This is a list of cheat sheets and guides collected over the years to help with difficult identifications. Enjoy....
Warblers are small, colorful and quick. Many species exhibit plumage variations based on age and sex. This makes identification challenging, especially in Fall and Winter when first year birds can look quite different than their parents.
Download File (all-quick-finders.pdf)
The cute birds that run the beaches and skitter through the marshes can be puzzling. Not only are there plumage variations like the warblers, there are also changing patterns based on feather wear. Size and shape comparisons are often helpful. Here are a few clues
Nifty Chart from Audubon Arkansas
And just for fun - the most outrageous aid I have ever seen for Gull Id - yet I think it works. I don't expect you to understand any of it - it took me awhile.
This gets into an area that can be quite detailed. Ornithologists have devised several code systems over the years to quickly describe a bird. The trick has been to standardize these codes. Two links are provided here if you want to pursue this further - one a chart from a paper by Ron Pittaway and a link to the original paper that has examples and more. There are books written on the subject. The article describes the categories with a few illustrations and lists species' annual molt frequency.
All sports and activities have rules and regulations. As birders, we are out in public pursuing our passion. It is important to be aware of our interactions with birds, the public and our fellow birders. What follows are 2 views on the subject. Please Bird Responsibly!
David Sibley on Birding Ethics