How to Find A Bird in Your Field Guide

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Bird books are among the world's best-selling publications, and there are many different kinds available, but how do you know which one is right for you? Firstly, bird books are usually published with a certain area in mind and will clearly state this on the jacket, if not in the title of the book, like Robert's Birds of South Africa. If you are not sure, ask for a recommendation when doing your safari booking.

Next, make sure you have the latest edition, which will account for any birds that may have been re-classified or renamed, as this does happen from time to time. An example of this is the Loerie, which is now called the Grey go-away bird.

Study your bird book beforehand so that you have an idea about which types of birds you might find on which pages, you can even use small tags to identify different sections in the book. Then, once you have a particular subject in sight, you are only a few steps away from identifying it and ticking it off your list.

The shape of the bird
– A good field guide often has an image of the bird in silhouette to assist with identifying its general shape. Note the position and shape of the tail too, and any remarkable features such as a crest and the size and shape of the bill.

Size – Compare the size of the bird to a species with which you are familiar (such as a chicken) to gain an idea of its dimensions. The average height and length of the bird will be indicated in your guide.

Colour – This is the easiest way to identify birds quickly and some field guides are arranged according to colour for quick reference.

Patterns - There are many birds which are similar in colour, so take note of any distinguishing marks on the bird's plumage, such as wing bars, eyebrow stripes or tail bands.

Song – Familiarise yourself with bird sounds. This will help to separate one from the other if you are lucky enough to hear the bird call. Your ranger will be happy to identify any bird sounds that you hear while out in the bush or around camp.

Behaviour – Birds have certain habits which are unique to their kind, such as their flight patterns or the way they walk or roost.

It takes a lot of practice to be able to identify birds quickly, but it certainly is a lot of fun learning – enjoy it!

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Tuesday, 12 December 2017