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Can somebody please identify this bird for me?
I spotted this in July 2012 while birding in Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary.
This is a Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis), which is a heron in its breeding plumage. When not breeding, the bird is white. See the images for comparision:
Breeding cattle egret with colored feathers.
Nonbreeding cattle egret, completely white.
How to Be a Birdwatcher
This article was co-authored by Roger J. Lederer, Ph.D.. Dr. Roger Lederer is an Ornithologist and the founder of Ornithology.com, an informative website about wild birds. Dr. Lederer has spent over 40 years teaching, studying, and writing about birds. He has traveled to over 100 countries to study birds. Dr. Lederer is an Emeritus Professor of Biological Sciences at California State University, Chico, and has been a Department Chair of Biological Sciences and Dean of the College of Natural Sciences. He has written more than 30 research papers and 10 books on birds and a textbook entitled “Ecology and Field Biology.” Dr. Lederer has consulted the BBC, National Geographic, National Public Radio, ABC News, the Guinness Book of World Records, and numerous other organizations and publications.
There are 9 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
This article has been viewed 24,923 times.
Birdwatching is a fun pastime that promotes both physical and mental activity. It requires you to walk around to spot the birds, helping your body stay active. You also have to compare the characteristics of the birds you see to those listed in your field guide, always pushing your brain to learn more about the topic. If you are interested in becoming a birdwatcher, there are a few things you need to consider before you start your journey.
Do you wonder what the bird you are seeing is called? How many birds do you know by sight or by sound? Can you identify a bird by the way it flies? What type of birds would you expect to find in a grassland habitat?
The first step in bird identification is learning to observe. Watch and listen. It often helps to record your observations in a journal using descriptive words, sketches or drawings. Photographing birds is another way to capture a permanent record of what you have seen so you can study it later.
If you are just starting to watch birds, a great place to begin is to become familiar with the birds you see on a daily basis. What are their general characteristics? Are they big or small, colorful or drab? Do they sit still or flit from branch to branch?
Comparing other birds you see with common birds you know can help with identification. Being able to compare the size of an unfamiliar bird to one that you know is helpful. Is your new discovery the size of a sparrow, robin or crow? Is its bill short or long, hooked or straight?
Learning the basic form and structure (or morphology) of a bird will help you to compare different types of birds and concentrate on the shape and size of the bill length of the tail, legs, and neck and other field marks. It will also help you to think about what types of habitat you are most likely to find specific birds in. Availability of specific habitat types may limit where a species can be seen. Many birds you see may be migratory and will only be in your area at a specific time of the year.
Some people can identify a bird just by its song or call. Once you start to listen to the calls around you, you will start to learn them too. Do you know any mnemonicsthat help you identify the bird?
Can you distinguish differences in rhythm, pitch, tone and repetition? Studying the behavior of a bird is also often helpful to learning its identity. It is also an important aspect of bird conservation and management. Because birds move around, they can be vulnerable to a variety of different threats.
The following websites are ones we have found helpful to learning more about bird identification.
Taking your bird identification skills to the next level may include using different tools, going to different areas, or becoming involved in different bird related projects.
There are many resources to help young birders learn to identify different birds. If you are already a seasoned bird watcher, review these sources and programs for some ideas on how to get the next generations hooked on birding.
Whatever resources you use to identify birds around you, remember that the most important thing is to have fun. We hope you continue to enjoy birds and bird watching - visit our Get Involved section to learn more about how you can help conserve birds!
Can you identify this bird? - Biology
The new KOS website is located at
Kentucky Ornithological Society
Members of the Kentucky Ornithological Society enjoy birds!
We seek to create and increase interest in birds in Kentucky, and support the conservation of birds and their habitats. We also promote avian research. Anyone interested in birds may join our Society! We encourage you to check out our website to learn more about us and, of course, more about the birds of Kentucky.
NEW!! The Virginia & Wendell Kingsolver Scholarship Fund was established in 2013 by the Kentucky Ornithological Society. Funds are available to send a young birder (ages 13 - 18) from Kentucky to an American Birding Association Summer Camp. For more information about this scholarship and how to apply, visit our Kingsolver Scholarship page!
