Can You Identify Birds from Just a Silhouette?

In a perfect world every bird would pose on a bare branch in the full sun. That bare branch would always be real close to you and to your camera. That bird would slowly turn, showing off all aspects of its plumage and design, always while in full sun. That bird on the bare branch would patiently remain on that branch while you called over all twelve of your birding chums. As all of your loudly talking birding chums fumbled up their binoculars, scopes and cameras that bird would continue to pose.

Ah, but that is not our world.

In our birding world, the scenario described above has a rare-to-never occurrence rate. Birds are often secretive and private. Branches, leaves and the sun seem to almost have a perverse sense of humor when it comes to birding. Ergo, we must be prepared to meet these challenges head on and to identify birds under imperfect conditions. One of those imperfect conditions? Bad lighting. I refer to bird watching when the lighting is either so bright or so low that all you can see is a SILHOUETTE image.

Many bird guides, such as Cornell University’s Merlin Bird ID, offer silhouette images of the major categories of birds. Study these bird silhouettes.

San Vito Bird Club member Tom Wilkinson recently sent me a wonderful photo (see below). It is not actually a silhouette but a shadow! See if you can identify what group this bird belongs to and maybe even what species it is. Take a moment if necessary; and then scroll down to see a photo of the actual bird.

Here is the actual bird; living up in the roof of Tom’s house!

A Tropical Screech Owl! Listen to the Tropical Screech Owl by clicking the link below. The call is quite common at night. Click the green Listen button in the lower right of the screen to hear it.

Perhaps you have some silhouette or shadowy photos of birds? Send them to me and we’ll get them posted on this website and maybe have some fun.

And one other thing. At the start of this article I mentioned ‘…in a perfect world…’. Upon reflection, the world we live in is already a perfect world, even with its many flaws and frustrations.

Send your silhouette photos to: