BIRDING BY HINDSIGHT: A Second Look at Identification References

[Author's Note, August 2010 – The have been two Hindsight articles with updated information on more recent journal articles: and]

At the time of this writing (mid-January), you’ve probably already been over to Blue Lake a dozen times to see that Tufted Duck. It’s certainly a great bird, but it still looks the same as it swims around in those less-than-pristine waters.

So now what to do until spring migration gets underway in a couple months? Drive north to look for boreal specialties? Perhaps, although the owling and finching thus far during this third consecutive mild winter are not all that spectacular. Or fly south to Texas to look for exotic strays along the Rio Grande? Not a bad idea, although after looking at Green Jays dozens of times they become as routine as Tufted Ducks. Also routine are those 70 degree temperatures you have to put up with day after day.

Here’s another idea. Stay home and study up on those bird identification challenges you’ve been struggling with over the years. That way, you’ll be ready to face with confidence all those migrants which will be returning soon. Regular readers of this Hindsight series certainly know by now that this involves much more than thumbing through your trusty National Geographic field guide. Indeed, one of the articles in this series (see was an annotated listing of books on identification devoted to specific bird groups. This present article is a supplement to that: a list of articles in various journals which also discuss specific ID problems.

As with the other articles in this series, only information on birds which have been found in Minnesota is included. And note this is hardly intended to be your assigned reading list to be completed by the vernal equinox. This listing is something to refer to from time to time when you find yourself in need of additional “beyond-the-field-guides” ID information on a particular species. Note as well this list is more subjective than it is comprehensive. Excluded are some articles which I consider to be of limited value, and there are probably other ID articles I am unaware of which would be of use to Minnesota birders.

Eight journals are referred to, some of them easier to find than others. To find those less familiar journals and those older articles listed, it would probably be best to contact myself or someone else with a library of birding journals who might then be able to lend you the articles to read or photocopy. [Author's Note, July 2016 – The content of some of these journals are now available on-line; see the cited websites for more information.]

These periodicals are:

North American Birds (previously American Birds): formerly published by

   National Audubon Society; now a quarterly publication of American Birding

   Association (; currently called North American Birds.

Auk: quarterly journal, primarily of scientific articles, of the American

   Ornithologists’ Union (

Birders Journal: bimonthly Canadian journal (8 Midtown Drive, Suite 289,

   Oshawa, ON, Canada L1J 8L2). [Author's Note, July 2016 – This journal has

   ceased publication.]

Birding: published bimonthly by American Birding Association (see above).

Birding World: monthly British journal (not to be confused with Birder’s World;

British Birds: another monthly British journal (

The Loon: the quarterly journal of Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union.

[Author's Note, July 2016 – Western Birds, published by Western Field Ornithologists ( has occasional ID articles and is now recommended in place of The Western Tanager newsletter (which was included in the original version of this article).]

Without further ado, following are the ID articles from these journals:

Ross’s Goose

Auk 88:856–875

Birding 25:50–53


Birding 23:88–91

Birding 26:306–318

Female-plumaged ducks

American Birds 42:1203–1205

The Loon 68:168–172 (


Birding 23:124–133

Tufted Duck

Birding 30:370–383


Birding 18:17–27

Common and Red-breasted mergansers

American Birds 44:1203–1205


Birding 20:12–28

British Birds 79:365–391

Horned and Eared grebes

American Birds 46:1187–1190

Western and Clark’s grebes

Birding 27:54–55

The Loon 61:99–108 (reprinted in Birding 25:304–310)

Snowy Egret and Little Blue Heron

American Birds 45:330–333


American Birds 42:169–171

Birding 31:410–415

Glossy and White-faced ibis

Birders Journal 1:241–256

Birding 8:1–5

The Loon 67:123–129


The Loon 70:110–115 (


American Birds 37:822–826


American Birds 33:236–240

Birding 16:251–263

Red-tailed Hawk

American Birds 39:127–133

American Birds 40:197–202


Birding 32:22–29

Birding World 6:67–74


The Loon 67:100–103 (

The Loon 68:121–124 (


Birding 14:172–178

Semipalmated, Western, and Least sandpipers

American Birds 38:853–876 (and reprinted 41:212–236)

White-rumped and Baird’s sandpipers

Birding 19(2):10–13

Dunlin and Curlew sandpipers

American Birds 44:189–192


Birding 15:151–166

Birding World 8:221–228


The Loon 67:157–161 (

Laughing and Franklin’s gulls

Birding 26:126–127

Black-headed and Bonaparte’s gulls

American Birds 47:1156–1159

Mew and Ring-billed gulls

American Birds 34:111–117

Birding 25:386–401

Thayer’s and Iceland gulls

Birders Journal 7:305–309

Birding 12:198–210

Birding 23:254–269

Glaucous-winged Gull

The Loon 68:3–13

Common, Arctic, and Forster’s terns

American Birds 41:184–187

Birding 25:94–108


Birding 28:129–131

Birding 29:372–385


The Loon 69:155–160 (

Woodpecker drumming

Birding 24:351–355

Empidonax flycatchers

Birding 17:151–158

Birding 17:277–287

Birding 18:153–159

Birding 18:315–327

Ash-throated and Great Crested flycatchers

American Birds 36:241–247

The Loon 63:4–11

Tree, Northern Rough-winged, and Bank swallows

Birding 17:209–211

Birding 28:111–116


American Birds 46:159–162

Warbler songs and call notes

Birding 25:159–168

The Loon 70:52–57 (

Fall warblers

The Loon 69:95–99 (

Orange-crowned, Yellow, Hooded, and Wilson’s warblers

American Birds 45:167–170

Pine, Bay-breasted, and Blackpoll warblers

Birding 15:219–222

Birding 28:284–291

Connecticut, Mourning, and MacGillivray’s warblers

Birding 22:222–229

Chipping, Clay-colored, and Brewer’s sparrows

Birding 28:374–387

Le Conte’s Sparrow

Birding 24:70–76


Birders Journal 7:68–93


American Birds 42:3–5

Rose-breasted and Black-headed grosbeaks

Birding 23:220–223

Lazuli and Indigo buntings

Birding 8:135–139


Birding 8:349–352

Rusty and Brewer’s blackbirds

Birders Journal 4:97–101

Baltimore and Bullock’s orioles

Birding 30:282–295

Purple and Cassin’s finches

American Birds 40:1125–1127

Birding 8:231–234

Birding 23:157–158

The Loon 60:3–9

Red Crossbill

Birding 27:494–501


Auk 109:771–785

Birders Journal 5:44–47

Birding 27:446–457

Birding World 9:6–69

British Birds 84:41–56

The Loon 69:214–216 (

Songs and calls

The Loon 68:62–66 (

The Loon 69:32–37 (

The Loon 70:52–57 (

The Loon 71:42–46 (

*          *          *

There’s certainly more to be written about all this, more articles I could have listed: e.g., articles on the ID of species with potential for being seen in the state (see, But, no time now, I have to finish packing. By the time you read this, I will probably be enduring the routine of yet another day of Green Jays and temperatures in the 70s.