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The APN Guide: How to Identify Birds

Journal Entry: Fri Jun 24, 2016, 6:37 AM
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 Crow flying Hello and welcome! Since it is Bird Photography month at @AnimalsPlantsNature, we are presenting to you a new tutorial by Lunnika-Horo:

                                                                How to identify bird 

 Hi! I'm a young photographer-naturalist but I don't only take pictures of animals and birds - I know exactly what species I have photographed! Today I will share with you a self algorithm - the best ways to understand what bird species you meet =) (Smile) So let's get started!
  • Section 1: What you should do if you have heard a new bird sound
  • Section 2: What you should do if you have saw a new bird
  • Section 3: What you should do if you already have a photo of a new bird

1. You have heard a new sound.  

1.1 Listen: Where is the sound coming from?

To start, it is enough to learn the direction: from above/sideways/in front/behind... Figure out where the sound is coming from.

1.2. Find the exact place.

So you decided on the direction. Now your task is to find the exact place. Just go in the direction of the sound and look for a bird. Go toward the loudest sound. If your bird sits in an open place - you were lucky and you will quickly find the right place. If she sings in the woods - begin to bypass the next trees around, looking at top - so to you it will be easier to orient from what tree there is a sound.
  • While you look for - it is desirable to write down a melody which the bird sings - on video or a dictaphone. This song will help to identify it further.

  • Attention! you cannot rely only on singing - very many birds like to imitate singing of each other and even foreign sounds (such as a door scratch, knock of wheels of the train and many other things)!

1.3. You found the exact place where bird is singing. 

 As soon as you found the exact place - begin to peer at branches, without forgetting to be displaced concerning a tree around - you could become in the place where branches will precisely hide required. The bird will sometimes change situation, to fly from a branch on a branch - it will help you to notice it. 
  • If the bird flew on other tree - don't be upset! The main thing - continue to monitor its flight until she sits down. Then you will approach the necessary tree at once and will most likely find it. If you interrupt supervision and run towards the tree where it flew - most likely you will lose it.

2. You find a new bird!

 2.1 First - make photograph. Firelite-photo NOT IMPORTANT WHAT!

 Your first picture of a new bird may seem like

   2016-05-28 174353 by Lunnika-Horo (it is - female of Coccothraustes coccothraustes) or even like  2016-05-28 171550 by Lunnika-Horo (it is - male of Loxia curvirostra)

But it is already possible to determine birds, looking on these pictures. Believe me, it is sometimes much better to get the shot--even if it is not perfect--than than to miss the opportunity because the bird flew away. After all, we want to recognize what bird we met! Also, it is even better if you can catch it on several photo with different poses.

If you don't have your camera - try to remember its appearance and habits more precisely. Remember the shape of a beak and talons. It helps to you to identify at least approximately to what tribe your bird belonged, however, without photo you will not be able to check yourself - whether you correctly remembered it.
  • If you did not record her singing yet - hurry up!

2.2. Relax and take photos.

 After you catch a new bird in different poses, you can relax and now try to find better place to photograph it! To make a masterpiece, try to catch bird in photo not small, but not too large - make it in golden medium =) (Smile) Also, it can be better to catch it on the background, that differs from plumage of a bird, thereby emphasizing her:

Pinicola enucleator (PRINT WITHOUT WATERMARK) by Lunnika-Horo(it is - male of Pinicola enucleator)

Maybe you even can photograph bird while it is doing something interesting =) (Smile) About which parameters you should expose on your camera, read in another APN tutorial by Mouselemur: The APN Guide: Setting Up for Bird Photography

3. Definition of a picture. Looking for characteristic features.

Small retreat - what is the species and classification: Systematization is a section of biological sciences of which the purpose is the detection of a variety of organisms, development of their classification and clarification of the relations between species and their tribes.

In fact the bird as an organism is a "specie" we are looking for. The international name, by which you will be able to recognize everything about what the mankind knows about the same birds as it. 

  3.1. Studying details.

Here are some details are necessary to pay attention to when comparing:

  • Beak: 
Beaks are very different. It is the tool, a hand! (an exception - parrots :) (Smile)) By which the bird is cleaned, builds, and the most important - gets food! For the majority of birds, the beak is ground only under concrete type of food.

