Great Gray Owl. Joel Sartore / National Geographic Photo Ark

Identifying Birds

Study Up

ID Tips

Learn to Tell a Cackling Goose From a Canada Goose

Don’t let this ID cook your goose. Here are a few tips to help you solve the puzzle.
ID Tips

Greater or Lesser Scaup? Here Are the Biggest Differences Between the Two

It’s a challenging ID, but head shape can take you a long way.
ID Tips

House Finch or Purple Finch? Here's How to Tell Them Apart

Some clues to help distinguish between these two often-confused finches.
ID Tips

Learn to Tell a Northern Shrike From a Loggerhead Shrike

These are the best clues to help you know which ‘butcherbird’ is which.

How to Tell a Carolina From a Black-Capped Chickadee

Hint: Their voices give them away.
ID Tips

The Biggest Differences Between Song and Savannah Sparrows

A close look at these two doppelgängers shows some key contrasts in markings and song.



Quiz: Identify Raptors in Flight

Test and hone your ID skills with this raptor puzzle.
Christmas Bird Count

A Photo ID Quiz That's Perfect for Beginner Birders

Test your birding knowledge with 10 species often found during the Christmas Bird Count.

Do You Know Where the Birds Go?

Take this quiz to test your migratory knowledge.

All ID Stories

ID Tips

Dark-eyed Juncos, Backyard Gems, Come in a Dazzling Array of Colors

By Hannah Waters
March 01, 2019 — The six flavors of junco were long considered separate species. Recent science shows that they instead boldly exhibit evolution in real time.
ID Tips

Is That a Swallow or a Swift?

By Martha Harbison
September 25, 2018 — Telling the two apart can be tough, but some clues lie in how they fly and where they sleep.
ID Tips

Is That Golden Eagle Actually a Bald Eagle?

By Pete Dunne
July 03, 2018 — In its youth, our national symbol sports brown feathers on its head—making it easily confused with its rarer, golden cousin.
ID Tips

Why You Should Start Searching for Rusty Blackbirds

By Jason Ward
February 16, 2018 — Aside from helping to boost your blackbird appreciation, spotting this declining species can also aid in conservation efforts.
ID Tips

How to Tell Vireos From Warblers, Flycatchers, and Kinglets

By Jason Ward
June 28, 2017 — Before you start identifying vireos, you need to stop confusing them with other similar families of songbirds.
ID Tips

How to Recognize Six Warblers in Their Fall Feathers

By Jason Ward
October 07, 2016 — Study the finer details of migrating warblers with our handy photo guide.
ID Tips

Five Ways to Troubleshoot Your Birding Problems

By The Editors
July 08, 2016 — When your bird guide isn't getting it done, try these hacks and alternatives to make a better ID.
A green bunting takes a water bath surrounded by drops.
ID Tips

How to Identify Birds

By Kenn Kaufman
April 21, 2016 — Before you judge a bird by its color, use these eight clues to guide you.
ID Tips

A Beginner’s Guide to IDing Cooper’s and Sharp-Shinned Hawks

By Nicholas Lund
September 18, 2015 — The differences are subtle, but shape and size can help in a big way.
ID Tips

How to Tell a Hairy Woodpecker From a Downy Woodpecker

By Karl Mechem
February 13, 2015 — Size and tail color are two of the biggest clues when deciphering these two backyard regulars.

Look out for these amazing visitors in your flyway, and find more in our online bird guide.