Follow the Clues…Bird Detective!

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Hello, my name is Justin.

I will be teaching you how you can be a bird detective!  You just have to follow the clues to identify any bird species you want.  There is more ways than you think and here they are!

What I think is the easiest feature to use is finding males and females.  In almost all of the bird species the male looks different then the female.  You can also tell by the bird’s size, the largest bird on the earth is the Whooping Crane.  The smallest bird is five centimeters tall.  This bird lives in Cuba and is a Bee Hummingbird.  Here is a picture of a hummingbird that lives in our area.

Can you see the long, thin beak?


What other clues could you use to identify a bird species?

You can also tell the bird species by the beak.  A bird that eats nectar has a loooooong beak.  It uses its long tongue to slurp nectar up like its tongue is a straw.  A meat eater usually a sharp beak with a hook on the end.  This is used for ripping the meat apart.  An insect eater has a thin beak for pecking insects in small cracks and trees.  A bird that eats seeds has a sharp point at the end and strong edges to crack the seed open.

This Red-tailed Hawk on a Saguaro Cactus outside our room has a beak that helps tear meat.

There are also a lot of  different feet for birds.  Here is one.   Songbirds have four thin toes one, pointing diagonally left and another pointing diagonally right.  The other toe is pointing straight.  The last one is pointing backwards!  

Lesser Finch using its toes to grasp the finch sock at our classroom window.


Some birds like the Titmouse have “mohawks”, or as the Quail has a topnotch.  A topnotch is a little feather on the top of quail’s head.  

Many male and female Gambel's Quail feeding at our window. See the top knotch?


You can tell by the patterns and colors of the feathers.  For example, the female House Finch looks almost exactly like the Song Sparrow, but the Song Sparrow has darker brown spots.  The Song Sparrow only has the brown specs on the top of his stomach, it has a thin pointed beak, and it has a dark spot next to it’s eye.  A female House Finch has light brown spots all over it’s stomach and it has a curved beak, but doesn’t have the dark spot.  

This House Finch at our window is similar to the House Sparrow. Its pattern and color set it apart.



This is how you would be able to tell the difference between bird species.

10 thoughts on “Follow the Clues…Bird Detective!

  1. Wow! I feel like a bird expert now! This is such a professional presentation of information. It’s so clear and easy to follow. The graphics are great. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge. I can’t wait to get outside this afternoon and use some of it!

    • Dear Ms.Sanderson,
      Our whole class feels how you feel right now. We are very excited about all the activities we can do just by knowing this stuff right now.


  2. Dear Justin,

    It has been an awesome experience looking and observing birds. I bet you that it didn’t take you long to research for the blogs because we know so much already. This I think is one of the best blog posts yet.

    From Your Fellow student,

    • Dear Lilly,

      Thank you for the generosity thinking I already knew it. It was actually really hard though! It is not easy finding the right site, after all it is just a computer.

  3. Dear Justin,

    This is a very detailed post about something I enjoy. While the birds here in Australia may be different to your native birds, the features you explain are also important in identifying our birds.

    When walking in our nature reserve and national parks, or for that matter around my own yard, I also use the call of a bird to identify it. Each species has unique calls. Some are very easy to identify while some are very hard. As examples, our yellow-tailed black cockatoos have a very loud squawks, crimson rosellas have a beautiful whistle like sound, the bell miner has a bell like sound for its call and the rainbow lorikeets have a manic chatter fed by their favourite sugary nectar food.

    Ornithology is the study of birds. One of the best things is it can be a career or a hobby. Either way, the study of birds is interesting.

    If you are interested, here is a link to a blog post showing some of the birds around my area (although photos were taken in a wildlife refuge I have helped)…

    Teacher, NSW, Australia

  4. Dear Mr.Mannell,

    Thank you very much for the links. I really enjoyed your blog, and I liked the website. Were any of those birds in your area native? What was the wildlife refuge called? Is that where you work now? My teacher said do not put the sound on the post because we are having an ornithologist from Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory in Colorado coming in to talk to us about identifying birds using their sound. That will be a separtae blog post. I will use some of the information you gave me, too.

  5. Dear Justin,

    Thank you for taking an interest in my blogs. As a science graduate, former Scout and keen hiker, I’ve always had an interest in nature including plants and animals.

    Of course the birds mentioned in my second comment are birds of the world both living and extinct. The link to one of my blogs in the first comment shows only birds native to Australia.

    In the first link, all of the photos were taken by me. Most of the birds are native to my area of Australia. The Gouldian and star finches, magpie goose and emus aren’t found around my area.

    Gouldian finches and star finches are found in grasslands in the warmer northern parts of Australia. The magpie goose is also a northern Australian bird and can be found in the wet areas of northern Australia. In the case of the emu, they don’t tend to be found in my area but are found over huge areas of Australia. The first school where I taught had emus around. Sometimes I had to chase them out of the playground before the children arrived. ☺

    These northern birds and some of the other photos were taken in the nature reserve I mentioned. It is named Potoroo Palace. Here is a link to their site…

    The other birds shown are all in this area as well as many other parrots and bird species. Some of the photos were taken in my yard while others were taken in town or when I was hiking.

    In the case of the audio recording of the lyrebird, it was made on one of my longer hikes through bushland around my town. I wanted the sound recording for some video work I was doing for Potoroo Palace.

    Lyrebirds are reasonably common birds. On the longer walk I have heard up to seven. Many claim it’s very rare to see them in the wild but I have startled many as I walk by myself through the bush. They are very shy.

    The recording took about three months of walks before I was able to get close enough to record one. He was singing on the other side of a bush (the females don’t mimic other birds). I could see his beautiful lyre shaped tail but he couldn’t see me. I made the recording on my phone, the only editing being to remove the time gaps between calls.

    I don’t work at Potoroo Palace although I have made DVDs for them. I am a retired teacher who is registered as a casual teacher but I mostly do photography/video/DVD/CD work for schools and community groups. The blog you reach by clicking my name is another of the five I run. It shows short and longer stories I write for fun.

    I look forward to seeing and hearing your audio posts on birdcalls. If you know a call, it’s so easy to know the bird.

    Teacher, NSW, Australia

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