A Guide to Bird Identification

Though birdwatching isn’t part of my official job description, I’ve come to see it as a critical skill in my line of work. I spend a lot of time out in the field where I engage in game-changing activism like looking at grass. But I also spend a lot of time engaging in activism to protect the bajillions of birds that migrate every year along the Pacific Flyway.

This is is the Pacific Flyway. If you live anywhere along this corridor, you have a 1 in 16 chance of being pooped on while on your way to a job interview.

This means I am frequently in the company of avid and accomplished bird watchers. As I mentioned in my post about attending my first birding festival, there’s a lot to admire about the birding community. Plus, it’s a challenge. I’ve met folks who can identify birds by a silhouette far overhead. Or completely unseen, just by a unique call.

And anyway, birds are pretty cool. They do all kinds of things I wish I could do myself. Things like flying. And eating worms without throwing up. And tactical aerial pooping above crowded music festivals.

Now that I’ve established myself as a novice birder, where to begin? My eyes don’t focus very well on quickly moving objects — a problem for an aspiring birder. (It’s also why my World of Warcraft career was cut tragically short.) I’m going to need this whole thing broken down step by step.

I’ve put together a basic field guide for myself and other aspiring birders. Hopefully these tutorials will give you a few key bird identifying tips for your initial forays into the wild.

Bird Triangles



Evil Bird


13 thoughts on “A Guide to Bird Identification

  1. I took my then 4 year old son on a bird hike last spring. The advertisement said “open to birders of all levels.” True, but I wasn’t prepared for the intensity of the more experienced and knowledgeable birders. And my son had no interest in looking where directed. I finally let him hike at his own pace: behind the group for the first half, then leaving them in the dust on the return.

  2. If I ever go birding, I will print & take this as a handy guide. As a Californian, I’m supposed to care about birds. (Right?)

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