ShelbyGonzalez's Blog

How to Identify a Bird - Even If You Only Saw It Once

created on: 03/27/08

Last weekend, while hiking (okay, lounging in the sun) in the Tule Elk Reserve in Point Reyes National Seashore, I spotted two white-gray birds circling and dipping overhead. Something about the way they were moving and the shapes of their heads made me think of peregrine falcons, but I had never seen a white falcon before. The above picture is the only one I managed to snap.

Identifying a bird when you're bird-challenged like me can be a serious challenge. When I say "bird-challenged", I mean "able to identify half a dozen birds tops, and mostly just the really obvious ones like blue jays".

Luckily, a Google search led me to my new favorite website: WhatBird features an ingenius bird search engine wizard that helps you narrow down what bird you saw by color, shape, territory, and other basic features. It's user-friendly and seems to be comprehensive.

My mystery ghost falcon? I'm pretty sure it's a Northern Harrier Hawk. Thanks WhatBird.

Tips and fact sheets on bird identification

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