Bird & Wing ID

Identification Tools

Hunting migratory birds requires knowledge of the species you plan to harvest. Information such as habitat preferences, diet, and plumage characteristics are all important in confidently finding flocks and recognizing the correct birds to shoot. Below are some helpful resources for identifying birds in flight for your next hunt.

Waterfowl

The USFWS Waterfowl ID : A Guide to Identifying North American Waterfowl contains full-color photos, video footage, and illustrations of 37 duck, goose, and swan species. Learn more about their behavior, migration patterns, and the sounds they make. Also available are flock patterns and wing characteristics that will help you identify North American waterfowl in the field or on the fly!

Doves

There are 4 species of dove that can be hunted in the United States. These species include mourning dove, white-winged dove, Eurasian collared-dove, and band-tailed pigeon. Eurasian collared-dove harvests do not need to be reported to the USFWS because they are a non-native bird species. Band-tailed pigeon can be distinguished from mourning and white-winged doves by their large size. In the hand or using binoculars, they can also be differentiated by a white neck band and yellow bill.

Band-tailed Pigeon
Band-tailed Pigeon. Credit: USFWS

Cranes

Sandhill cranes are the only legal crane species that can be hunted in the United States. They may be confused with whooping cranes, a federal endangered species that migrates from North Dakota to Texas and Wisconsin to Florida. It is important to be sure you know the difference between whooping cranes and sandhill cranes. Below are images that outline similarities and differences between cranes and other lookalikes.

Whooping Cranes and Birds Which Appear Similar. Credit: USFWS
Whooping Cranes and Birds Which Appear Similar. Credit: USFWS

Sandhill Cranes. Credit: USFWS
Sandhill Cranes. Credit: USFWS

Sandhill Cranes. Credit: USFWS
Sandhill Cranes. Credit: USFWS

Sexing and aging birds in the hand

Interested to know the sex or age of a bird you harvested? For ducks, aspects of plumage such as feather wear, iridescence, patterns, and more can often tell you how old a bird is and whether it is a male or female. To learn more, watch our

 USFWS Video Series on Duck ID using Wing Feathers. If you are interested in learning how to age or sex a woodcock, check out the  Sexing and Aging American Woodcock (2.3 MB) guide put together by Michigan DNR.

Last Updated: October 14, 2021