Birdwatching for Beginners: How to Identify Birds

Written By Parag Kokane on Saturday, January 26, 2019 | 6:16 PM

Birdwatching is a delightful hobby that connects us with nature and offers peace and joy to many. For amateurs, the vast diversity of birds can seem overwhelming, but with some basic knowledge and practice, anyone can become adept at identifying birds. Here are some practical tips to get you started on your birdwatching journey.

Start with the Basics

Many might wonder how experienced birdwatchers quickly identify and record birds during their observations. Bird identification might seem daunting at first, but with attention to certain details, it becomes an enjoyable and manageable task. Key aspects to focus on include:

Observe the Size and Shape:

One of the first steps in bird identification is to note the bird's size and shape (silhouette). Is it small and compact like a sparrow, or larger with a long neck like a heron? The overall shape can provide a crucial clue to the bird's identity.

Color Patterns:

Observe the bird's primary colors and unique patterns. Does it have a distinct color on its wings or tail? Remember, male and female birds can display different colors, and some birds' plumage changes with the seasons.


Watching how a bird behaves can be a big hint. Does it hop or walk? How does it fly – in a straight line or with undulations? Is it foraging on the ground or catching insects in flight?

Timing of Observations:

Most diurnal (daytime-active) birds are most active in the early morning and late afternoon. Therefore, the optimal times for birdwatching are generally from 6:30 AM to 8:30 AM and from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM. For observing nocturnal birds or listening to their calls, nighttime expeditions are necessary.

Migration Patterns:

Many birds migrate, moving from one region to another at specific times of the year for reasons such as food availability, climate, breeding, or habit. In India, several species migrate during the winter, while the monsoon serves as the breeding season for many local and migratory birds. Understanding these patterns can significantly enhance the birdwatching experience by knowing when and where to find specific species.

Recording Observations:

Note the habitat where you find the birds. Classify them based on their location - grassland, marine, riverine, montane, or dense forest dwellers. Then, record the size and color of the birds, their behavior, sounds, and flight patterns. The shape of the bird's beak can also provide insights into its feeding habits and help in identification.

As your notes become more detailed and your skills improve, you'll find bird identification becoming easier. You'll start to quickly categorize birds based on size, habitat, and other characteristics.

Listen to Bird Calls and Songs

Birdsong is not only beautiful to listen to but is also a key identifier. Many birds have unique calls and songs. Apps and field guides can help you match sounds to specific birds, making it easier to identify them even if you can't see them.

Use Field Guides and Apps

Invest in a good field guide specific to your area or use one of the many bird identification apps available. These resources provide images, distribution maps, and detailed descriptions, making it easier to confirm your sightings. Researching which birds you might see during different months can be very beneficial. Additionally, using a field guide book or a mobile app like Indian Birds, developed by NATURE WEB, can provide valuable information and features suitable for both novice and experienced birdwatchers in India.

Keep a Birdwatching Journal

Record your observations in a journal, noting the date, location, and conditions, along with the birds' appearance and behavior. This practice not only helps in honing your identification skills but also in tracking the birds you've seen.

Join a Birdwatching Group

Connecting with experienced birdwatchers can accelerate your learning. Most groups organize regular outings and are happy to share knowledge with beginners. It's also a great way to meet like-minded people and enjoy birdwatching as a communal activity.

Practice Regularly

Like any skill, bird identification improves with practice. Spend time in nature, observe birds in your backyard, local parks, or nature reserves, and gradually, you'll find it easier to identify birds quickly and accurately.


About Parag Kokane

With my camera and binoculars, I wander through the beautiful landscapes of the Western Ghats, capturing the amazing wildlife and nature around us. On this blog, you'll find exciting wildlife observations, my thoughts on protecting nature, and more. Join me as we explore and help protect the beauty of our world together.


  1. एखादं पक्षी निरीक्षणा वर पुस्तक सुचवाल का, किंवा महाराष्ट्रात आढळणारे पक्षी ह्यावर एखादं पुस्तक सांगा.

  2. पक्षी निरीक्षणासाठी आणि एकूणच पक्ष्यांच्या इत्यंभूत माहिती साठी Birds of the Indian Subcontinent हे पुस्तक उत्तम आहे. ह्यात फक्त महाराष्ट्रच नाही तर भारतातल्या सगळ्याच पक्ष्याची माहिती योग्य प्रकारे मंडळी आहे. ऍमेझॉन वरची पुस्तकाची हि लिंक -

    ह्या शिवाय, तुम्ही NATURE WEB चे Indian Birds हे ऍप सुद्धा वापरू शकता -