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How to ID a Bird: Step 1 -- size & shape

What size is the bird?

In many cases, size and shape are quick ways to immediately narrow down the choice of bird. For example it's very easy to distinguish between a hawk, a finch and a heron.

As you learn to recognize certain birds, you quickly become familiar with their size relative to other species. Here's an easy way to speed up the process: First, select five or six common birds of varying sizes (for example, the House Sparrow, American Robin, Rock Dove, American Crow, Canada Goose, and Great Blue Heron), then use these to gauge the size of other birds you see.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
  • Is its body compact and stocky or slender?
  • Is its neck long or very short? What about its legs?
  • Does the bird sit upright or perch with its body held almost horizontal to the ground?



How to ID a Bird:

The bird you are looking at is smaller than a robin, about the size of a sparrow.