Bird Identification in the South

by Keith Allen
Birdwatching is a popular pastime in the southern part of the United States.

Birdwatching is a popular pastime in the southern part of the United States.

Bird identification can be a challenge, but there are specific features of every species to take into consideration when determining bird type. Vocalization, size and shape, behavior, color and patterns and habitat are characteristics to look for in determining bird identification. Although most birds are migratory, some are specific to a certain area.


Calls and songs are the two categories of bird vocalization, according to the website Wildlife South. Birds use calls to communicate with other members of the flock during feeding, in flight or if danger is approaching. Calls are generally short in length and consist of chirps, chips or trills. Bird songs, however, are melodic and used in pair bonding and breeding rituals. They are also used to maintain and establish the bird’s territory. Both calls and songs are used to identify birds in the South.


Although getting close enough to a bird to actually take out the tape measure is ridiculous, reference is a good method to determine the size of the bird of the South you’re looking to identify. By comparing the sizes of common birds to others, it’s possible to estimate size, according to Wildlife South. A general rule of thumb is that an American crow would be considered large, a mourning dove or northern mockingbird is medium in size, and a small bird would be equal to a titmouse or smaller.


There are a number of aspects to take into consideration when identifying birds by shape, according to Wildlife South. Bill shapes are associated with feeding habits. For example, short, thick, conical bills are good for cracking open seeds, whereas short to medium-thin bills are better for insect eating birds. Flat bills filter food from water, and hooked bills are used for tearing flesh. Other aspects to take into account are length of legs, shape of tail, head and neck shape, and overall body shape, which all aid in identifying birds.


Watching how a bird behaves is another way of identifying birds of the South, according to Wildlife South. How a bird hunts or forages for food is a way to identify the species. Foraging in tree trunks, on the ground or in a thicket, high in trees, in the air or near water are all places distinctive to different types. Flight behavior, nesting activity and location, vocal behavior and perching or assembly behaviors are other characteristics to consider.


Some Southern bird species are ubiquitous, but most prefer a specific type of habitat. Southern bird habitats are numerous, including freshwater marshes; beaches and dunes; coniferous, deciduous or mixed forests; open fields and grasslands; urban areas; and lakes, rivers, ponds, streams and saltwater marshes.


The more familiar you become with different types of Southern species, the easier it gets to identify them based on all these characteristics. Birdwatching is on the rise in the United States and makes for an informative, fun outdoor pastime with little effort, according to the website Earth Life.

About the Author

Keith Allen, a 1979 graduate of Valley City State College, has worked at a variety of jobs including computer operator, medical clinic manager, radio talk show host and potato sorter. For over five years he has worked as a newspaper reporter and historic researcher. His works have appeared in regional newspapers in North Dakota and in "North Dakota Horizons" and "Cowboys and Indians" magazines.

Photo Credits

  • bird watching rutland water image by david harding from Fotolia.com