just a little practice and observation, you’ll find that differences in size and shape will jump out at you. The first steps are to learn typical bird silhouettes, find reliable ways to gauge the size of a bird, and notice differences in telltale parts of a bird such as the bill, wings, and tail.
Soon, you’ll know the difference between Red-winged Blackbirds and European Starlings while they’re still in flight, and be able to identify a Red-tailed Hawk or Turkey Vulture without taking your eyes off the road.