The Northeast is a beautiful location to begin or pursue the hobby of bird identification. The climate and flora varies from state to state enough to provide for the viewing of numerous species of birds. Bird-watching is both educational and enjoyable for those living in the Northeast as well as those visiting.
There are over 800 species of birds in the United States, many of which are indigenous only to the Northeast. Others are migratory and appear in these states at certain times of the year. Knowing the difference makes identification that much easier as both habitat and time of year are crucial to proper identification of birds.
In the United States the Northeast generally refers to the area that includes the New England states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. It also perceived to include the Mid-Atlantic states of Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey,
There are four basic keys to identifying birds. They are size and shape, color pattern, behavior, and habitat. When identifying birds in the Northeast, habitat is perhaps the most important key to consider. The wetlands and pine forests of Pennsylvania will be home to a variety of bird species that may not be found on the coast of Maine.
There are many good print resources for identifying birds of the Northeast, including "Field Guide to Backyard Birds of the Northeast" by Coolpress, 2008, or "Birds of the Northeast" by Winston Williams, World Publications, 1st edition, September 1989. Also any titles published by Peterson or Sibley are good. The Audubon Society also publishes field guides and has many local chapters you may consider joining. Online databases are useful if you take photos and document the locations where they are shot.
Once you have identified a bird, there are online lists available by state that you may print to keep track. They are also beneficial in the identification process that rules out birds not normally sited in your state. Do not disregard the sighting of a species of bird that is unusual for the Northeast, as it may be an indication of change in climate or habitat.
Watching and identifying birds in the Northeast may turn into more than just a fun pastime. Scientists are constantly studying birds, their migration patterns, nesting habits and even causes for a decline in a species population. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is always grateful for bird-watching volunteers to assist in their studies.
- Bald Eagle Sited in Pennsylvania. Image by ICM1863 http://www.flickr.com/photos/lcd1863/3490092062/sizes/m/