New England Bird Identification

New England Bird Identification
The New England states are home to many species of birds, some of which migrate south in the winter and others that remain year-round. While some of these birds are identifiable by their colors, people may recognize a few by their behavior. In some cases, the call or song of a bird allows an individual to distinguish immediately one species of bird from another species. Other birds' shapes are a giveaway to species while still others are typically found in certain settings. By knowing a few basic facts about New England birds and with the help of a bird guide you can identify many of the more visible species.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Field guide to New England bird species
  • Field guide to New England bird species
Step 1
Identify some New England birds by their call. People often hear the mourning dove, the catbird, the blue jay and the crow well before they see them. The mourning dove has a soft "coo-coo" call. The catbird's constant call as it hops from branch to branch resembles a cat meowing. The blue jay is loud and its cries of "jay, jay, jay" echo throughout the landscape. Identify a crow by its loud "caw, caw, caw" as it flies overhead or goes from tree to tree in large flocks.
Step 2
Make a positive identification of certain birds in New England by their colors. The bluebird has an unmistakable bluish back and head with a rust-colored breast. The northern cardinal is all red except for a highly visible black "mask" around an orange bill. Look for the flash of red on the shoulders of the red-winged blackbird. Watch for the black and gold pattern of the male goldfinch.
Step 3
Allow the behavior of some New England birds to give away their identity. The American robin will frequent your lawn in the springtime, hopping about with its head cocked in search of earthworms. The barn swallow will swoop low over fields and bodies of water feeding on insects in an acrobatic display. Observe the white-breasted nuthatch as its goes down a tree headfirst while seeking insects. See how brown-headed cowbirds will follow horses and cows in a field eating the bugs that they stir up.
Step 4
Recognize many New England birds by their shape. The great blue heron is a long-legged wader with a curved neck and elongated beak that walks along the shores of bodies of water looking for aquatic creatures to eat. The mute swan has a very long muscular neck that looks like the letter "S" as it swims in ponds, lakes and river coves. The turkey vulture holds the feathers at the ends of its long wings out almost like fingers and rarely flaps its wings as it soars in the sky. The tufted titmouse has a crested head and is often a visitor to backyard feeders.
Step 5
Expect certain birds to exist in certain habitats and identify them with the help of where in New England they live. Farms and wide-open fields are the favorite habitat of the killdeer, a large plover that often builds its nest in the grass. Look for the Canada goose and mallard duck in groups near different bodies of water. Check the highest point around in an urban setting for the northern mockingbird, a bird that imitates the songs of others. Watch the treetops on both sides of a stream or river for cedar waxwings as they fly from one side to another while grabbing insects from the air.

Keep Me Informed

Weekly newsletters, announcements and offers from to your inbox.

Sign me up!

We HATE spam and promise to keep your email addresses safe and secure.