34247977 by Lunnika-Horo

  • Feet.
Membranes are available for water-loving birds, legs can be strong and then used for running (ostriches, an emu...). Not one, but two fingers behind say that the owner of the foot likes to climb (except owls - they has 2-2 fingers for best holding a prey, also 2-2 fingers has a cuckoo). Big claws are necessary for holding a prey. The feet can be similar to fluffy paw - the accrete fingers covered with plumage (Syrrhaptes paradoxus).  
Birds who often adjoin to something slippery can have rough feet: go on ice (penguins) or hold slimy fish (for ex.Pandion haliaetus). 
226 Copy by Lunnika-Horo

  • Plumage.
Any speck is important! The spot under a wing can be decisive, the circle framing eyes etc.
  • Size.
In determinants and articles, the size of a bird is always specified. 
Compare the size of a bird with nearby objects: branches, stones...and with these three birds extended almost on all continents:

Mini by Lunnika-Horo Sparrow`s size is about 16 cm.
Untitled Drawing by Lunnika-HoroPigeon`s size is about 33 cm.
0 88b17 39a25acc M by Lunnika-HoroCrow`s size is about 62 cm.

  • Habitats.
One of the fastest ways to eliminate types of birds is to check out the what continents that the suspects live on (or emigrate to).

  • Song.
In spite of the fact that many birds are mockers, the song is one of the strongest indications by which it is possible to identify a bird. At different types the song is various. For example some species of leaf warblers can be determined almost only by the song.

  • Behaviour.
Is it something really strange?  Can your bird create giant house-nests? (Estrildidae) Can it perform really strange dances (paradise birds) or intimidate a snake?(Jynx) Your bird can not only sit on a branch, but also to move on a trunk? (woodpeckers, sítta, parrots) Or it not only move on branches, bird do it with a claws on its wings?! (hoatzin)

  • Nest.
Nests and eggs is another way to identificate bird. However I do not call you for this way since you can frighten off a bird and it will be reflected in her posterity. However, if you found in the wood a shell from egg of a wild bird, you can define it and learn what bird lives near you.

  • Flight and Silhouette.
The most common silhouettes you can see lower on this page. About flight: different kinds of birds have their unique kind of flight. Also, some species have unique flight so it would be better if you can video it =) (Smile) 

Some examples of flight:
2016-06-02 172527 by Lunnika-Horo          2016-06-02 172545 by Lunnika-Horo

Some species very strongly differ from others. Thus, you can just gather in the web-searcher: a bird with the crossed beak (crossbill) / long toes (yakan), the huge head (shoebill) and etc. =) (Smile) 

3.2. Our task - defining to what ordo (formes) our bird belongs.

Thus we will sweep aside enormous quantity of variants. Here are names and silhouettes of bird's ordos. In brackets I will give the English names to some widespread bird species, meeting in this group. (maybe it slightly will facilitate searches). Birds, that have a keel I tried to divide into several logical groups, uniting them on diferent signs.
  • In general, more than a half of birds belong to Passeriformes. So it is very probable that your bird belong to them. They have small or average sizes and is frequent, are able to sing beautifully.

  •  Running birds:

2016-06-02 172839 by Lunnika-Horo(kiwi)
2016-06-02 172858 by Lunnika-Horo(cassowary)
2016-06-02 173213 by Lunnika-Horo( rhea)
2016-06-02 173239 by Lunnika-Horo(ostrich)
2016-06-02 173248 by Lunnika-Horo(tinamou)


  • Swiming birds:

2016-06-02 173221 by Lunnika-Horo(penguins)

  • Flying birds:

* Life is connected with water for this ordos:

2016-06-02 172818 by Lunnika-Horo(screamers, geese, ducks);
2016-06-02 172906 by Lunnika-Horo(shorebirds, seagulls, tysties, yakans, skimmers, snipes);
2016-06-02 172918 by Lunnika-Horo(storks, herons, ibises);
2016-06-02 173027 by Lunnika-Horo(loons);
2016-06-02 173108 by Lunnika-Horo(tropicbird, pelicans, cormorants, darters, frigatebirds);
2016-06-02 173118 by Lunnika-Horo(flamingos);
2016-06-02 173135 by Lunnika-Horo(grebe);
2016-06-02 173145 by Lunnika-Horo(albatrosses, shearwaters, petrels);

