When you are out and about, at times you will find it hard to identify smaller birds as they move through the foliage. Many of these birds are beautiful and it is enjoyable to be able to watch and identify them. However, there are some simple techniques that you can easily apply when faced with a strange bird that will help you to at least narrow down the possibilities. Once you have reduced the number of likely birds it becomes much easier to make an identification.
So – when faced with an unknown bird, how do you go about narrowing down the possibilities?
Size – try and compare it to what you know
Colour – uniform shade or does it have markings or patches of colour
Bill – short and thick, short and pointy, curved
Habitat – on the ground, low foliage, higher up in a tree
Behaviour – feeding on flowers, foraging on the ground
Call – many species have distinctive calls, best checked via an App
Let us take an example. Whilst walking near some dense vegetation you see some small brown birds (often called LBJs or Little Brown Jobs) that you are not sure about. These are often the hardest for beginners and experienced birders alike!
Answers to some of the above questions can quickly narrow it down. For example, if the bird is very small (smaller than a sparrow) and the bill is short and thick then you can immediately narrow it down to a pardalote or a weebill but if it is thin and pointy, a thornbill. If it is noisy and active, likely a honeyeater.
The “Thorn bill” is a good name for most – short and pointy like a thorn. Habitat is a good guide – Brown – in foliage often low. Striated – usually higher up in trees
Finch – very solid bill. Seed eater with the strength to crack seeds. Generally on the ground because that is where the seeds are.
Pardalotes and Weebills have a short, solid bill. Spotted – the name says it all. Weebills – in foliage
Honeyeaters have long bills – and if you are lucky, to see their very long brush-like tongues – to assist in collecting nectar from flowers.
Pigeons are also seed eaters and often on the ground. Bill adapted to cracking seeds.