Size and shape are powerful tools used to identify birds. Size is a good first indicator. However, the silhouette is extremely useful in identifying birds. The outline, rather than color, including neck length, wingspan, and body shape is diagnostic. The shape of the beak, wings, and tail provide additional clues. Together with gauging size, recognizing the shape facilitates the identification of bird species. However, variations within species should be taken into account.
Comparing shape and size of an unknown bird to that of known birds will aid in identification. Recognizing the gestalt, a combination of specific characteristics and overall impressions, is useful in identifying a species of bird.