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The Universal ID Chart

No matter how experienced we are there are still birds out there that give us problems when it comes to deciding what we`ve seen hunkered down in a bush or on a distant mudflat. If you manage to identify that tricky little brown job where does it go on your list? The following links should help you decide on both.

Whilst we vary in skill none of us are perfect… some recent discussions on a birding chatline revealed just how bad some mistakes can be. Not only have I identified a paper bag as a water rail, but I have identified a golden eagle as a black rubbish sack and a barn owl as a discarded plastic carrier bag. I even called out to my wife in Australia that just off the road were a small party of e-mails… that should have come out as emu!

Beware, entering some of these links can seriously enhance your knowledge!

Useful Reading

Advanced Bird ID Guide: The Western Palearctic

By Nils Van Duivendijk | 308 pages | 10 line drawings | New Holland Publishers | 2010 | £14.99
See Fatbirder Review

ISBN: 9781847736079

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Bird Identification - a Reference Guide

by Kristian Adolfsson and Stefan Cherrug 379 pages, about 100 illustrations Cover (Red-necked Stint) by Hans Larsson, drawings by Peter Elfman

Birds: ID Insights:

Identifying the more difficult birds of Britain and north-west Europe
Dominic Couzens (Author) & David Nurney (Illustrator) | 272 pages | 1000 colour illustrations | New Holland Publishers | Hardback | August 2013
See Fatbirder Review

ISBN: 9781780090580

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Feathers - Identification for Bird Conservation

by Marian Cie?lak and Boles?aw Dul, Natura Publishing House 2006 ?25.62p - Buy direct at: http://www.naturapublishing.eu/

ISBN: 8392441001

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Hawks at a Distance: Identification of Migrant Raptors

By Jerry Liguori | Princeton University Press | Softcover | 2011 | 192 pages, 558 colour photos, b/w illus, tabs

ISBN: 9780691135595

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Kaufman Field Guide to Advanced Birding: Understanding what you see and hear

by Kenn Kaufman - 448 pages - Houghton Mifflin 2011
See Fatbirder Review

ISBN: 9780547248325

Buy this book from NHBS.com

RSPB Guide to Birdwatching

- A Step-by-Step Approach by Mike Unwin 192 pages, colour illustrations | Christopher Helm | Softcover | November 2008 | £12.99 See Fatbirder Review

ISBN: 9780713679434

Buy this book from NHBS.com

The Handbook of Bird Identification for Europe and the Western Palearctic

by Mark Beaman and Steve Madge Princeton Cloth 1998 $115.00 ?80.00784 pp. 6 x 9 357 plates 625 color maps

ISBN: 0713639601

Buy this book from NHBS.com

The Sibley Guide to Birdlife & Behaviour

Illustrated by David Sibley - The Knopf Publishing Group 2009
See Fatbirder Review

ISBN: 9781400043866

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Forums & Mailing Lists


Mailing List

To subscribe to list: listserv@listserv.arizona.edu

Discussion about highly difficult bird identification issues, mostly related to North America. subscription message: subscribe BIRDWG01 Your Name

World Waterfowl Forum

Mailing List

Welcome to the World Waterfowl Forums…

Other Links

Airport Wildlife Mitigation


Bird Strike Committee etc…

Bird Nature


ID Guides by colour, sone etc. North America

Bird Sleuth


On line guide to ID from Cornell - North American

Birds at Home


Lots of ID tips such as how to use filed guides and how to tell a downy from a hairy woodpecker… so its all North American birds.

Birds of North America


The Birds of North America, supported by The American Ornithologists’ Union, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, provides a detailed scientific account of each of the more than 700 species nesting in the 50 United States and Canada.

Bob Lewis's Gull Site


Gulls are one of the last frontiers of bird identification, and I have been a certified gull freak for 20 years. I have long felt that gulls are the most interesting of all birds. True, Peregrine Falcons, Golden Eagles, and Elegant Trogons have their allures, but nothing combines for me the intellectual and aesthetic qualities of birding better than gulls, especially the large white headed Herring Gull assemblage. Add to that the fact that an amateur like me can get decent photos of them -- without getting seasick -- and you've got an unbeatable combination. Parked at Cape Point in a four wheel drive vehicle with a couple thousand gulls standing around, on a cold cloudy day with the wind howling -- that's as close to paradise as it gets.



