To distinguish one bird from a similar one, watch how the bird moves. Does it flick its wings? Bob up and down? Flip its tail? The White-breasted Nuthatch (right) works its way down the trunk of a tree, while the Brown Creeper works its way up. A field guide usually mentions these behaviors, and watching for them can help you determine which bird is which. It's like detective work: gather enough clues, and you'll solve the mystery!
Watching Birds’ Behavior
Written by Ellen Blackstone
This is BirdNote!
[Ambient outdoor sounds]
Imagine — you’ve found your way to a marsh, a forest, or other natural habitat — and you’ve spotted an unfamiliar bird. How do you figure out what it is? Apart from the color and size of the bird, what do you look for?
[Birdwatcher: “There, there it is! You see it?”]
A bird’s behavior offers many clues. You’ll see flycatchers fly-catch, [Olive-sided Flycatcher] darting out from a branch to catch a bug in the air. And warblers warble, [Yellow-rumped Warbler call] although sometimes it’s hard to catch them in the act.
To distinguish one bird from a similar one, watch what the bird does, and, how it moves. Does it flick its wings? Bob up and down? Flip its tail? A field guide usually mentions these behaviors, and watching for them can help you determine which bird is which. Is the bird feeding on the ground or high in a tree? Does it walk or hop? These distinctive actions give a bird personality.
[Birdwatcher: “There! Back to the very top of that cedar!”]
[Sound of Red-breasted Nuthatch – new one!]
[Birdwatcher: “See how it works its way down that trunk?”]
Watching birds is a bit like detective work. Gather enough clues, and you’ll solve the mystery. [Olive-sided Flycatcher]
You’ll find all kinds of resources for learning about birds, when you visit our website, BirdNote.org. I’m Mary McCann.
Calls of the Red-breasted Nuthatch (new) and Yellow-rumped Warbler provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York recorded by G.A. Keller. Olive-sided Flycatcher by T.G. Sander.
Birdwatcher, Chris Altwegg
Ambient track recorded by C. Peterson
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2014 Tune In to Nature.org March 2018 / 2021 / August 2023
Narrator: Mary McCann