Bird Fact Friday – How to identify birds in various light conditions

From page 5 in Hawks from Every Angle:

Understanding how various light conditions can affect the appearance of raptors is important in identification. Lightly colored birds can lack contrast and appear uniformly dark in poor light, such as when backlit or against a cloudy sky, whereas true dark morph birds show a contrast underneath between the body and flight feathers. By contrast, birds can look paler than usual when illuminated by highly reflective ground cover such as snow, sand, and pale grasses. Several conditions affect the way a bird’s size and shape are perceived. Against a bright blue sky, birds often appear smaller than usual; however, birds may appear larger than usual when observed against cloud cover.

hawksHawks from Every Angle
How to Identify Raptors In Flight
Jerry Liguori
Foreword by David A. Sibley

Identifying hawks in flight is a tricky business. Across North America, tens of thousands of people gather every spring and fall at more than one thousand known hawk migration sites—from New Jersey’s Cape May to California’s Golden Gate. Yet, as many discover, a standard field guide, with its emphasis on plumage, is often of little help in identifying those raptors soaring, gliding, or flapping far, far away. Hawks from Every Angle takes hawk identification to new heights. It offers a fresh approach that literally looks at the birds from every angle, compares and contrasts deceptively similar species, and provides the pictures (and words) needed for identification in the field. Jerry Liguori pinpoints innovative, field-tested identification traits for each species at the various angles that they are seen.

Featuring 339 striking color photos on 68 color plates and 32 black & white photos, Hawks from Every Angle is unique in presenting a host of meticulously crafted pictures for each of the 19 species it covers in detail—the species most common to migration sites throughout the United States and Canada. All aspects of raptor identification, including plumage, shape, and flight style traits, are discussed. For all birders who follow hawk migration and have found themselves wondering if the raptor in the sky does in fact match the one in the guide, Hawks from Every Angle—distilling an expert’s years of experience for the first time into a comprehensive array of truly useful photos and other pointers for each species—is quite simply a must.

This post is part of a series, explore additional posts here<< Bird Fact Friday – Weekly Warbler: Yellow warblerBird Fact Friday – Why do birds molt? >>