To find out, subscribe to BIRDKY ,
check the KOS Photo Gallery
on flickr to see birds recently sighted in Kentucky ,
Click on the Eastern Screech-Owl
for some ideas!
And, for a weather forecast, check out weather.com!
Check out the following for information about:
Useful Links for Birders:
| Where do You |
Want to go
|Surfbirds.com|| Bird Links |
| American |
|Avian Biology||Ornithology.com|| Cornell Laboratory |
| Introduction to |
| Mining Co. - |
|Birdzilla.com|| Birding |
| Resources on |
|Birding.com|| Migratory |
|BIRDNET|| Books About |
| Virtual |
|WildBirds.com|| Attracting Birds to |
| BirdWatch |
|AOU Checklist||BirdLife International|| Division of Migratory |
| Birding on |
|All About Birds||BirdSource||Fat Birder|
Want to Know More About Identifying Birds or About Bird Biology . . .
KOS thanks the Department of Biological Sciences at Eastern Kentucky University
for donating space for this site.
Two New Bird Species Identified in Tanzania
New species of Cisticola warblers from the Kilombero floodplain of Tanzania: at the top, Kilombero cisticola at the bottom white-tailed cisticola for both species, the bird in the front is painted after the type specimen while the bird behind is based on photos of birds in more worn plumages. Image credit: Jon Fjeldså.
Cisticola is a genus of small insect-eating birds in the Old World passerine family Cisticolidae.
Established by the German naturalist Johann Jakob Kaup in 1829, it contains over 50 recognized species.
Of these species, only two are found outside of Africa: one in Madagascar and the other from Asia to Australasia.
“Cisticola warblers primarily inhabit wetlands, savannah, broadleaved woodlands and upland habitats, almost exclusively in Africa,” said University of Copenhagen researcher Lars Dinesen and his colleagues from Denmark, Sweden, South Africa and the United States.
“Their identification and classification have been problematic for both professional and amateur ornithologists because of their cryptic coloration, seasonal variation in plumage and the patchy geographical distributions of many of the currently recognized species.”
The two new Cisticola species are endemic to the marshes of the Kilombero floodplain of southwestern Tanzania.
“The presence of two undescribed Cisticola warblers in the marshes of the Kilombero floodplain in central Tanzania has been known since the 1980s and these putative new species have been illustrated in field guides on African birds, although with no formal name,” the researchers explained.
“Based on the combined evidence from genetics, morphology and bioacoustics, we conclude that these two cisticolas represent independent species.”
One of the two new species, named the Kilombero cisticola (Cisticola bakerorum), is distributed in lowland marshes at elevations between 240 and 305 m.
It prefers flooded reedbeds and is common along the Kilombero River and the other major river channels of the Kilombero floodplain.
The second species, the white-tailed cisticola (Cisticola anderseni), is known from the Kilombero floodplain south of the rural town of Ifakara in southern central Tanzania.
Both species became isolated and diverged from their sister-species between 2.5 and 3.5 million years ago.
“The Kilombero floodplain was once connected with the vast wetland habitats of the ancient Zambian Luangwa drainage system,” the scientists said.
“However, this connection was broken in the Late Miocene, with the formation of the Malawi Rift.”
“Our genetic data suggest that the cisticolas of the Kilombero floodplain are evolutionarily much too young to have been part of the fauna of this ancient wetland system, and more probably they colonized the area from the adjacent highlands or from the neighboring coastal plains.”
The authors propose that both species should be classified as Globally Endangered, owing to immense anthropogenic pressures to the floodplain.
“The fieldwork suggests that the Kilombero cisticola is quite narrowly associated with water and flooded marsh with tall reeds and sedges along the major river channels, with a preference for tall Phragmithes mauritianus,” they said.
“Whereas the white-tailed cisticola prefers shorter or more open vegetation with patches of drier habitat, where it feeds by walking on sandy ground.”
“While this difference in habitat use may make the two Cisticola species differently affected by the intensive recent land-use, we propose to classify both species as Endangered (following criteria of IUCN 2019) due to an inferred population size reduction as a result of an alarming decrease in habitat quality.”
A paper describing the discovery was published in the journal Ibis.
