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How to Identify Wild Birds

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How to Identify Wild Birds

You don’t have to know the names of the birds that visit your garden. Seeing them there can be enjoyment enough. However, knowing the names of the species you see gives you the opportunity to learn a little more about them. It can also help you to provide the food and habitats your feathered friends like best.


Here are some handy tips for identifying wild birds in your garden:


Note Down Characteristics
Birds aren’t likely to stay put whilst you give them a thorough examination. You need to make a note of key characteristics before a bird disappears from view. Size, shape and colouring are all important features that can help you to distinguish one bird from another. The shape of the bill and legs are particularly useful. Birds of prey have hooked bills whilst seed-eaters tend to have short, stout bills. And webbed feet is another big giveaway.


Search Online or in A Book
Nowadays, searching for a bird online is the easiest way to make an accurate identification. There are databases that allow you to type in the features you have recorded and find a shortlist of potential matches. But doing things the old-fashioned way still holds its charm. A good bird guide is an essential piece of kit for any would-be bird spotter.


Watch Out for Red Herrings
There are plenty of bird features that could lead to a misidentification. Here are some things to watch out for:

  • Young or female birds sometimes have different colouring to male birds of the same species. 
  • It’s very difficult to make an accurate assessment of a bird’s size when it’s in the air. 
  • In cold weather birds can fluff out their feathers for warmth making them look very different to the standard images you’ll find online or in books. 
  • Captive birds sometimes escape. If you spot an exotic bird it could be that this isn’t something you usually find in the wild. 


Persevere
Being able to identify birds successfully is a learning process. The more birds you see and correctly identify, the easier it will be to identify future unknowns. You could visit a bird sanctuary or nature reserve to get to know different bird varieties. This will help with identification back at home in the garden.


Identifying the birds you see in your garden is a great activity to share with children. But it can be a fun undertaking whatever your age. With a few items of basic kit you could soon be recognising your birds and adapting your garden to better meet their needs.

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  • Nikki Boxwild