Posted by: atowhee | February 20, 2017


Here are three images of locally common birds, darkened so colors are not clearly evident.  Look at the shapes.  I often tell my birding classes that birds on wire or in treetops are often identifiable by shape alone.  Despite back-lighting, no lighting, sun glare or distant…some shapes tell you the bird’s identity. In this part of Oregon we have about ten medium-sized species that all like to sit in the open…each has its own shape.  Here are three:shape-3shape1shape2

Top shape: Round head, body with serious rotundity, abrupt ending of torso then a long, narrow tail without tapering or fanning out.  Blunt tail end.  Beak sharp, so not a seed eater.  The outstanding feature of this profile: those wing tips parallel to the body, not tucked against the sides.  Perhaps the chubby body pushes out the wings and the feathers can’t bend back inward at their tips.  I don’t know of any other medium-sized bird around here who so often perches high in the open with wing tips visible.

Middle shape: long, sharp beak, body that tapers downward and a tail that is not long but ends in two parallel spikes.  Flicker.  You don’t need to see the black collar or white rump patch for this one.  Plus we have few woodpeckers hereabouts that sit in open…Acorns and an occasional Pileated.

Bottom shape: Beak with strong convex upper mandible. Long with sharp end, the beak of an omnivore. Slender body of a well-honed athlete.  Long tail that ends in rounded shape.  Wings tight against the sides until the very tip.  Scrub-Jay.

Bonus picture:2kestrlThese two Kestrels, BTW, were sitting on those same branches again today, three days after I took this picture.  I gotta believe this pair is preparing to nest nearby this spring, Joe Dancer Park.  I hope McMinnville Parks don’t use lots of pesticides on all that playing field lawn grass.

Notice how their falcon wings reach almost to the tip of the long tail!  The round head sits almost on the birds’ shoulders, neckless (not necklace).  They often tilt the their tail up and down while perched.  They are slightly more heavyset than the jay, not tapered sharply like the flicker, make the robin look pudgier than he really is.  This is a sleekly muscled bird built for bursts of speed.  If you get a look at a Merlin, double everything I’ve said for the kestrels.

Starting at the end of March I will teach a spring birding class for the McMinnville Park & Rec Department. Click here for info.  If you have the city’s spring class catalog my class is listed on page 27. 


  1. Got the jay. I could not find where you listed the an swer the first shape. I will go with robin because of the eye ring and that they are F AT from worms not seeds.

    m a

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