Bird, wildlife, and landscape photography by Jon Rista
Backyard Birding: Male vs. Female
I’ve spent a couple of weeks photographing birds for my backyard birding project. In that time, I’ve learned one critical thing: Identifying bird species can be a pain! When you have males around, identification can be fairly strait forward. Each male of a species of passerine (song/perching bird) has a fairly unique appearance of color and pattern. However at times, there seems to be nothing but females around…and all the females look very similar to each other. Sparrow females are easy to spot, as they have that tiny, curvy sparrow shape and a lighter brown. A lot of females of other bird species have very similar size, color, and pattern. Most female bird coloring is dull and drab, usually a variety of grayish-brown of varying colors, usually with spots or partial stripes. I’m still trying to sort out the females of the grackles, redwing blackbirds, and cowbirds. They all have pretty much identical size, and all seem to have roughly the same color with only slightly varying patterns. Every so often a bird will show up that looks mostly like the rest, but has a unique pattern…and I can never tell for sure if its a species I’ve already seen, or an entirely different species. Most bird identification information online seems to be based on male coloring and pattern, with very little searchable information about females of each species.
To top it all off, I think some of the individuals I’ve encountered may be juvenile. That might account for the rarer unique individual that joins the growing throng (I may have offered too much seed!!) I think I observed a few juvenile male redwing blackbird…they had a color and pattern similar to what I believe are redwing females, however they also had the beginnings of the vibrant red and orange pattern the stark black males have on the back edges of their wings. The featured photo of this blog is an example of a bird I have yet to identify…is it a female, or a juvenile? Its much darker in general than the females I’ve observed so far, but it doesn’t have the redwing’s colors. I do believe it is a redwing blackbird…the beak gives this one away… I’ll see if I can keep an eye on it, maybe it will exhibit more pronounced male features as it grows if it is a juvenile.