how to identify birds in my backyard

Tips to Observe and Identify Backyard Birds

how to identify birds in my backyard

Gaining knowledge about backyard bird identification is a wonderful way to strengthen our bond with nature. There is no one “right” way to learn birds, and new birders use different strategies based on their learning styles and personalities. If you spend time observing birds, you can call yourself a “birder” regardless of your level of expertise.

These are some fundamental pointers that should be helpful to any novice:

  • Carefully observe the bird, its markings, habits, habitats, shape;
  • Learn to identify the top 20 or top 50 most common species in your area by using books, the internet, or apps;
  • To help you remember key characteristics of the birds you observe, make detailed sketches or take notes;
  • Take note of the time of year and location, then check with resources to see if they apply to your bird;
  • Discuss questions and/or locations for new birds with other birdwatchers;
  • Once you’ve gotten the hang of visual identification, begin studying the calls and songs of the most prevalent local species.
  • Your confidence and skill set will grow as you continue to birdwatch, so have patience and don’t give up!

In addition to careful observation, there are a number of digital tools that can provide new birders with a boost. American Bird Conservancy has a large library of bird profiles, which include many common backyard birds. The Cornell Lab of Ornithologys powerful Merlin app can help confirm bird identity based on visual and sound clues. If youre interested in more formal training, Cornell also offers a wide assortment of online classes.

how to identify birds in my backyard

Seeing and feeding backyard birds go hand in hand for millions of Americans. Feeding birds makes many people happy and, in certain cases, can serve as a significant source of nutrition for the birds. But these rewards dont come without responsibility.

First and foremost is feeder-cleaning.

Bird feeders, of course, do just that. Birds, like humans, are more susceptible to illness and disease when brought into close proximity. Tragic outcomes may result from feeders’ contribution to the spread of respiratory illnesses like trichomoniasis and the eye condition known as House Finch (mycoplasmal conjunctivitis).

Unfortunately, the danger posed by bird diseases is growing. H5N1 avian influenza, also known as bird flu, is still spreading unchecked, which has people worried that, unlike previous outbreaks, it might not be going away. At least 99 wild bird species have been infected by the disease, which has already spread over most of the continental United States and is endangering several more species.

Local and state authorities usually provide the public advice on bird-feeding when disease rates rise. When in doubt, fill your feeder after consulting the wildlife or health departments.

The good news is that routine cleaning of feeders can help prevent the spread of disease. Every few weeks, feeders must be thoroughly cleaned with a 10% non-chlorinated bleach solution to stop the spread of illness.

In addition to cleaning, its important to consider feeder placement. Place the feeder with careful consideration in relation to any reflective glass, such as patio doors or windows. (For tips, see our collisions page. Furthermore, feeding backyard birds near outdoor cats or other predators can be disastrous.

Despite these difficulties, you don’t have to store your feeder. The bottom line is that backyard bird feeding is acceptable as long as sufficient thought and care are given to the welfare of the birds.

Feeders, however, arent the only way to attract birds. There are several easy steps that can be taken to improve habitat for other wildlife and naturally attract hummingbirds and other birds, such as growing or buying native plants.

Downy Woodpeckers are roughly two-thirds the size of Hairy Woodpeckers. Some birders use their feeders as an indicator of size and scale because this can be difficult to determine in the field. Distinctive black bars on the white tail feathers, as opposed to the Hairy Woodpecker’s all-white side tail feathers, are another characteristic that sets the Downy Woodpecker apart. When a bird’s bill is visible, the primary variation in bill size The bill of a Downy bird is about one-third the length of its head, whereas the bill of a Hairy bird is nearly as long as its head—a railroad spike in contrast. A further, less accurate characteristic that sets the male Hairy Woodpecker apart is that his red patch is frequently divided into two, whereas the Downy’s is not

With its long tail, short thick bright orange beak, noticeable crest, and long tail, this fairly large songbird is easily recognized. Measuring between 8. 3 and 9. 1 inches in length with a wingspan ranging from 9. 8 to 12. The Northern Cardinal, a species with sexual dimorphism, has male and female colors that differ greatly by 2 inches. Male cardinals have a striking red color throughout, with a black accent around the bill on their face.

The dull metallic green color of these small, swift birds extends from the back of their head to their tail. Males only have a very noticeable black patch on their throat; females have a grey-white underside. Each bird will have a different patch size and shape, and at the base of the patch will be a thin, sometimes invisible purple strip that glimmers in the light.

