A large portion of the bird behavior we admire is instinctive and associated with particular species and families. So as you look for field marks, notice the bird's body language. It will give you many clues to its identity.
Some birds flip their tails as they move or perch. The tail may be cocked at an angle over the back, fanned open or closed, wagged, bobbed, or pumped up or down. Some birds constantly bob their bodies up and down as they walk or stand; others bob or jerk occasionally, while others sway back and forth as they walk.
Birds BehaviorSome birds hop like a sparrow. Some run or walk. They may climb trees straight up, hitch up or back down them, walk headfirst down them, or cling upside down. Many birds wade like herons and egrets, or swim like ducks and geese. Some aquatic species feed by dabbling or tipping up their bodies with their heads and necks beneath the surface. Others dive completely below the surface. BEWICK'S WREN holds its tail high above its back as it hops, often flicking it from side to side. The PAINTED REDSTART spreads its tail, flashing the white outer tail feathers.The BLUE-WINGED TEAL dabbles for food. The TRICOLORED HERON wades.
Birds Behavior 2Notice whether the bird forages on the ground, in the treetops, or at the mid-story level. Shorebirds may stay on the dry sand or away from the water's edge on a mudflat, or they may wade in the shallows, while some species may wade up to their bellies. Some shorebirds pick at their food while others drill and probe rapidly in the mud. The GREAT EGRET flashes its long white plumes in courtship display. These MOURNING DOVES are foraging on the ground.
Birds Behavior 3Many species exhibit distinctive display behaviors during breeding season. They may dance like Prairie-Chickens, cranes, or Western Grebes; skylark like sparrows or buntings; or put on the aerial shows of woodcock and snipe. Many species, especially ground-nesters, will try to lead intruders away from the nest with distraction displays including the broken-wing or crippled-bird act.