Knowing the main kinds of birds will help beginners and kids get better at identifying birds.
When I first sat down with the goal of summarizing the different kinds of birds I thought it was going to be simple. I am no professional birder, but I can identify the main types of birds that I see on a regular basis. I can recognize a black capped chickadee, cormorant, or a Steller’s Jay. Originally, I planned to use my knowledge and a bit more research to come up with the general types of birds.
Unfortunately, as I did the research I realized that the more I learned, the more complicated it became. My goal, though is to keep this simple so that beginners and kids can use this one tip to begin learning the birds they see during a regular day.
I am going to get a bit technical for a second to give you some background information. Birds fall within the Kingdom of Animals and occupy a unique class within it called Aves. All animals within that class are birds and share certain characteristics that make them birds. Within the broad class of birds there are about 40 different families of birds, which include all of the different species of birds ranging from the large hawks and owls down to the tiny hummingbird.
Even though I may not know all of those different families of birds, I still feel I know quite a few birds. I don’t think knowing all of those families of birds is simple or helpful for beginners. Instead, I have decided to list several general types of birds based on their shape and where they live. Various birding books use similar systems to help identify birds. You can look at this other post for 6 tips to identify birds for beginners.
If you want to start learning how to identify birds try to figure out what general kind of bird you are looking at. Knowing this will help you narrow down your choices and help you figure out what it is.
General Kinds Of Birds to Help With Bird Identification
Many birds live around water, but not all of them spend most of their time actually swimming on or in water. If you see a bird that is floating on water, swimming along then it is a swimming bird. Some of the swimming birds are ducks, geese, swans, and cormorants. You will probably see some birds that are swimming, but are not one of these main ones. If that happens then you will already have a clue towards figuring out what it is.
Aerial Water Birds
These birds also live near water, but instead of swimming on or sitting on water they are also often seen flying over water. Most of these kinds of birds live in the ocean and fly long distances and can easily soar in the air. Some of these are pelicans, terns, and seagulls.
These birds are all tall, with long legs that help them wade in water while they hunt for food. When they see something they use their long, sharp bill like a spear to stab at and catch their meal, which could be fish or frogs. These birds include herons and egrets.
These are the birds that you see along the edges of water, such as lakes, rivers, or the ocean. Shorebirds do not have legs as long as the wading birds and are generally much shorter. Oftentimes these birds are fast runners as they run along the shore looking for food. Examples are plovers or oystercatchers.
Regular Land Birds
This is kind of a general category for birds that are all a medium size and don’t live near water, nor are hunters. They also do not spend most of their time on the ground. Examples of these include a lot of birds, such as pigeons, doves, woodpeckers, and flickers.
Birds of Prey
Birds of prey include all birds that hunt for their food. Some of them catch fish, others mice, and other small mammals or even small birds. Examples include hawks, falcons, eagles, and owls.
Small, Fast Flyers
The birds in this category are all small and very fast flyers. They are like the fighter pilot birds as they zip through the sky and go in every direction. The main small, fast flyers that you will see are hummingbirds, swifts, and swallows.
Songbirds are those birds that you often hear singing as they are perched on trees or hidden in bushes. Some of the common songbirds include robins, bluejays, and crows.
There are a lot of these small birds that live everywhere. They are often hard to see as they live and hide in thick brush or trees. I put birds into this category if they are small and don’t fit into one of the other categories. Identification of these small birds is difficult since there are so many different kinds of these birds. Examples include sparrows, finches, and warblers.