Our west coast finches are easy to confuse. In this little guide, I tried to put the similar male and female species together so you can scan back and forth to see the differences. The hardest birds for me were the American vs Lesser goldfinch females. I think looking at the wing bars vs that little white dot below the primaries on the Lesser goldfinch is really helpful there. Also, the Purple and House finch are difficult to tell apart as well without a bit of careful study.
I made this Identification guide for our most common pond and lake denizens. It starts with our most common duck, the Mallard then goes on to other nice dabbling ducks that can look similar to the female mallard. All ducks have some sort of distinguishing field mark, and I tried to point out each one here. Some ducks, like the glorious Wood Duck, are much easier to identify in the field than the subtly beautiful Gadwall.
After we look at dabblers (ducks that tip their butts in the air to find a tasty morsel while floating) we go on to diving ducks, geese, and then a few common pond co-habitants.
I know there are more ducks, more plumages, I’m missing, but if you master these, you’ll know to be on the lookout for more uncommon ducks!
Our four most common neighborhood thrushes. Robins are found in every county of Oregon, every month of the year. Varied thrushes breed at higher altitudes, but will come down to the valley in the winter. Western bluebirds are found (if you are lucky) wherever trees and fields meet, and Hermit thrushes are secretive lil guys that can be found most reliably in winter when the leaves aren’t obscuring our view.
Woodpeckers sure are wonderful, and they are fortunately pretty easy to identify. The trickiest two are the Downy and Hairy Woodpecker. If you see a woodpecker with a big white spot on its back, its definitely one of these two. From there you have to start looking at its size, bill size, and what its foraging on.
Its sure can be tricky to identify accipiters. But, it gets easier with time. Use this infographic to get an idea of what to look for in the field. One of the easiest field marks is actually their size. Cooper’s hawks are ALWAYS bigger than Sharpies. Females of both species are larger than males, but a female sharpie can be as big as, but not normally bigger than a male Cooper’s hawk. Also, these guys are tricky! Its ok to not identify every single one. Sometimes its fine to just say you saw an accipiter and feel good about that.
Crows, ravens and jays! Oh my! Corvids are some of the most common neighborhood birds in the west coast, so it is definitely worth learning these smart birds. Also, we don’t have blue jays so stop calling them that!