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?
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!
Cornell Lab of Ornithology