Bird Identification 101

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Table of Contents
Topography of a Bird

Constant Features

Plumage Variations

ID by Shape
ID by Color
ID by Location
ID by Specific Features

The Bill







Quiz on Bill Shapes

The Head





Ear Patch (auricular)

Quiz on the Head

ID by Field Mark
ID by Behavior
ID by Gestalt
ID by Nests
ID by Ear

Recommended ID Books

The Bill

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Bills are a bird's primary feeding tool and they are as varied as the birds that use them. They can be long, straight, short, curved, bent, or hooked. They can probe, spear, crush, tear, dig, or drink. And many variations in between. There are no firm categories for naming bill types, so they are loosely grouped by their primary characteristics. Six common types are discussed in this tutorial. We use the term "bill," but "beak" means the same thing.

There are two parts to the bill. The upper mandible is part of the skull so it doesn’t move independently, but the lower mandible is separate from skull so can be opened and closed at will.

Next: Cone-shaped bill

Beaks are present not only in birds but in some cephalopods like octopus and squid, as well as some insects, fishes and turtles. In fact many dinosaurs were beaked. The term bill is preferred for the beak of a bird, platypus, or dinosaur.
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