Jon Fjeldså et al. Description of two new Cisticola species endemic to the marshes of the Kilombero floodplain of southwestern Tanzania. Ibis, published online May 17, 2021 doi: 10.1111/ibi.12971
One of the best ways to learn is to play. We have a collection of activities that let you learn biology by playing. You can try a biology experiment or test your knowledge with one of the biology puzzles based on our stories. There are printable and online coloring pages and worksheets that you can use to practice your coloring skills.
Wait, there's more. The Bird Finder tool can help you identify that mystery bird in your backyard. You can also venture into Body Depot where you can learn about your body and the biology that keeps it going. With so many activities you might find it hard to choose, so don't. You can try them all.
1.Measure the length and width of your owl pellets.
Length of your owl pellet_______ Width of your owl pellet_______ Mass of your owl pellet______
2. Carefully examine the exterior of the pellet. Do you see any signs of fur? _____ any signs of feathers? ____
3.Carefully use a toothpick to break apart the owl pellet and observe what is within. Use a toothpick to expose all bones for identification. Use the bone diagram to help you identify your bones and complete the chart.
Live Bird Friendly
Birds are in trouble, but you can help bring them back. Live bird friendly by starting with these seven ways to make your home and lifestyle better for birds and the planet.
1. Turn lights out and treat windows to keep birds safe
The challenge: Up to 1 billion birds are estimated to die each year after flying into closed windows in the U.S. and Canada alone.
The cause: During the day, birds perceive the reflections in glass as habitat they can fly into. By night, migratory birds drawn in by city lights are at high risk of colliding with buildings.
Help birds with the flick of a switch: To prevent collisions, use external insect screens. These screens virtually eliminate reflections and cushion birds' impact. At night, turn out your lights or close the blinds.
Take it further: If you can't use screens, you can break up reflections on the outside of windows using film, paint, bird saving stick-on stripes or string spaced no more than 2-inches high or 2-inches wide.
Get started today: Make windows beautifully bird-friendly by applying tempera paint (available at most art supply and craft stores) to your windows. You can do this freehand with a brush or sponge, or use a stencil as a template. Tempera is long-lasting (even in rain) and nontoxic, but it comes right off with a damp rag or sponge.
Spread the word: Share how you #LiveBirdFriendly by showing off your bird-friendly window treatments.
2. Keep cats indoors to save birds
The challenge: Cats are estimated to kill more than 2.4 billion birds annually in the U.S. This is the No. 1 human-caused reason for the loss of birds, aside from habitat loss.
The cause: Cats can make great pets, but more than 100 million feral and pet cats now roam the U.S. These nonnative predators instinctively hunt and kill birds, even when well-fed.
Solutions that are good for cats and birds: Save birds and keep cats healthy by keeping cats indoors or creating an outdoor “catio.” You can also train your cat to walk on a leash.
Take it further: Speak out about the impacts of feral cat colonies in your neighborhood and on public lands. Unowned cats’ lives may be as short as two years because of disease and hardship, and they are responsible for 69% of birds killed by cats in the U.S.
Get started today: Research outdoor enclosures ("catios"), pet leashes and indoor enrichment to find safe solutions for your cat and birds.
Spread the word: Share how you #LiveBirdFriendly be keeping your feline friends happy indoors!
3. Plant native plants to shelter and nourish birds
The challenge: Birds have fewer places to safely rest during migration and to raise their young More than 10 million acres of land in the U.S. was converted from good habitat to developed land from 1982 to 1997.
The cause: Most neighborhoods don't offer enough food or shelter for many birds and other wildlife. Native plants' nectar, seeds, berries, and the insects they attract sustain birds and diverse wildlife.
Adding native plants to yards, planters and other outdoor spaces provides shelter and nesting areas for birds.
Take it further by reducing lawns: With more than 63 million acres of lawn and 4 million miles of paved road in the U.S. alone, there is huge potential to support wildlife by replacing lawns with native plants.
Get started today: Find out which native plants are best for your area or learn more about creating a bird friendly home and yard.
Spread the word: Share how you #LiveBirdFriendly by posting a picture of your bird-friendly plantings — bonus points for creative uses of urban spaces!
