It’s in your nature: What swallow was that? Hints to help identify birds
Well, the presents are opened and maybe a spouse, a friend or your children gave you some birding gifts. Now, how do I use “The Crossley ID Guide” or, now that I have these great binoculars, what birds can I actually identify?
As previously noted, each year in Carbon County I record over 170 different bird species. To log that many you soon realize that there are so many warbler, sparrow, or flycatcher species to identify. In many cases there is just a certain field mark or two that enable you to distinguish a tree sparrow from a chipping sparrow. I’d like to dedicate this week’s column on helpful field marks to help you raise your annual bird list from 100 to 150 or more birds.
Some birds can be unmistakable. I’m sure a brilliant male cardinal is one species that we all know immediately, even it just darted past your window. But learn a few things from that. The cardinal has a crest, so does a blue jay, an easy field mark to help you.
Look at beak size and shape. The cardinal has a seed crushing bill, while a warbler has a rather long, thin bill to pluck insects from leaves.
Tail shapes can help you, too. A barn swallow has a deeply forked tail, while others may have a “squared off” tail.
Even the tail colors are helpful. Broad-winged hawks have wide, dark bands on their tail, while a red-shouldered hawk’s tail has much narrower bands. A kingbird has a white band of feathers along the distal end of its tail. A flicker has white feathers on its rump, just above the tail’s base.
Facial areas are key to identifying many. Some birds have a distinct eye ring completely encircling their eyes, some have a dark line of feathers “through” the eyes, while others have a dark eyebrow above its eyes. Even a bird’s eye color can aid in identification.
Probably the least helpful field mark is size. If you see a bird, alone, on a limb, it can be difficult to assess its size. The only way that you can “count on size” as a field mark is if two species are literally side by side to make that assessment.
I have selected a number of photos to give you a better idea on what field marks can help you make that accurate identification. Now, grab the “binocs” and get out there.
Test Your Outdoor Knowledge: True or False: White-tailed deer only are hosts to deer ticks.
Dec. 24 Trivia Answer: Although both the brown and brook trout breed in many of our “clean” streams, only the brook trout is native to Pennsylvania. (But technically, the brook trout is a species of char and not a trout. )
Contact Barry Reed at email@example.com.