Top 10: Most Common Bird Identification Questions

We receive thousands of images to identify each year, sent to our NameThatBird.com web site.  These birds represent 10 of the most often asked about species.

 

1. Female Red-winged Blackbird:

We receive a few images of the males but females, much more sparrow-like in appearance, confuse many people.

red-winged-blackbird-female

 

2. Female Brown-headed Cowbird 
Another species with the females much more difficult to identify.  Plain gray-brown birds can be tough.

brown-headed-cowbird-female

 

3.  Rose-breasted Grosbeak, both male and female.
The males are distinctive but show up at feeders during spring migration and are a very common question, females even more so.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak.yellow.Gary Wells.1
This male had an unusual yellow breast instead of the typical rose color.

 

Rose-breasted Grosbeak female
Photograpoh by Vikki LaValle.  Female Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

4.  Cooper's Hawk   
Both Adults and Juveniles.
There medium-sized raptors often found around bird feeders or in suburban yards and are reported much more often than the similar but smaller Sharp-shinned Hawk.  They are by far the most common raptor submitted to NameThatBird.com.

Coopers Hawk
Adult Cooper's. Photograph by JC.

 

Coopers Hawk juvenile
Juvenile Cooper's.  Photograph by Jim Hottel.

5.  Red-tailed Hawk    
Both adult and immatures.
The Red-tailed Hawk is large, wide-spread and common in many areas.  It's plumage is also highly variable, making identification a challenge.

Red-tailed Hawk
Not all Red-tailed Hawks are this easy to identify.

6.  House Finch 
Both male and female.
We receive more images of the females but both are commonly submitted for identification.

House Finch

 

7.  Black-crowned Night-Heron 
Both adults and juveniles.
This is a large, wide-spread species.  Juveniles can be very nondescript in appearance and hard to identify.  Here is a comparison page.  See if you agree that these are all Black-crowned Night-Herons.  Pay particular attention to the bill size and shape.

black-crowned-night-heron-pat
Photograph by Pat.

black-crowned-night-heron-sc
Adult. Photograph by Sam Crowe.

Black-crowned Night-Heron
Photograph by Harriet Moore.

 

Yellow-Black-crowned Night-Heron
Photograph by Don Rucker.

 

8.  Young American Robins  
Each spring we receive numerous images of juvenile American Robins.  Their speckled chest causes confusion.

american-robin-young
Photograph by Tasha-Bryant.

 

american-robin-melodie-C
We often receive images of birds with atypical plumages, like this partially leucistic robin. Photograph by Melodie C.

 

 

9.  Dark-eyed Junco 
Juncos are wide spread and common.  They migrate into southern states in the winter, resulting in an increase in requests for identification.  There are also several races with different plumages, previously consider separate species, and this often leans to confusion.  These are all Dark-eyed Juncos.

Dark-eyed-Junco
Photograpoh by Steve Brown.

Dark-eyed-Junco
Photograph by Gary Lane.

Dark-eyed-Junco
Photograph by Sue Vasey.

Dark-eyed Junco
Photograph by Bill Ryan.

10.  Eastern Phoebe     
Another plain gray bird. Eastern Phoebes will nest under the eves of homes and are often otherwise visible in neighborhoods.
They are not strongly marked. They give a strong "phoebe" call, making them easy to identify by voice.

Eastern Phoebe
Photograph by Gail Crissinger.