Photos and sound recordings of many Eurasian species.

Dark Atlantic Yellow-legged Gulls


Identification of difficult gulls… not just YLG.

Gadwall Birding Page


Identifying birds is tough. It`s tough for experienced birders and it`s even tougher for new birders. Birds have a variety of different plumages including: winter, summer, juvenile, first spring, male, female, eclipse and combinations thereof. Plus they molt. So don`t feel bad if you can`t identify every bird you see. On the other hand, learning those different plumage patterns, and the other clues that help identify birds, is what makes this hobby fun.

Gull Identification Website


These pages are dedicated to those rakish scavengers from the north (okay, some are from the south): gulls! gulls! gulls! Many breed in remote locales, migrate great distances, and, in winter, form the most coveted phenomenon that birders hope for: mixed species flocks…

How to write field notes


When Lewis & Clark were sent off to explore the interior of the United States, they were given specific and detailed instructions by Thomas Jefferson as to the records they were expected to keep. Most of us are not called upon to explore a continent, but occasionally we might come across a detail about the world around us that others may find of interest. The quality of the details written affects how seriously the record is taken. Practicing with field notes every day prepares the amateur naturalist for the unexpected event.

ID Frontier


Presented here is a photographic guide to many of the birds of the South-eastern U.S. The geographic area covered by this guide includes the following states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and the south-eastern part of Texas.

Identification of Caspian Gull


This article describes the identification of Caspian Gull, a bird that occurs regularly at inland rubbish tips and gull roosts, but is perhaps under-recorded due to limited awareness of identification criteria…

Ocean Wanderers - Angus Wilson’s Bird Identification Resource


Welcome! This site is dedicated to spreading information about bird identification, migration, systematics and conservation. There is likely to be heavy emphasis on the seabirds (shearwaters, petrels, albatrosses etc.); gulls and shorebirds (waders) of the world, however a few passerines might squeak in!



Most useful for N Americans

Peterson On Line


These days mostly just a catalogue of the fieldguides…

Seabird Osteology


The Seabirds Skull Gallery, existing since 2002, has only been changed a bit and was given a new name that covers the subject more properly. After two years working on this site it is not only skulls anymore that are shown. Regular visitors have already noticed that since December 2004 the scope has widened. It now includes also other parts of the seabird skeleton. In the Seabird Osteology section general aspects of seabird osteology are treated and in the species section you willl find a listing of families and groups with links to pages on skeletons of particular species or groups. There is always work in progress, which means that there will be additions and improvements from time to time…

Smithsonian Institution


Ornithological database - Search the Division of Birds Collections…

Stokes Birds at Home


So you're enjoying a cup of coffee at your kitchen table when an unknown bird lands at your brand new feeder, and you ask yourself, What kind of bird is that? Or you're an experienced birder, determined to learn the sparrows, out in the field with an unfamiliar bird in focus. Now what? Like any skill, you need to practice to get good. Using the clues below, try to improve your identification skill set!

SurfBirds ID Articles


Advanced articles as well as basics…

The Birds of North America


In two centuries of American ornithology, The Birds of North America (BNA) is only the fourth comprehensive reference covering the life histories of North America’s breeding birds…

VIREO - Visual Resources for Ornithology - The Academy of Natural Sciences


Bird photographs from around the world. Images of all North American birds and half of the world's bird species. Pictures from some of the best bird photographers worldwide…

What Bird


My name is Mitchell Waite and I have developed a radical search engine to identify birds of North America that differs from anything on the web. Whatbird.com lets you find your bird with just a few clicks…

What Bird Is This?


Everyone who loves nature should easily find the species of animal or plant he/she has seen. Have you seen a beautiful bird you do not know? Do you wonder what bird it is? Exactly for that purpose www.whatbirdisthis.org has been built...

What’s the secret to identifying birds?


The Birding eBook Manual provides just that with over 700 pages of in-depth descriptions of every North American bird. The Birding Manual takes you from being the casual backyard birdwatcher to becoming an avid birdwatcher.

Wild Waterfowl of the World


List of websites etc…