There are all kinds of techniques to locate and identify birds. In addition to size, plumage, and coloring it can be beneficial to learn the habits, songs, and feeding techniques of the most common birds in an area. Unfortunately, the birds do not read the same guide books, so they don’t always follow the rules.
A recent trip to Sweetwater Wetlands proves my point:
When I scan the tall trees against the horizon at Sweetwater I’m expecting a Cooper’s or Red-tailed or possibly a Harris’s Hawk, near dusk there’s a slight chance of a Great-horned Owl. Instead, 35 feet up in a cottonwood I found this Green Heron:
For a bird that fishes while perched like a statue on a low-lying limb over water this is truly out of character. Keeps us birders on our toes!