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Thursday, 22 October 2020

22.10.2020 - Bird Identification (Part 1)

"ID please."

"Can anyone ID this bird?"

"What bird is this?"

We often see these questions in any birding groups in the social medias. It is the usual way of seeking a bird's ID from other (experienced) birders. And I mean birders, not photographers, since I have seen a plenty of photographers don't even know the name of the bird that they are clicking. You may need some field experience to ID the birds. Like my buddy once had said, "to ID a bird correctly, it really matters how much you are exposed to that bird". He was damn right! So in this entry we going to look into how to ID a bird. I am not sure I can cover every single aspects of bird identification, but I will try my best. 

Blue Throated Bee-eater

During the good old days, bird identification totally depends on field observation. Colors, shape and other characteristics of the birds are written on a notebook. Some even make a quick sketch of the birds and label it. The birder has to spend some time with the birds at the field either with their binoculars or a spotting scope. More time they spend with the birds, more exposure they get and they gather more details. This is how we do it those days. 

Picture Credit: Supriya Malhotra, a birder from Calcutta, observing birds with a binocular

In modern days, most birders are equipped with cameras. Birds are photographed, analyzed for its ID. So there is no necessity to wait at the field like in those days, unless you are truly a birder. You might rush to grab all the birds that you see at the field.

Picture Credit: Zarizal Rosli, photographing shore birds at mudflats of Selangor coast

Therefore less time to observe the birds. To avoid this, I usually click few good photos of those birds and then I will observe them. This way I wont miss both photos and the details of the birds. Details are usually written on a notebook or I will do a voice recording, whichever convenient at the field. Keep a small note book and a pen with you always to record any field notes. As an alternative, you may use any notepad apps or voice recorder in your smartphones. 

So what we have to write in the field note? First you have to record the location, date and time of sightings. These details are useful to narrow down the identification process. How? Location or habitats can provide you the most basic information of a bird, either its garden variety, forest birds, shore bird, or montane bird. It also determines the food and nesting details of that particular bird as well as the type of trees and vegetations which supports a bird's life. For an example, when you find a small bird from the mangroves, you can narrow down your search within the group of birds which dwells in the mangroves from the bird guides or from webpages. Then you may consider other attributes such as size and colors to further the process of identification. 

A typical bird list with location and date detail.

Date and time are also important matter to note down. When you note the date, you may able to have a series of data of when the bird is sighted the most in a year. This way, you may use the data to find particular birds easier. Its very important for migratory birds and for those resident birds which migrate locally. When I was in Perak, in the 90s, I noticed that the White Throated Kingfishers are rarely seen between December and March at my neighbor-hood. They move to another habitat for breeding. So this type information can be gathered when you record the time or date of the sightings.

As a conclusion, I can say that its easier to sight a bird again and again, with recording its location and date/time of sightings. When this happens, we are much exposed to the bird, thus its easier to ID or to distinguish the particular bird from one another. So start to note down the location and the date when you are birding . 

Happy birding!

To be continued...

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