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Photo © Al Tuttle

How can I identify what kinds of birds are in my backyard?

The best way to start is to learn to identify the types of birds in your yard during the spring and summer (fall or winter plumage identification can come later). The birds in your yard may just be passing through to their breeding grounds, or they may actually stay to nest in your neighborhood.

You may wish to purchase a bird identification field guide specific to your region to learn the typical birds in your area. These books include color photographs or drawings, and descriptions of the birds you may find in your back yard. Another great tool is the free Merlin Bird ID app, also by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Merlin makes identifying birds fast and easy; answer five easy questions, upload a photo, or record sound to generate a list of likely species. Learn more and find out how to download Merlin from this webpage.

If you happen to find a nest and are unsure of the species that built it, check out the Common Nesting Birds tool on our website. You can also purchase a guide to local nests, such as A Guide to the Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds by Paul J. Baicich and Colin J. O. Harrison.  If you’re still having trouble, follow our guidelines for taking a photograph, and send it to us at nestwatch@cornell.edu. Get two or three angles of the nest, include the eggs in at least one shot if you can, be sure to tell us where you saw it (your general region/state/province is fine), and what the surrounding habitat was like (e.g., in a forest, open field, beach, near a large body of water, etc.).

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Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Cornell Lab of Ornithology