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How to ID a bird of prey successfully


mgsontour
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I'm always seeing birds of prey but never certain which species it is apart from being a raptor, I know some are bigger, more red etc but when you only see a single bird we have nothing to compare it too. . . . so. . . .  is there a quick way of ID-ing them or dismissing certain types in order to know what it is?

 

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Learning silhouettes is a great way to start. Colours can lie, but the shape of a bird rarely does.  Most of the common species of raptor can be separated by the outline alone. If you get yourself a good birdbook (I vote Collins guides, NOT RSPB ones!) you'll be able to see drawings of the birds in flight and at rest. Pay attention to wing width, shape and pointiness at the ends. 

Size is harder, because there can be crossover and can be hard to judge, but if you're able to compare it to an imagined bird, even if you can't see it in the flesh, you can get an idea of the raptor's size. i.e. bigger than a crow? MUCH bigger than a crow? etc. 

Then it's just a matter of patience, experience and looking something up. When you see something, don't think 'what's that?' Think. 'right it's got this, this and this, but not that'. commit that to memory, so you can look it up later. You'll get there. There aren't that many to worry about and the vast majority of them will be one of only a single hand of species!

Edited by chrisjpainter
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16 minutes ago, chrisjpainter said:

Learning silhouettes is a great way to start. Colours can lie, but the shape of a bird rarely does.  Most of the common species of raptor can be separated by the outline alone. If you get yourself a good birdbook (I vote Collins guides, NOT RSPB ones!) you'll be able to see drawings of the birds in flight and at rest. Pay attention to wing width, shape and pointiness at the ends. 

Size is harder, because there can be crossover and can be hard to judge, but if you're able to compare it to an imaginary bird, even if you can't see it in the flesh, you can an idea of the raptor's size. i.e. bigger than a crow? MUCH bigger than a crow? etc. 

Then it's just a matter of patience, experience and looking something up. When you see something, don't think 'what's that?' Think. 'right it's got this, this and this, but not that'. commit that to memory, so you can look it up later. You'll get there. There aren;t that many to worry about and the vast majority of them will be one of only a single hand of species!

Thanks, just the kind of education I likes ( RSPB make really good cartridges as I saw a mate the other day ( normally a decent shot ) have a bad day and I was convinced he was using them ) but will look at the Collins guides, cheers

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Another vote for Collins.

There are not many birds of prey and if you are keen it will not take long for you to master it.

Don't even think about wader ID to start with or even trying to classify Wagtails.

20210913_095837.jpg

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@JDog's copy is the photoguide, I have the illustrated guide (which is better is a war we can have elsewhere!), but both are much better than the RSPB ones. Here's a page from the illustrated one, with the sparrowhawk and goshawk page, two species where size is critical, but it also gives a quick silhouette comparison between kestrel and sparrowhawk, which shows how easy it can be to split species using silhouette alone

image.png.da7d53b5664a48224ce22e2f2bec4d6f.png

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4 hours ago, chrisjpainter said:

@JDog's copy is the photoguide, I have the illustrated guide (which is better is a war we can have elsewhere!), but both are much better than the RSPB ones. Here's a page from the illustrated one, with the sparrowhawk and goshawk page, two species where size is critical, but it also gives a quick silhouette comparison between kestrel and sparrowhawk, which shows how easy it can be to split species using silhouette alone

image.png.da7d53b5664a48224ce22e2f2bec4d6f.png

Nice one; appreciated

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I prefer illustrations to photographs for ID. No idea why, nostalgia or is the illustrator focusing you on the important details rather than a photo editor just lazy deciding “yes, that’s a picture of a hen harrier” without thinking if it is showing the key traits. 

Just completed the quiz, after a deflating Monday it’s nice to know I’m at least good for something 🤣

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My eyes are nowhere as good as they once were although I can still spot objects and items that seem out of place on the marsh , well one day last week I was having a wander when in the distance was a bird of prey that was huge , it was gliding over the marsh and various birds were mocking it , far bigger than the Harriers and the Buzzard's we see daily , the only thing I thought it might had been was the Eagle that have been reported in the Eastern regions . now for the last few days I have taken my binoculars I have seen no sign of it .:hmm:

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12 minutes ago, marsh man said:

My eyes are nowhere as good as they once were although I can still spot objects and items that seem out of place on the marsh , well one day last week I was having a wander when in the distance was a bird of prey that was huge , it was gliding over the marsh and various birds were mocking it , far bigger than the Harriers and the Buzzard's we see daily , the only thing I thought it might had been was the Eagle that have been reported in the Eastern regions . now for the last few days I have taken my binoculars I have seen no sign of it .:hmm:

Leave them behind for a day. That'll get it to turn up!

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