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A bird’s shape (silhouette) and posture are good clues to its identity. In fact, silhouette and posture are often excellent clues and the best way to differentiate some very similar species.

This section (links on the right) features birds with certain strong characteristics. The images below demonstrate a more subtle example of shape differences.

The Shape Master will help you improve your skills in identifying birds by silhouette and posture.

greater scaup

Greater Scaup

One of the keys in telling the Greater Scaup (above) from the Lesser Scaup (below) is the shape of the head.

  • The Greater Scaup has a rounded head.
  • The forehead on the Greater Scaup is more sloped than the Lesser Scaup.
  • The head of the Lesser Scaup is more peaked.
  • The Lesser Scaup often shows a small tuft on the back of the head.
  • The cleaner sides of the Greater Scaup are often not visible at a distance, leaving the viewer to rely on head shape to make the call.
lesser scaup

Lesser Scaup

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