These birds are dull, solid olive or light brown in the winter, with two pale wing bars and blackish wings. The American Goldfinches are unique among finches in that they undergo two annual molts of their body feathers: one in late winter and another in late summer. One of the pleasant signals of the approaching warmer months is seeing a male Goldfinch in early spring with feathers that are becoming brighter yellow!

The soft silvery gray feathers on top of this small songbird are paired with white feathers below. Two useful identifiers are a black patch just above the beak and a wash of rusty or peach color underneath the wings. Tufted Titmice are roughly 5. 5″-6. 3″ from tip of beak to tail and 7″ in width at the wings 9″-10. 2″. These birds are frequent visitors to bird feeders and can be entertaining to watch because of the way their “attitude” and emotions are conveyed through the tuft of feathers on top of their heads.

Backyard Birds of the Western U.S.

how to identify birds in my backyard

Distinguished members of the jay and crow family, magpies have striking black and white patterns on their bodies and opulently long tails that enable them to change direction quickly while in flight. They are gregarious and intelligent, and they forage for insects and seeds as well as scavenge at carcasses as they move through neighborhoods in loose flocks. Using sticks and mud, couples construct enormous, domed nests in the spring. The Yellow-billed Magpie, which is related, is restricted to central and coastal California. Black-billed Magpie call by Thomas Magarain, XC361479. Accessible at.

how to identify birds in my backyard

how to identify birds in my backyard

Of all hummingbird species, this one has the northernmost range, with breeding populations reaching as far north as southern Alaska. Male Rufous Hummingbirds have a characteristic rusty (rufous) coloring that gives the species its name. (Rufous Hummingbirds that nest in Alaska make one of the longest migrations of a bird their size!) The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) officially classified the Rufous Hummingbird as “Near Threatened,” and between 1966 and 2019, the population of this bird fell by roughly 67%. Other common backyard hummingbirds in the western U. S. include the Annas Hummingbird and Black-chinned Hummingbird. Andrew Spencer recorded a recording of a male Rufous Hummingbird displaying flight (XC76412). Accessible at.

how to identify birds in my backyard

how to identify birds in my backyard

Stellers Jays are common in coniferous forests across the West; they are distinguished by their solid blue bodies and black heads with crests. Similar to other corvid family members, they consume a variety of plants, invertebrates, and occasionally even other birds. Males and females establish long-term, monogamous relationships, and they are easily spotted in backyards and campgrounds due to their loud calls and lack of fear of people. Scrub-jays, their relatives, are also widespread throughout much of the West. Stellers Jay call by Frank Lambert, XC361830. Accessible at.

how to identify birds in my backyard

how to identify birds in my backyard

See Spotted Towhees peeking out from under shrubs and through thickets, clawing at the leaf litter with both feet to find insects and seeds. They have rusty sides, white spots on their wings, dark heads and backs, and striking red eyes. They are members of the sparrow family, and their song is a simple trill. Before the 1990s, Spotted Towhees and their eastern cousin, the Eastern Towhee (formerly referred to as the “Rufous-sided Towhee”) were thought to be members of the same species. Spotted Towhee song by Bobby Wilcox, XC717557. Accessible at.

how to identify birds in my backyard

how to identify birds in my backyard

Lesser Goldfinches are closely related to American Goldfinches, but they are slightly smaller. They live in similar habitats and consume similar foods, though they are slightly more likely to eat buds and small fruits in addition to seeds. This species, which is common in the Southwest, is quickly moving northward into states like Idaho and Washington. Lesser and American goldfinches are quite similar in size and behavior. However, brightly colored breeding male Lesser Goldfinches have black or greenish backs, meaning that their bright yellow underparts only make them “half” canary yellow, in contrast to American Goldfinches. Lesser Goldfinch call by Jerome Fischer, XC570889. Accessible at.

how to identify birds in my backyard


How can I identify a bird in my yard?

You may wish to purchase a bird identification field guide specific to your region to learn the typical birds in your area. These books include color photographs or drawings, and descriptions of the birds you may find in your back yard.

How do I know what birds are in my area?

The Audubon Bird Guide is a free and complete field guide to over 800 species of North American birds, right in your pocket. Built for all experience levels, it will help you identify the birds around you, keep track of the birds you’ve seen, and get outside to find new birds near you.

What are the 4 ways to identify birds?

Bird watchers can identify many species from just a quick look. They’re using the four keys to visual identification: Size & Shape, Color Pattern, Behavior, and Habitat.

Is there a website to identify birds?

To identify a bird, we recommend that you use the Cornell Lab of Ornithology “All About Birds” Bird Guide. Click to access the Cornell Lab bird identification site.