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Nature in it's glory

Nature in it's glory

Oct 27, 2011

Bird identification and the color of legs, feet and bill

American Black Duck

          In order to identify a bird accurately many things need to be taken into consideration, such as body, bill, wing and tail shape,or eye stripes, crests, spots and streaks, color etc. Some birds however are especially difficult to distinguish from other species of birds, either because they appear to be almost identical to another species, or they have very few identifying field marks.

          This is where the color of a bird's feet, bill or legs can come in handy.  Some birds have very bright and colorful legs, like the American Black duck and the Lesser Yellow legs, and some have lightly colored legs, such as pink, gray and even green.  The same holds true for bills and feet.

Lesser Yellowlegs
          With the more difficult to identify species, the coloring of legs, feet and bill can make positive identification of a species possible.  The Dark-eyed Junco, for example, has an apparent twin at first glance.  It's name is Black Phoebe and it has the same light and dark color pattern.  However, they can be separated.  Although I do not as yet have a photo of a Black Phoebe, the Black Phoebe has a black bill and legs, while the Dark-eyed Junco has a pink bill and legs.

Dark-eyed junco on fence
Dark-eyed Junco

          Herons are another family of species that it are sometimes difficult to distinguish accurately, especially since several species have a white morph variant in the family, like the Great Blue Heron and the Reddish Egret.

           The Snowy Egret has yellow feet and black legs, and is affectionately called Yellow slippers in some parts of the world.  The Great Egret, on the other hand, has a yellow bill, and black feet and legs.  A white morph Blue Heron has a yellow bill and pale legs, and the Reddish Egret in white morph has a dark or bi-colored bill.
          Notice that I simply labelled the photo above as Egret.  This is because the image is unclear and I do not have sight of the whole bird.  Although it seems to have a bi-colored bill the, bird is partly in shadow, and I can't see the legs accurately at all, so it makes it difficult to tell.  Unfortunately it is the only photo I have and my camera equipment at the time did not produce the greatest images.  Hopefully I will see this bird again in the future.


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