Birds 101

This area of the web site takes you through the basic identification process on backyard birds. Discussion on beginning bird identification tips such as forming a habit in the order in which to view the bird. The index at the right covers other identification tips such as plumage, field marks, voice along with a Who's Who pictorial of birds that are often misidentified with each other.

Making a List

As a beginning bird watcher, it helps to eliminate species that are NOT in your area. Using a general field guide is overwhelming because it lists more than just your local birds. Take some time and go through the field guide and highlight the birds in your area. The Backyard Birds Section is located in the last half of field guides.

Lincoln County List

If you are interested in the Lincoln County, Oregon area, Range Bayer has a wonderful list of Lincoln County Birds. He not only lists the names, but also the times of year you can expect to see them.

Observation Order

When observing a bird, professional birders say NOT look at the field guide until the bird flies away. Look for identification marks in a particular order while looking for field marks.

Bird Behavior

Observe and note the bird's behavior. Their behavior is a major key in bird identification. Some questions to ask yourself might be:

  • Was it catching prey in the air?
  • Was it climbing the sides of trees?
  • Was it flicking its tail?
  • Was it bobbing its tail?
  • Was it fanning its tail?
  • Was it flicking its wings?
  • Was it looking for insects on foliage?
  • Was it serious looking or gregarious?
  • Was it moving quickly through the foliage?
  • Was it secretive?
  • Was it walking or hopping?
  • Was it alone or with other birds?
  • Was it doing anything else unusual?

Bird Habitat

Birds prefer different habitats. In a backyard, some choices of habitat are ground, shrubs, trees and water. When you become familiar with a bird's habitat, it makes it easier to identify those shadows doing the fox-trot on the ground, or the quick flitters in the shrubs, or seeing a bird walking head first down a tree or another circling the tree as it climbs up to towards the top.

Document What You See

Log the important parts of the bird you are observing. You can choose a number of methods for documentation. Some are:

  • Sketch or draw the bird.
  • Jot down notes in a field journal.
  • Use a field note checklist.
  • Record your observations on a small tape recorder.
  • Photograph the bird with a camera.
  • Use a camcorder to video the bird.

Bird Quizzes

Some favorite online places for bird quizzes are USGS, North Michigan Birding Quizzes and Funtrivia. These quizzes are a great way to help increase your knowledge in the birding world.

Other Bird Identification Sources

There are many books on bird identification. A particularly good book, An Audubon Handbook: How To Identify Birds is available from the NWF Book Store. There are also many wonderful software programs that contain helpful learning tools.

Some other good internet sources for more details in bird identification are: and the USGS site.


The Backyard Bird Identification Checklist includes many identification clues to look for when you are trying to identify one of your backyard birds. The checklist is also available in a printer-friendly format.

Still Can’t Identify That Bird?

If you go to Birder's World and fill out their questionnaire called What's That Bird?, they email you with their response.

Of course, in today's world, the best way to get help with identification is to purchase a digital camera or camcorder and record the bird. Almost instantly you will have a print of the bird to email or post on a website where you can request help with identification. Most birders graciously share their knowledge and love to help others.