Part of our mission here at the refuge is to educate the public about our native wildlife. Did you know that bird watching is one of the fastest growing hobbies and is an excellent way to learn and appreciate these wild creatures? In these financially stressful times, it is also a great way to spend enjoyable family time together on an inexpensive outing.
Identifying birds is often challenging, but the more practice you have, the easier it will become. Invest in a field guide, such as The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America by David Allen Sibley.
Here are a few things to remember when observing birds.
1. Keep your eye on the bird; don’t immediately go to your guide.
2. Listen to the bird’s calls (short vocalizations) and song (longer, more melodious). It is one of the best identification tools.
3. Estimate the bird’s general size and shape. Compare it to other birds you know well. Is it bigger than a crow or smaller than a robin?
4. Make note of any facial markings -- stripes or patches of colors -- and look at the characteristics of its bill – long or short, curved or straight.
5. Look for bars on the wing and remember the shape of the tail. What color is the bird’s belly and back? Is the tail forked, squared off or rounded?
6. Observe the color of the legs, as well as their length. Does the bird have talons or are its feet webbed?
7. Study the bird’s movement and its flight pattern. How does it walk? When in flight, does it swoop up and down, or glide smoothly?
8. Try to determine its feeding habits. Does it dig at tree bark looking for insects or does is forage in your lawn.
9. Remember where you saw the bird. Is it in a wetland or woodland?
10. Record your observations, noting the date and time of day.
You are now ready to get started on this popular pastime. Take a long stroll and keep your eyes opened. Our feathered friends are everywhere.
~Reprinted from Pet Tails Magazine