Parker County Today PCT June 2018 - Page 90

The ABC’s of Backyard Bird Identification BY THE WILD BIRD CENTER, WEATHERFORD, TX I t is easier to care about something you are familiar with it, it has a name and an identity. We see that in backyard bird watching. You could easily spend the rest of your life watching and learning the nuances of bird behavior and identification, but your enjoyment of birds can be significantly enhanced in just a few minutes. In fact, it’s easy as A, B, C. A B B is for Behavior. Watch what the birds do. Do they come to the feeder and stay, eating seed after seed (finches), or do they pick one or two seeds, then fly off to the trees to eat them (titmice and chickadees)? Do they prefer to feed on the ground, or on a feeder? What foods do they prefer? Are they usually at the suet, or on the nyjer feeder? Do they seem to operate singly, or in flocks? A is for Appearance. Look at the birds at your feeders and note the similarities and differences. One of the keys to identi- fying birds is comparing and contrasting with one you already know. A good field guide will be helpful with this, as will binoc- ulars, but getting started need nothing more than looking out the window and making notes. 88 The color and feather pattern are often the most apparent visual characteristics, but other details will help you too. What is the shape of the bird? Is it a little ball with a tail (a chicka- dee) or longer and more slender (a goldfinch)? What size is it? Smaller than a sparrow? Larger than a robin? Are there wing bars? What color are they? What about facial markings (cheek patches, eye lines, eyebrows, eye-rings)? What shape is the beak? Is it conical, like a sparrows. Is it pointed, like a chicka- dees? Is it long? Short? What other strong visual elements are there? Painted Bunting