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Charlie Spencer

What, Where, When! How to Request a SUCCESSFUL Bird ID!

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Welcome!  We understand you're excited to learn about that mystery bird you saw, and we're delighted to help.  Some members can give you an answer based on a surprisingly small amount of data.  Still, the more information you provide, the more likely we'll reach a correct identification.

Please start a new post for your bird; your request may be overlooked if you add it to an existing discussion.   At a minimum, please include these items:
⦁    What did the bird look like?  If you have photos, you can link to most popular photo sharing sites.  If not, what colors were the head, body, wings, and tail?  Can you compare the mystery bird to a bird you're already familiar with?  Was it smaller, fatter, longer necked, shorter tailed, etc.?
⦁    Where did you see the bird?  Please tell us what state or province you were in.   Other useful items are geographic region, city or county, local or national park, body of water, etc.  Please avoid using zip codes; researching them slows your request.
⦁    When did you see the bird?  Often the month is enough, although the day or week is better.   Time of day is also useful (early morning, middle of the night, etc.)

That information is usually enough, but some birds are very similar.  These items can be useful in narrowing down the options:
⦁    What was the local environment?  Was the bird in a forest, desert, beach, urban area, etc.?  Was it raining, snowing, windy, etc.?
⦁    What was the bird doing?  Was it hopping, flying, singing, sitting still, etc.?  If it was eating, what was it having for lunch?
⦁    Were there other birds?  Did they look like the mystery bird or were they different?  Were there a few of them or many?

Please limit your requests to five birds per post.  When there are more than five ID requests in a single post, it becomes difficult to follow the discussion of each bird or photo.

If you think you know what the bird is, please enter its name as a tag.  For multiple species, it's easier to use tags than to list them all as a lengthy title.  Also, tags improve search results.  You can enter the location as a tag, too.  To use tags in a new post, look for 'Tags' near the top and click '+Choose'.  Enter your tags separated by commas, such as 'Carolina Wren, Blue Jay, Lexington, South Carolina' (without the quotes).

Please be patient.  We have many active members, but we aren't Facebook or Twitter.  It may be a few hours before our members respond, especially if your request requires research.   If you don't have a reply within 24 hours, feel free to 'Bump' your question.

Sometimes a bird can't be identified.   All of us here have had sightings and photos that left us scratching our heads.  That's just part of birding.

Thanks for joining us!   We hope you come to enjoy birding as much as we do.

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Thanks a lot for this post Charlie, it is very helpful!!

And just a reminder that, when possible, it is important to listen to the calls... Sometimes that is the only way to tell some birds apart!   :classic_biggrin:

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On 7/26/2018 at 9:04 PM, Mila said:

Thanks a lot for this post Charlie, it is very helpful!!

And just a reminder that, when possible, it is important to listen to the calls... Sometimes that is the only way to tell some birds apart!   :classic_biggrin:

I agree with your thanks to Charlie and that sounds are important.  I'd definitely add something, maybe after the "What did the bird look like?" section

Or What did the bird sound like?  If you can, make a sound recording or a video with sound of the bird and upload it to an external site.  If you heard sounds the bird made but didn't record them, describing them can help.  You can imitate sounds with words or nonsense words ("wit wit tew tew tew") or describe them musically.  How long did calls or songs last and how much time was there between them?  The tone is as important as the tune.  Did you hear whistles, chirps, trills, buzzes, squawks, coos?  Did the sound remind you of another bird, or of any musical instrument or other familiar sound?

I didn't follow the earlier discussion, so I apologize if the following has been suggested already.

In the "What did the bird look like?" section, I'd change the first "photos" to "photos or videos".

At the end of the "Please limit" paragraph, I'd add, "If you have more than photo, please indicate clearly whether photos are of the same bird or whether you're not sure.  Good ways are to number the photos (for example, "1, 2, and 3 are one bird, and 4 and 5 are another") or number the birds (for example, "1. [three photos here] 2. [two photos here])."

I'd also add, "Don't stop looking for answers when you've gotten one.  Sometimes someone will improve the first answer or correct it--everybody makes mistakes once in a while.  Or people will agree with the first answer, which makes you more confident."

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I joined the site a couple of days ago but, in my excitement to start receiving help, missed the important "must read' introductory emails.

Excellent guide for posting (I must do better!!!).

I also noticed you provide encouragement where necessary.

Much appreciated Charlie.

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