How to Identify Birds

The ability to effectively ID birds takes many years of practice. However, there are several strategies you can use that will help you identify almost any bird. The first thing you must do is familiarize yourself with the topography of a bird or its field marks. Most birds have at least one field mark that is unique to them. Below is a diagram of a bird's basic field marks.


1) Bill or beak  2) Lore  3) Crown  4) Eye ring  5) Eye stripe  6) Nape  7) Back  8) Rump  9) Upper tail coverts  10) Tail feathers  11) Under tail coverts  12) Primary flight feathers  13) Secondary flight feathers  14) Flank  15) Breast  16) Cheek  17) Throat  18) Chin

Next familiarize yourself with a field guide to birds.  National Geographic's  Field guide to North American Birds is great choice (assuming you are in North America).  After you are familiar with a bird's field marks and a field guide, you are ready to ask a series of simple questions which will narrow down your choices.

If you would like to practice these skills go to the common birds of Atlanta page. Click on the bird names and you can view a picture, play the song or call, and read about each bird's field marks and habitat.