Scott Alford — September 20, 08:48PM
How do I identify strange birds?
I'm a relatively new birder, but am trying my hardest to be honest, effective, and valuable to the birding community.
However, there are days I really get frustrated... like a couple days ago. I saw a buteo (no doubt about that!) that was extremely dark all over, like a golden eagle, but about 1/2 the size of an eagle. (There are other descriptors as well.) There is NOTHING in any of my guides or online resources that matches what I saw. What do I do?
Yes, I know I could just put "buteo, sp.," but I really want to know the species!
Filmore — September 20, 10:59PM
Everyone goes through this stage when they first start birding. Its going to take time, experience, and patience to identify more birds.
Even the best birders cannot identify every bird. Sometimes birds are poorly seen and sometimes you encounter a plumage you've not seen before. Then there are aberrant individuals to contend with.
Taking photographs can help. Recording vocalizations can help. Going birding with more experienced people can help.
But even with everything going your way, ten years from now, there will still be birds that will give you trouble.
Ray S. — September 21, 02:22PM
Don't feel bad, some birds are just hard to ID. It could be because of distance, lighting conditions, the bird's age, or just plain species. I have been looking at birds for years and I'm not ashamed to admit most days I still can't tell the difference between an American Goldfinch and Lesser Goldfinch. Sandpipers are also notoriously hard to ID, as are gulls. Hawks can be challenging as well (especially Cooper's vs Sharp-shinned).
The best thing to do is learn from your mistakes. Try to see why you were unable to ID it. Does the book say "X is an obvious differentiating field mark" and it's something you didn't even think to look at? Size can be very deceptive, especially if the bird is flying high against a blue background with no nearby objects to compare for scale.
At the end of the day it's just a reality you'll not get some IDs. It's not being a bad birdwatcher, it's being a human. Just don't get discouraged, keep practicing, and 5 years from now you'll look back at the ones you struggle with today and be amazed at how easy they became. And for the ones that don't, that's part of the fun, realizing there's still so much more about birds to keep learning about.
OzarkScotty — September 28, 12:31PM
Thanks for the replies.
I guess I have to learn to just report "buteo sp." (and maybe get a better camera and carry it everywhere with me! :-) ).
meg — October 04, 03:07PM