I have the tools!

I'm not  a "bird expert" like many of my colleagues at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, who can identify most birds by hearing a snippet of their song or catch a brief glimpse of a species flying away and name it.  However, I do enjoy watching birds--they are the part of nature that I find most fascinating. In my job,  I'm really interested birds as a way to interest children in the outdoors and engage them in science.  I also think the Cornell Lab's citizen science projects--like eBird and Project FeederWatch--are a great way to get involved and turn an interest in birds into something meaningful and important.

Black-necked Stilt by Mike Baird (flickr)
Last February, I had the pleasure of going to Nassau, Bahamas to participate in a Caribbean WaterBird Monitoring workshop. There, I had one of my favorite birding moments:  for the first time, I knew that I had the tools I needed to figure out what kind of bird I was looking at--even if I'd never seen it before.  The best part was the excitement I felt at identifying birds; it felt like a sport: something I could get better at--my own personal competition!

Shore bird with pink legs?  Black necked Stilt!
Black swimming bird with a red beak?  Common Moorhen!

And I knew not to confuse that stilt with any of the similar plovers or sandpipers we saw... nor to confuse the Common Moorhen with the similar-shaped-and-sized waterbirds we saw (like coots).  I knew my field marks, was getting better using my field guide and binoculars, and I was remembering the names.

Later, when we played Bird Jeopardy (Jeopbirdy, anyone?), I felt confident in my abilities, and I enjoyed going head-to-head with other participants in a race to identify each species as quickly as we could.

Yes, my team won!  And I learned a valuable lesson--that a beginning birder can learn new birds quickly...and doing so was fun!

Can you identify this bird? 
Mystery bird by Billtacular, Flickr and All About Birds

Please add your answer to the comments section below--let's see who's into bird ID like I am =)

Lastly, get out there and notice the birds in your neighborhood!

Happy birding,

Jennifer Fee

Education Program
Cornell Lab of Ornithology

1 Response
  1. Laurie Says:

    We say American Coot.
    -Mira and Jill from Rainbow House of Learning