Date: 2/20/17 6:18 pm
From: Harry Fuller <atowhee...>
Subject: [obol] nothing unusual--a bit on ordinary birds' shapes
As a colorblind birder and one with no great musical ability (learning bird
song for me was learning a new language) I searched for ways to help myself
"get" IDs of my most-often seen birds. Shape was my answer, over time.
After my 4000th scrub-jay on the wire I knew it wasn't a Mourning
Dove--larger head, blunt tail not pointed, big pointed beak, etc. As that
started to happen I worked harder at shapes, described them to myself,
remembered what was different about each bird, and I try to pass that along
to folks in my birding classes. Then I realized that folks with color
vision are often stumped when the light is bad or there's glare or the bird
is in deep shade or any of the myriad things that can alter a bird's
color. I once had a perfectly sane person tell me she had a green bird on
the ground in her garden. THat's all she could tell me. It was a Mourning
Dove in spring and the sun made the sheen so bright she couldn't see the
small head, black wing spots, pointed tail. She couldn't get beyond one
color to even considering the shape. I have also had a very good birder
spot a Mockingbird in unusual location as we sped past at 60 MPH... and we
turned the car around to confirm--scrub-jay in dull light so no blue
showed. As we neared I could see the bird's shape and knew she had made a
mistake. She;d seen the darkish gray and fallen for that. I now think my
colorblindness is an advantage about 90% of the time. When I see a
Ho/Purop/Cas Finch I don't bother with color--beak and tail does it every
time. So I am a shape kinda guy. This blog has three common
examples...and a bonus bird. If you teach birding classes or just help
friends, give 'em some shapely advice once in awhile.
That's a starling not a blackbird in the air. See the triangular wings that
are translucent? Blackbird wings are always slender and dark. They show
lots of tail, starlings very little tail.\

Harry Fuller
author of *Great Gray Owls of CA-OR-WA*, see:
author of *Freeway Birding*, see: *
birding website:
my birding blog:

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