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Wild Bird Species Identification

Rita Putatunda
Bird watching and identification is a great hobby. This article lists a few birds along with their characteristics, which will help to identify them.
The Book of Indian Birds, Pictorial Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent, and The Fall of a Sparrow are the books written by ornithologist Dr Salim Ali - better known as the 'birdman of India'. These books provide a lot of valuable information about the wild birds that inhabit earth. Given below are a few wild birds along with their characteristic identification marks.
The Whooping Crane: Named so because of its whooping call, this crane is listed as an endangered species. It is the tallest bird in North America, as well as the only species of crane that occurs solely there. When fully-grown, it is white in color. The neck is long, which is kept straight while flying, and it has dark, long legs that trail towards the back during flight. When it flies, the black tips of its wings can be spotted.
The Great Egret: Weighing up to 950 g and standing at 101 cm, this is a large-sized bird which is also referred to as the Common Egret, White Heron, or Great White Egret. This wading egret occurs in most areas of the world where the climate is warmer temperate or tropical, such as the southern part of Europe as well as in Asia. In New Zealand, it is referred to as Kotuku. Its plumage is fully-white, its bill is yellow in color, and its feet and legs are black. Its flight is slow, during which the neck remains retracted, distinguishing it from spoonbills, cranes, and storks, which keep their necks extended.
The Golden Eagle: This bird of prey is one of the most familiar in the northern hemisphere. Once occurring all over Asia, Europe, and North America, nowadays it is no longer seen in areas that are heavily-populated. The colors of its plumage range from dark-brown to blackish-brown, with the nape and crown a dramatic-golden color, which accounts for its name. The wingspan of this bird can reach up to 7 feet, or 2 m, while the length of its body can measure up to 3 feet, or 1 m.
Pileated Woodpecker: Almost the size of a crow, this is the largest-sized woodpecker in the world, and is found in most parts of North America. Its presence is announced in the forests that range all over the continent by the large, rectangular-shaped excavations it makes in dead trees, and its loud calls that ring through the trees.
With a red crest on its head, it has white markings on its wings, at the linings of the underwings, and the base of the primaries. It has white and black stripes on its face, along with a white stripe that extends from the base of the bill and down the neck.
It also has a white stripe below the crown and above the eye, and a white throat. It has yellow eyes and yellowish feathers on the nostrils. Its call is ringing and loud, which goes 'kuk-kuk-kuk', along with a resonating drumming sound.
Rose-breasted Grosbeak: With bold patterns in rose, white, and black, the male can be identified quite easily. However, the female is striped and drab, and more difficult to spot, resembling a larger version of the finch or sparrow. Commonly occurring in forests, the song of the grosbeak resembles the robin's, except that it is more melodic and softer. The belly of the male is white, the chest is red, and it has a black hood. The bill is cone-shaped, pale, thick, and large.
Northern Mockingbird: It has been given this name because of the way it imitates other birds' songs. It occurs from the southern parts of Canada right down to the southern regions of Mexico, as well as the Caribbean. Its plumage is grayish-brown in color, with two white colored bars that run parallel on the wings along with white, broad patches on the wings that are visible when the bird flies.
Great Black-backed Gull: This is the largest gull in the world. Its head is white, with the underparts being white and the upper parts being black. Its bill is large and yellow, with the lower part having a red spot. The eyes are pale and have a red ring, and the feet and legs are pink. It flies with slow, deep beats of the wings and has the ability of soaring on updrafts or thermals. It occurs in the northeastern parts of North America and the northwestern parts of Europe. Its calls are deep, which sound like 'gawp' or 'gowl', or sometimes going 'owk-owk-owk' or 'hah-hah-hah'. And when it breeds, it makes low screeches that sound like 'kreee-aaahh'.
Sarus Crane: This is the only crane that lives and breeds in Southeast Asia and India, and is also the tallest flying bird in the world. Also, it is the largest bird of India. The plumage of the body is a light-gray color, and a greenish, smooth skin covers the crown.
The upper neck, throat, and the rest of the head have a reddish-orange skin that is rough. There are grayish-white feathers that are over its ears, and there are black, long, hairlike bristles covering parts of the neck and upper throat. The toes and legs are red in color. The female is slightly smaller in size compared to the male.
Pairs of cranes, which form bonds that last life long, perform courtship dances that are elaborate, with a combination of prances, bows, and leaps, accompanied with calling to each other in a duet.