Do you ever look at your arms and wish they were wings? Wouldn't it be incredible to stretch out a pair of wings and lift yourself into the air? Where would you go if you could fly?

It would probably be easier to get to school. You might also not ride your bike to your friend's house if you could simply glide through the air and land on his front porch. Of course, you'd have to learn to share the air with the birds in your neighborhood!

Have you ever taken the time to get to know the birds in your neighborhood? Do you know which feathered friends share the air space around your house? Can you identify all the types of birds that call your area home?

Sure, there are a few birds that you can probably identify easily. Beautiful red cardinals and brilliant blue jays are easy to spot. You might also be able to identify a woodpecker, a mallard duck, a turkey, or even an ostrich or penguin if they wandered through your yard.

But what about a house finch, a tufted titmouse, a dark-eyed junco, a chickadee, or an evening grosbeak? Yes, those are real birds and chances are some of them might live in your own backyard.

Bird watching, or birding as the hobby is sometimes known, is a popular pastime enjoyed by millions of people around the world. Those people, usually called birders, love to catch a glimpse of new species of birds. They're always on the lookout for feathered friends flying in the skies, resting in the trees, and hanging around bird feeders.

When birders spot a new species they've never seen before, they often make note of it in a special journal. Many birders keep track of the types of birds they've seen and can often tell you exactly how many species they've seen in the wild.

Birders often carry cameras to capture pictures of the birds they see, so they can add photographs to their journals to create a unique memento of their hobby. Birding can be challenging, though, since there are so many different types of birds. Scientists estimate there are probably over 9,800 known types of birds.

So how do you go about identifying a bird that you see? Like any skill, birding takes practice. Fortunately, there are many experts that can help you. A trip to your local library will yield multiple books about birds and how to identify them. You can also access a wide variety of online resources to help you.

As you begin to identify unknown birds, you'll learn that there are certain traits you need to watch for. For example, many birds can be identified easily by the shape of their wings or bills (another name for beak). Other birds might have distinctive physical characteristics, such as their size, color, or song.

Over time, you'll be able to identify birds more quickly by recognizing what group of birds it belongs to. Common groups of birds with similar traits include raptors, songbirds, cranes, and shorebirds. Once you narrow it down to a particular group, it's much easier to use a field guide or the Internet to figure out exactly which species you're looking at.

So how many birds can you identify in your backyard? Get outside and find out! Observe birds in their natural habitat and research the ones you can't identify. With a little practice, you'll identify and learn all about the feathered friends that call your backyard home.

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