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How to identify birds

Juvenile great spotted woodpecker

Juvenile great spotted woodpeckers have a red crown, unlike their parents

Image: Steve Round

You don't need to know anything about birds to enjoy watching them. Whether you're watching small birds coming to your birdtable, or big birds of prey soaring hundreds of feet above your head, birds are everywhere - they are innately interesting to watch and provide pleasure for many people.

It's a natural progression to go from enjoying watching a bird going about its business to asking yourself 'what kind of bird is it?' If you flip through the pages of a bird book or browse our A-Z pages, you'll see there are many different species in Britain (and more than 10,000 worldwide!).

Contrary to popular belief, you don't need expensive equipment or expert knowledge. The most important 'tools' are your eyes, ears and brain! All the other things are optional. 

By following simple guidelines and principles, you can learn to identify any bird you come across. Every bird you see is different in some way and, if you want to, you can spend a lifetime learning about them. 

These pages provide useful tips to help get you started. Browse the links on the left-hand side. The most important thing to remember is to enjoy watching and listening.

How you can help

Not sure what that bird is?