Brain training for birder’s: ID’s from the hip

Brain training for birders: Identifications from the hip…

As all of us know, live birds rarely pose as nicely as they do in our field guides 😉. Many birds, such as thrushes, warblers and sparrows, have a tendency to keep moving about as they forage. More difficult still, they often flush after a moment and….c’est tout… we’re left with calling the ID or letting it go. One trick I’ve found helpful is either printing images of birds and having a friend, family member or loved one hold on to them. This exercise can also be accomplished by having a powerpoint-style presentation set up on your computer. From a fair distance away, ready your binoculars. Try having them raise and cycle through a pile of images at a set time interval. For example, every ten seconds. In order to get the full effect of this exercise, you must call the ID out or mention “pass.” As you begin to become accustomed to 1) the time interval and 2) your skill threshold, I suggest decreasing the time interval. Five seconds is still a generous amount of time, so why not only two….or, one? 😉.


I guarantee right away you’ll find that the act of having to identify distant images through your binoculars is far more challenging than flipping through a field guide and you’ll be readying yourself for some fast draws next spring!