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cardinalBird Shape Identificationgeese line

Identifying birds and bird families is often done from a distance by observing the shape or silhouette.  Visual Categories can be helpful.

While you may not be able to do exact identification, shapes may help you identify a bird or at least its family.

To use the silhouettes below find which of the five groups the bird you are looking at fits into.  If there are more shapes in that category there will be a link below the silhouettes.  Learning shapes can help you identify birds.

Five Bird Groups

Predatory Birds

Silhouette types in Category

spotted owl

Bird types in group

Eagles, Hawks, Falcons Owls and Vultures are in this group.

eaglebird of prey

Song Birds - Perching land birds-Passerines

Perching land birds are the birds we know as song birds, flying from one perch to another.  Many are hard to sort by shape.

Silhouette types in Category

  song birds

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Bird types in group (largest group)

Blackbirds, Bluebirds, Chickadees, Creepers, Corvids, Larks, Nuthatches, Cardinals, Finches, Gnatcatchers, Grosbeaks, mockingbird, Meadowlark, Phoebes, Orioles, Pipits, Robins, Shrikes, Starlings, Vireos, Sparrows, Swallows, Tanagers, Thrushes, Thrashers, Tyrant, Flycatchers, Waxwings, Wagtails, Wrens ...

Non-passerine land Birds

Silhouette types in Category

land birds

Bird types in group

Cuckoos, Hummingbirds, Kingfishers, Parrots, Swifts, Woodpeckers

Waterfowl & Marshland Birds

Most water birds seldom stray from the water. The group includes swimmers, wading birds, Shorebirds, Upland water birds and Aerialists.

Silhouette types in Category

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Bird types in group

Ducks, Geese, Swans Loons, Grebes, Pelicans, Cormorants, Bitterns, Herons, Ibises, Shorebirds, Gulls, Terns, Rails, Coots Cranes

Land Fowl like Birds

Silhouette types in Category


Bird types in group

Doves, Grouse, Goatsuckers, Pheasants, Pigeons, Quails, Turkeys

The beaks or bills as well as feet tell a lot about a bird.  For more on body parts see Parts of a bird.       Check out our Bird charts

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