Search by Size

Size is an important clue to a bird's identity.

Size is often VERY HARD TO JUDGE, and can even create confusion with very skilled birders.

When estimating size, try to locate a nearby bird or object of known size, and compare it to the size of the unknown bird.

Keep a very open mind on the size of the bird if you have little experience in bird identification and have not been able to compare your bird with an object of known size. We regularly receive images of birds to identify that have a size estimate that is 2 to 5 times under or over the actual size of the bird.

Size by itself, while important, is not always a big help. What is small to someone might be medium or even large to someone else. Or, is a large songbird larger than a small raptor? Without some experience, general statements of size can lead to confusion.

To provide some idea of the range of bird sizes, we have created the following categories. The categories are arbitrary but will provide some point of reference. Some species within a family group may fall within a larger or smaller category.


Really Big: over 40 inches in length
California Condor, American White Pelican, cranes, Wild Turkey, swans

Large: 25 to 39 inches in length
Some egrets and herons, hawks, eagles, falcons, spoonbills, geese, loons

Medium: 10 to 24 inches in length
Ducks, larger shorebirds, gulls and terns, smaller raptors, doves, jays, grackles

Small: 5 to 9 inches in length
Smaller shorebirds, flycatchers, woodpeckers, bluebirds, vireos, warblers, sparrows, towhees, buntings, blackbirds, orioles, finches, titmice, chickadees

Very Small: less than 5 inches in length
Hummingbirds, gnatcatchers, bushtits