In the previous post, the first one in the series, “Guidelines for the identification of unknown birds”, I promised to post six steps which, in many instances, may simplify the process somewhat. Well, here goes!

Step one: The bird’s relative size and the general shape of the body.

Most people find it very difficult, if not impossible, to estimate the approximate size of a bird (e.g. length in centimetres). It is, therefore, recommended that you compare the size and shape of the bird to be identified with the size and shape of familiar birds, for example:

Is it about the size of a…

Cape Sparrow ♂ (Gewone Mossie),

Photo Louis Jordaan

Speckled Pigeon (Kransduif),

or Helmeted Guineafowl (Gewone Tarentaal)?

Is the body slender like that of a…

sunbird [Greater Double-collared Sunbird ♂ (Groot-rooibandsuikerbekkie)]

or lapwing [African Wattled Lapwing (Lelkiewiet)]?

Or is it more robustly built like a…

barbet [Acacia Pied Barbet (Bonthoutkapper)]

or spurfowl [Cape Spurfowl (Kaapse Fisant)]?

Also take note of:

The length and shape of the tail.

Magpie Shrike ♂ (Langstertlaksman)

Long-billed Crombec (Bosveldstompstert)

Fork-tailed Drongo (Mikstertbyvanger)

And the length and bearing of the neck.

Cape Vulture (Kransaasvoël)

Martial Eagle (Breëkoparend)

Keep in mind that because of puffed feathers during cold conditions birds will appear rounder and “fatter” than they actually are.

Karoo Prinia (Karoolangstertjie) – “Normal” shape

Karoo Prinia (Karoolangstertjie) – Puffed feathers on a cold morning

We really are blessed with a huge and very diverse bird population – indeed, birds of all shapes and sizes!