West Virginia Bird Identification

In West Virginia, you can spot the blue heron near water.
In West Virginia, you can spot the blue heron near water. (Image: great blue heron image by Earl Robbins from Fotolia.com)

West Virginia is home to a diverse bird population in both the summer and winter months. Learning to identify these birds correctly can be challenging for the inexperienced. Understanding the different methods that can be used in identification is important for beginners.

Time Frame

Although birdwatching can take place anywhere, keep several factors in mind. The birds you identify will depend on which season it is. Spring offers birds that are breeding, and therefore colors of the plumage will be bright. In the fall, the colors will be more subdued, according to the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. The time of day also plays a factor, with midmorning being a great time to identify birds.


Several species of birds are present throughout West Virginia. Herons and loons are easily identified birds that are present throughout the area. Ducks and grebes are two prevalent swimming bird species, according to Norma Jean Venable at West Virginia University. Mergansers are also common, and several owl species can be spotted during the evening hours.


Bird identification is often easier when aware of the geography. Swimming birds such as ducks and loons are usually found near water sources and loons have difficulties walking on land, states Venable. Herons are typically spotted while wading in water or in flight due to their characteristic slow, steady wing flapping. Mergansers are usually spotted flying low over bodies of water. Wetlands and the edges of fields and woods are good locations for you to spot and identify various birds, states the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.


Identifying birds is easiest when you pay attention to colors and markings on the plumage. Noticing the size is also important. Some species, such as mergansers, are typically very small. Others, such as herons, can be quite large. The silhouette of a bird and the shape of its bill, tail and wings can also help you with identification, according to the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. For example, loons have distinctive torpedo-shaped bodies and pointed bills.


Although physical factors may be the biggest help in identifying West Virginia birds, observing the behavior and habits of a bird are often valuable sources of information. Consider the foods they are eating, such as insects or seeds, and whether they are finding the food in trees or on the ground, states the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. Being aware of the habits of certain bird species will help in identification.

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