what is the shape of a bird

Become familiar with silhouettes

  • The Great Blue Heron has a classic silhouette with long legs, an elegant S-shaped neck, and a long, spear-like bill.
  • Great Blue Heron. Click forward for another silhouette.
  • Barn Swallow. Swallows are small, elegant songbirds with small heads, long wings, and wide but tiny bills. The Barn Swallow’s tail is long and deeply forked.
  • Barn Swallow. Click forward for another silhouette.
  • Blue Jay. Large, robust songbirds with long, full tails and straight, strong bills are known as jays. Blue Jays (and Steller’s Jays) have a prominent crest.
  • Blue Jay. Click forward for another silhouette.
  • Northern Cardinal. A songbird of medium size, ideal for crushing sunflower seeds, with a long tail, pointed crest, and short, thick beak
  • Northern Cardinal. Click forward for another silhouette.
  • American Robin. Learning about the typical thrush shape—small, round head, thin, straight bill, fairly long legs, and long, slender tail—can be accomplished by observing this common backyard bird.
  • American Robin. Click forward for another silhouette.
  • Red-winged Blackbird. Blackbirds are medium-sized songbirds with fairly large, flat heads and a long, triangular bill. They are related to orioles, meadowlarks, and cowbirds.
  • Red-winged Blackbird. Click forward for another silhouette.
  • Western Meadowlark. The distinctive long, slender, but thick-based bill of the blackbird is retained by meadowlarks, despite their plumper plumage and shorter tail than those of their relatives.
  • Western Meadowlark. Click forward for another silhouette.
  • Prairie Warbler. Small and slender songbirds, warblers have a large head, short wings, and a thin tail. Their bills are slender, pointed, and straight.
  • Prairie Warbler. Click forward for another silhouette.
  • American Tree Sparrow. While sparrows and warblers are similar in size, sparrows have plumper plumage and much shorter, thicker, and stronger bills.
  • American Tree Sparrow. Click forward for another silhouette.

Often, you can tell what kind of bird you are looking at without being able to see any color at all. Silhouettes rapidly identify the size, shape, and posture of a bird and rapidly exclude a large number of groups of birds, even those with nearly similar overall sizes. Practice the silhouettes in the carousel at right.

Silhouettes are incredibly helpful because they aid in the initial stage of any identification process, which is determining the species of bird you have. After doing so, you’ve reduced the number of options you have to just a single, tiny portion of your field guide.

The vivid colors of birds frequently divert inexperienced bird watchers, who then become dissatisfied when they have to leaf through their field guide. Finches, for instance, are always shaped like finches and can be red, yellow, blue, brown, or green. Learn silhouettes, and you’ll always be close to an ID.

  • When comparing an unknown bird with a familiar one, size can be useful. A smaller version of a house sparrow with yellow and black plumage is most likely an American goldfinch. While they resemble each other, Evening Grosbeaks are nearly the size of robins. s by John Schmitt/Cornell Lab.
  • The Pileated Woodpecker, which is as large as a crow, and the Downy Woodpecker, which is hardly bigger than a sparrow, are the two sizes of woodpeckers.
  • Sometimes you need two reference birds for comparison. Greater in size than a sparrow but smaller than a robin is the cedar waxwing. Greater in size than a robin, but smaller than a crow, is the blue jay.

Judge size against birds you know well

Size is trickier to judge than shape. You never know how big that nearby rock or tree limb really is, or how far away a bird is. When you include hunkered-down or fluffed-up birds, it’s simple to be duped. However, there are still ways to use size as an ID key.

Compare your mystery bird to a bird you know well. Just knowing how big or small your bird is in comparison to a sparrow, robin, or crow can be helpful in making decisions between two species that are similar to each other, like Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks or Downy and Hairy woodpeckers.

Apply your size & shape skills to the parts of a bird

Once you’ve noted the general size and form of a bird, you can still refine your identification. Focus on the dimensions and forms of specific body parts. Here are some hints about the bird’s lifestyle, including where it lives, what it eats, and how it flies.

Let’s start with the bill, an all-purpose instrument that can be used as a bullhorn, pliers, knitting needles, knife, and fork, among other things. The thick, conical nut-smasher of a finch is distinctly different from the broad, flat, bug-snatching bill of a flycatcher. Take note of the Northern Flickers’ slightly downward-curving bills in your backyard. Although the shape of a woodpecker’s bill is unusual, it is ideal for a bird that burrows beneath the earth in search of ants, as flickers frequently do.

Though tail and wing shapes are also significant, bills are a crucial identifying cue. If you look closely, even seemingly insignificant variations in body shape, neck length, and head shape can provide insightful information.

Observing details such as these can assist you in avoiding common identification errors. Many bird watchers have been duped into believing that an Ovenbird, a common eastern warbler, is a thrush. The field marks, which are warm brown above and heavily streaked below with a sharp white eyering, are unquestionably thrush-like. However, if you focus on overall size and shape rather than specific field marks, you’ll notice the warbler’s body plan: a compact, plump body, short tail and wings, and a thin, pointed bill that is used to catch insects.


Which shape of body is birds?

Birds have streamlined shaped body. During their flight, birds experience less opposing push by air due to streamled shape. So, it helps them to pass through the air easily.

What is the shape of a bird’s wing?

There are four general wing shapes that are common in birds: Passive soaring, active soaring, elliptical wings, and high-speed wings. feathers that spread out, creating “slots” that allow the bird to catch vertical columns of hot air called “thermals” and rise higher in the air.

What is the size of a bird?

Birds live worldwide and range in size from the 5.5 cm (2.2 in) bee hummingbird to the 2.8 m (9 ft 2 in) common ostrich. There are over 11,000 living species, more than half of which are passerine, or “perching” birds.

What is the structure of a bird’s wings?

bird’s wing is similar to the human arm in that it consists of three parts: the upper arm, forearm, and hand, along with three joints: the shoulder, elbow, and wrist. The feathers that cover the wing are categorized as coverts, primary flight feathers, and secondary flight feathers (see Fig. 1).