4. Avoid pesticides for a bird-friendly home
The challenge: More than 1 billion pounds of pesticides are applied in the U.S. each year. Most of these can be toxic to birds and other wildlife.
The cause: Pesticides like neonicotinoids and common weed killers, such as 2,4-D and glyphosate, are toxic to birds. These chemicals can harm birds directly through contact or indirectly if birds eat contaminated seeds or prey. Pesticides can also harm birds by reducing the number of insects that birds need to eat to survive.
Take it further: Consider buying certified organic foods, which are grown without artificial chemicals. While some organic foods can be pricier, shopping the frozen aisle and taking advantage of sales and bulk can help you save.
Get started today: Skip using pesticides around the home and yard, and research what is in the products you use.
Spread the word: Share how you #LiveBirdFriendly by eliminating pesticides and going organic.
5. Drink Bird Friendly® coffee to protect disappearing habitats
The challenge: More than 42 species of North American migratory songbirds overwinter in coffee plantations in the tropics, including orioles, warblers and thrushes. However, most coffee farms remove forest in order to grow coffee in the full sun.
The cause: While growing coffee in the sun might increase the amount of coffee that farms produce, it also usually destroys habitat and requires environmentally-harmful pesticides and fertilizers. In contrast, Bird Friendly® shade-grown coffee preserves a forest canopy that helps migratory birds survive the winter.
Look for Bird Friendly® certified coffee, a certification from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. Bird Friendly certification goes beyond USDA organic, Rainforest Alliance, and Fair Trade to protect bird and wildlife habitat that is often eliminated to make way for coffee growing.
Take it further: Ask your coffee shop or grocery store to carry Bird Friendly coffee, or use this form to write your local store manager. But don't stop there: most food can be grown in bird-friendlier ways. Research other bird-friendly products, such as beef, maple syrup, rice and more.
Spread the word: Share how you #LiveBirdFriendly by posting a photo of your Bird Friendly brew — bonus points for reusable mugs!
6. Avoid single-use plastics to protect birds and the planet
The challenge: It’s estimated that 4,900 million metric tons of plastic have accumulated in landfills and in our environment worldwide, polluting our oceans and harming wildlife such as seabirds, whales and turtles that mistakenly eat plastic or become entangled in it.
The cause: Plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade, and 91% of plastics created are not recycled. Studies show that at least 80 seabird species ingest plastic, mistaking it for food. Cigarette lighters, toothbrushes and other trash have been found in the stomachs of dead albatrosses.
Reduce your use of plastics: Avoid single-use plastics, including bags, bottles, wraps and disposable utensils. It is far better to choose reusable or compostable items, but if you do have disposable plastic, be sure to recycle it.
Take it further: Advocate for bans of plastic bags, Styrofoam and straws. Encourage stores to offer incentives for reusable bags, and ask restaurants and other businesses to phase out single-use plastics.
Spread the word: Share how you #LiveBirdFriendly and post your creative solutions for avoiding single-use plastics.
7. Share your sightings on eBird
The challenge: Monitoring birds is essential to help protect them, but tracking the health of the world's 10,000 bird species is an immense challenge for scientists.
The cause: To understand how birds are faring, scientists need hundreds of thousands of people to report what they are seeing in backyards, neighborhoods and wild places around the world. Without this information, scientists lack timely data to show where and when birds are thriving or declining.
Use your smartphone to help birds: Use the free Merlin Bird ID app to identify birds, and share what you see with the eBird app anytime, anywhere. When shared with eBird, your bird sightings provide valuable information to show scientists where and how they should focus their research and conservation efforts.
Take it further: Join a local birding project like Project FeederWatch, a Christmas Bird Count, or a Breeding Bird Survey to record your observations. Are you an educator? Teach your students about monitoring migratory birds with Follow That Bird! — a science and technology unit on tracking birds.
Get started today: Download eBird or find a monitoring project that matches your interests.
Spread the word: Share your latest eBird entry — bonus points for migratory species! #LiveBirdFriendly
Audio recordings by Jay McGowan, Matthew D. Medler, Walter A. Thurber, and Wil Hershberger provided by the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Identifying Black Birds
Whether in a horror movie, or perched outside your house you’ve probably seen an all-black bird. Could you tell what kind of bird it was: crow, raven, grackle, starling, cowbird?
