Identification - Size

Surprisingly, the size of a bird will often help in identifying a new bird even more than color.

However, it can be very difficult for new birders (and experienced birders) to estimate a bird's size. You will rarely hear someone describe a bird as "between 7 and 8 inches in length". Instead, they say "It was a little smaller than a Robin".

Comparing an unknown bird to another bird we are all familiar with is easy and remarkably accurate. For very confusing birds, like shorebirds, it is helpful to describe a bird in relation to other birds in the same area. For example, "It is bigger than the Killdeer ".
For starters, use these as guidelines:

Smaller than a Sparrow   2 to   5 inches
Sparrow Size   5 to   8 inches
Robin Size   8 to 12 inches
Pigeon Size 12 to 16 inches
Crow Size 16 to 24 inches
Goose Size 24 to 36 inches
Larger than a Goose 36 to 72 inches

In your field guide, measurements are from the tip of the beak to the tip of the tail, when the bird is lying flat on its back. For birds with very long legs or necks, these measurements can be deceiving. In that case, it may be better to refer to the overall size of the bird's body. Most observers tend to overestimate the size of a bird.

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