5 Incredible Resources to Identify Birds

Celebrate National Bird Day by birdwatching in your backyard.
[Photo by bobistraveling (Flickr)]

Think birdwatching is a dull pastime? The popular hobby is anything but! With nearly 10,000 species of birds across the world, it’s fun to spot and identify the many different feathered friends that visit your backyard.  National Bird Day is on January 5 – take the time on this day (or any other day) to explore the common species that frequent your region. There are lots of great resources online that can help you identify birds based on color, picture, song, and other characteristics.

WhatBird

Birdwatching in North America is easier with the help of the WhatBird identification guide. There’s a lot here, but it’s fairly easy to navigate, and you can search for birds by things like their size, shape, coloring, or location. Once you click on a trait, you can see species that match that category. WhatBird also offers a user-friendly Wizard tool to help you find certain birds. The question-and-answer approach makes it easy to target certain species based on the bird’s head or body shape or how it looks in flight.

All About Birds

All About Birds is a detailed guide to help you identify birds and learn about how they live. This site also lets you listen to the birds’ songs and watch videos of how they behave. You’ll also find a list of some of the most popular birds, ranging from the northern cardinal to the American crow. Once you’ve located the bird you’re looking at, you’ll be able to read all about the species as well as find sounds, video, and maps of where the bird is typically spotted.

Merlin Bird ID App

Birdwatching isn’t just limited to your own backyard: It’s a hobby you can take with you just about anywhere. Whether you’re at home or on the go, a birdwatching app can make it easy to identify birds you see. The free app is available on the App Store or Google Play and provides help for identifying more than 2,000 North American and European birds. Using the step-by-step Bird ID Wizard, answer just five questions about the bird you are trying to identify and the wizard will give you possible matches. You can also snap a photo of the bird and let the app give you a list of possible matches.

WhatsThisBird on Reddit

If you’ve tried other bird identification sites but just can’t figure it out, WhatsThisBird on Reddit can help. Submit descriptions, photos, or audio files of the unknown bird and the Reddit community of bird enthusiasts and experienced birders will help you identify it. You can also read other people’s posts and help them identify birds that they’ve found.

Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center

Located at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center aims to understand, appreciate, and protect bird migration. On their website, they have a guide that can help walk you through identifying a bird based on the sounds that it makes. This tool asks for information on how high or low the pitch is, whether it’s a harsh, croaky sound or not, and what sorts of rhythms the bird uses in its song. You can then listen to audio files of possible matches to help you find the right one.

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