*Land birds, but have water-lovers:

 2016-06-02 173037 by Lunnika-Horo(cranes, bustards, spotted thick-knee, rails);

*Land (steppe/savannah) birds:

2016-06-02 172931 by Lunnika-Horo(mousebirds);
2016-06-02 173018 by Lunnika-Horo(chiken, turkey, grouses, craxi, pheasant);
2016-06-02 173204 by Lunnika-Horo(sandgrouses);

*Mainly tropical birds:

2016-06-02 173259 by Lunnika-Horo(quetzal, trogon);
2016-06-02 172951 by Lunnika-Horo(bee-eaters, trogons, kingfishers, hoopoe, hornbills, rollers);
2016-06-02 173046 by Lunnika-Horo(hoatzin);
2016-06-02 173155 by Lunnika-Horo(parrots);

*Mainly forest birds:

2016-06-02 173127 by Lunnika-Horo(woodpeckers, jacamars, puffbirds, honeyguides, toocans);
2016-06-02 173001 by Lunnika-Horo(cuckoos, turacos);
2016-06-02 172848 by Lunnika-Horo(oilbirds, nightjars);

*Common birds:
2016-06-02 173055 by Lunnika-Horo(robin, sparrow, crow, paradise birds, pitta, nightingale, lyrebird, nuthatch and many others);
2016-06-02 172826 by Lunnika-Horo(swifts, hummingbirds);
2016-06-02 172942 by Lunnika-Horo(pigeons);

*Birds of prey:
Day predators:
2016-06-02 173010 by Lunnika-Horo(falcons, hawks, secretarybird,  vultures);

Night predators:
2016-06-02 173231 by Lunnika-Horo(owls);

At this stage - just look for the most similar silhouettes =) (Smile) I always search new bird at begin in wikipedia, if I'm not sure ^^ 
Just choose those tribes, that seems most similar to your bird. This way go further until you have chosen several tribes or even species =) (Smile) 
Thus choose from remaining groups: familia, genus and species.

3.3. There are several species in what I think my bird belongs!

It is possible not to identify the bird to species the first time. If you find in what genus a bird belongs, in some sites people can write about how to to distinguish closely related species. For example Loxia curvirostra (photo that I show you before you go to Section 2) distinguishes from Loxia pytyopsittacus only by song, size (pytyopsittacus are little bigger), and by beak - Loxia pytyopsittacus`s width (thickness) of a beak and length are almost identical, while Loxia curvirostra`s width (thickness) of a beak it is less, than length.  So be attentive to details! 

Maybe it happens that you met a female. The plumage of females very frequent look like grayscale of plumage of males. Look at these chaffinches:
Female Fringílla coélebs  2016-05-28 195205 by Lunnika-Horo and Male Fringílla coélebs  2016-05-28 195330 by Lunnika-Horo =) (Smile) Personally I quickly determine a female of the chaffinch by a white strip on wings, identical at both seks =) (Smile)

Here some more hints:

-Search, maybe in your district live not only birds, but also scientists! Then, perhaps you will manage to find the website with a list of all bird species that live in your area :) (Smile)

I found that site: (It is on Russian language)

-Give preference now to the websites on which there is a detailed description of types, their songs:


-And! If you doubt that defined correctly, be not too lazy, and throw off your photos and video on forums of birders - there you will be helped =) (Smile)


After you identify bird you then can read about it more, and find specially =) (Smile) Because now, you know it preferences, food and of course singing =) (Smile)

On DA there is a group AnimalIdentification - you also can ask them for help =) (Smile)

Of course, here a lot of things did not hold, but be sure - any bird can be defined without capturing her and especially -without killing! I consider that it is very important. Also, I am always glad to help to define a bird together with you so be sure to write me!

*All photographs used in this journal belongs to Lunnika-Horo ; )
Text: Lunnika-Horo; Beta: JenFruzz.

