Four-Steps to Positive Bird Identification

Step 1.

From the app's home screen, tap on a bird group most similar to the bird you observed (Owls, Hummingbirds, Woodpeckers, etc.)
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Step 2.

Quickly swipe through the screens displaying similar birds until you find a likely looking group.
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Step 3.

Tap to show range maps for the displayed birds. Eliminate candidate birds not in your location.
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Step 4.

Return to the illustrations screen, activate audio, and tap the illustrations of the candidate birds to compare bird songs.
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After completing these four steps, there is a very good chance that you will have correctly identified the bird you observed. And, if you are still unsure, tap the details icon of the bird you think is closest to find links to more similar birds.

It's that simple!

Try it yourself with the graphic below.

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Download Peterson Backyard Birds from the iTunes app store    Download Peterson Birds from the iTunes app store    Download Peterson Birds Pocket Edition from the iTunes app store
Ask any bird watcher and they will tell you, identifying birds is not easy. In fact, it can be infuriatingly difficult. But that is part of what makes it such a fun challenge.
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Over 75 years ago, Roger Tory Peterson decided that everybody should have access to information that would help them identify the birds they see around in their environment. His landmark book, Guide to the Birds, published in 1934, highlighted field markings that helped to differentiate one species from another.

Peterson developed a unique system of arrows to pinpoint field marks. His famous illustrations feature these arrows and they are one of the reasons his books are so popular.
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The arrows are known as The Peterson Identification System. The system became so popular that it found it's way into just about every field guide written since.

Editors at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt have continually revised and added to Peterson's original field guides, in pursuit of his original goal: to make it possible for everyone to identify birds.

The Peterson mobile apps benefit from the thousands and thousands of hours birding experts at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt have put into making the books easier to use. Apps take their core design, organization, and content from the books. They then extend this with features common to mobile devices, such as audio for bird songs, all with the goal of making bird identification easier.

On the left you will see the four-step process you can use with the Peterson apps to help you identify birds. This process is by no means fool-proof, but it will put you squarely on the path of making a positive identification.

About Peterson Field Guides

Peterson mobile apps are made available by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which publishes over 50 books in the Peterson Field Guide series. For more information about HMH, please visit


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