With a quick search and focused observation techniques, you can develop the bird identification skills necessary to distinguish individual species. While there are many different species of black birds, we will focus on the most common ones, the American Crow, Common Raven, European Starling, Common Grackle, and Brown-headed Cowbird.
When trying to identify birds, there are four main concepts to keep in mind: size and shape, behavior, color pattern, and habitat. Watch the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s video series “Inside Birding” for more information on these concepts.
Size and ShapeHere’s a little cheat sheet of the relative sizes of these black birds.
Your initial impulse may be to identify birds based on their unique plumage details. However, a bird is often too distant or silhouetted to accurately make out any details. It’s best to observe the bird’s size and shape first. Rule out certain species by comparing the size of the bird in question to the size of birds you’re already familiar with.
For example, if you’re trying to identify a Common Grackle, observe that it’s larger than a Northern Cardinal and about the same size as (or maybe slightly smaller than) a Blue Jay. Thus, we know that this bird cannot be a crow or a raven since they are both much larger than a Blue Jay. We also know that this bird is probably not a Brown-headed Cowbird or a European Starling since both of those birds are generally smaller than Northern Cardinals. It’s also helpful to observe the size and length of the tail or beakEuropean Starling©Mike LitakMay/Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab Brown Headed Cowbird©Mike LitakMay/Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab
Observing how a bird acts, what it’s eating, or what it sounds like provides crucial identification information. Note the behavioral differences between American Crows and Common Ravens.
Crows are very social birds: if you see a massive flock of large black birds, you’re probably looking at a murder of crows. Ravens tend to be solitary or in pairs. Crows and ravens also have different calls and sounds. Generally, American Crows use the standard caw-caw sound, which is simple and scratchy. The Common Raven’s call is a deeper gurgle. Remember that birds have a variety of calls with different meanings, so not don’t expect to always hear one sound. Learn more about bird communication with our free download, Bird Communication.
It’s important to remember that the sex and/or season can affect a bird’s plumage. Luckily, with these five species, only the Brown-headed Cowbird and European Starling change appearance depending on sex and season.
While keeping these intraspecific (occurring in the same species) differences in mind, we can still make generalizations about the differences in plumage patterns. For instance, American Crows and Common Ravens are black from head to toe, whereas the other three species are not. From a distance, Common Grackles look completely black, but actually have glossy blue-purple heads, bronze bodies, and unmistakable yellow eyes. The contrast between brown and black plumage on male Brown-headed Cowbirds is a telling detail, and European Starlings have distinctive white spots and yellow beaks upon closer inspection. All you need is a few striking, visual differences to differentiate.
European Starling©Eric Blomberg ,and James Hill, /Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab Male Brown-headed Cowbirds ©Steven Mlodinow/Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab
When thinking habitat, consider both your geographic location as well as your immediate surroundings. Some birds are more likely to be spotted in suburban areas, some in forested areas, others in fields and open spaces. A few of our black birds can be found in all of these habitats. As a broad generalization, Common Grackles, European Starlings, and American Crows are more likely to be spotted near urban or suburban settlements compared to Common Ravens or Brown-headed Cowbirds.
Not all of these birds can be found year-round across the US. For example, Common Grackles are not usually seen in the Western United States, and Common Ravens are not generally in the East.
Note: be aware of your locational bias when you go birding out-of-town. Just because your region commonly has a certain bird, it doesn’t mean that other areas do too. To find information about habitats and ranges, go to AllAboutBirds.org.
Hopefully, you’ve learned some obvious and subtle differences between these black birds. It’s okay if you forget some of them. Remember that the most important thing is to make a variety of observations when identifying birds, rather than focus on one particular trait. Now go out and ID some birds!
Identifying Birds - which bird did you see.
The first choice on your left is called Which bird did you see? In this bird identifier section you will find assistance in identifying what birds you have seen. We have selected 200 of the most commonly observed birds across the United States. They are presented in different ways and with multiple images. Bird identifcation filters inclide color, size and habitat. State-specific bird identification informaiton is also provided. If you can identify 200 bird species, you are well on your way to becoming a bird expert.