Hope this Tutorial was helpful! ^^ Good luck! clover  And have a good BIRD MONTH with

Journal skin by UszatyArbuz
Photo by The-Panic
Hope my tutorial will help you to identify your bird ^^ And don`t forget to see AnimalPlantsNature group! They have a lot of interesting information and amazing photography)

Feel free to post anywhere BUT WITH LINK TO MY DA! =) ;)
Add a Comment:
BirdsandDragons Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2018  Hobbyist Photographer
Wow, this is great! I always just used an app to help identify birds, but I wanted to learn how to identify them myself.
Lunnika-Horo Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2018   Photographer
Oh thank you so much for comment like this! ** It is really meanful for me! =)

Can I ask what app did you use to identify? =)

P.S. Wish to you conquests in this! =)))
BirdsandDragons Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2018  Hobbyist Photographer
I use Merlin Bird ID. It’s free, but you have to download different zones.
Lunnika-Horo Featured By Owner Oct 2, 2018   Photographer
Interesting! Thank you =)
Heartcrocher Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2017
I love this use full Journal it is awesome.Love 
Lunnika-Horo Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2017   Photographer
Thank you very much! ^_^
Heartcrocher Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2017
You are most welcome.OST2life 
Lunnika-Horo Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2016   Photographer
Thank you very much for such an amazing comment! It was a real honor for me - to recieve compliment from birder, who knows all the details what you must do when identify bird! =)
It sounds great that you had travelling to a new place ^^ I think it is so wonderful to see a lot of new species around, all new sounds and try to identify them ^____^
Fredkaluppke Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2016
yes it is amazing to see new species and we tried hard on identifying them. after a few days we got better in that. some are similiar to the ones you already know, others very strange.
it is always fun to learn new varieties/ species. Local birders helped us, it was suprising that even in Central Park of New York there were a lot (birders and birds) ;-)
so, keep up the good work, I will follow :-) ^^
Lunnika-Horo Featured By Owner Oct 4, 2016   Photographer
It sounds awesome! ^____^
Awww and thank you so much for the watch!!! :hug:
neder3069 Featured By Owner Jul 11, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Aahh thank you this helps so much omg!!
Lunnika-Horo Featured By Owner Jul 13, 2016   Photographer
I`m very happy! ^^
neder3069 Featured By Owner Jul 13, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
altergromit Featured By Owner Jun 29, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Cirp by altergromit  What by altergromit  Dancing-pigeon by altergromit  Ciao by altergromit    
Lunnika-Horo Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2016   Photographer
StemmyBotanist Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
I learned so much from this article! I've always found bird identification to be especially challenging. [: Thank you very much, Lunnika-Horo! I especially enjoyed the characteristic diagrams. "Form follows function" is always good to remember concerning beaks and feet.
Lunnika-Horo Featured By Owner Jun 27, 2016   Photographer
Hug Thank you very much! ^_^ 
 I`m really happy that my article was useful for you! :happybounce: La la la la :D (Big Grin) Love
PhotoDragonBird Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2016  Hobbyist Photographer
Very useful advice! :-)
Lunnika-Horo Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2016   Photographer
Thank you!
PhotoDragonBird Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2016  Hobbyist Photographer
My pleasure! :-)
TeaPhotography Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2016  Professional General Artist
:omg: Really wonderfully done! How exceptional and informative adn organized! I am very impressed! :clap:

I am so happy you submitted it to Unframed-Nature .We have a lot of birders and backyard birders. :nod:
Lunnika-Horo Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2016   Photographer
Thank you!
perzarus Featured By Owner Jun 25, 2016  Student General Artist
Very informative article. For those who are unacquainted with bird photography, this is a real eye-opener for sure!
Brilliantly done! :clap:
Lunnika-Horo Featured By Owner Jun 25, 2016   Photographer
w00t!  Thank you!!! ^___^
Feytoh Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2016  Hobbyist Photographer
Brilliant and well laid out. This will be very helpful to a lot of people :)
I love the detail in this, especially with the flight patterns and beak descriptions!
Lunnika-Horo Featured By Owner Jun 25, 2016   Photographer
Thank you! Froggy Emoji-59 (Being kawaii) [V3] 
Feytoh Featured By Owner Jun 25, 2016  Hobbyist Photographer
No problem :aww:
herofan135 Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
This is so amazing, this must have taken quite some time! :wow:
I'm very happy for you, and this is really well done and helpful!
Lunnika-Horo Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2016   Photographer
Huggle! Thank you so much Mathias! ^_^ 
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