Hello there! Welcome to the world of birding! My name is Professor Amateurnithologist. It's quite a mouthful. This world is inhabited by creatures called BIRDS. You might encounter these strange creatures sometimes when you're out playing Pokemon Go. Sometimes pokemon are birds too, but which kind of birds are they really? Sometimes its easy to tell, sometimes not so much. Fortunately for you, I'll be joining you on this journey. Gotta bird em' all!
Defining characteristics: bushy brow, black eye-mask, drab coloring
Who's that pokebird? Lincoln's Sparrow
Very possibly your first bird pokemon, the pidgey is what convinced me that this article needed to be written. It's name implies strongly that it's a pigeon, but looking at the characteristics it clearly is not. The match for this pokemon needed to be a somewhat small and unimpressive bird, considering it's half normal typing and common/unexciting nature in the game.
Defining characteristics: Red crest, brown body with red elements
Who's that pokebird? Female Northern Cardinal
Yes, that's right, all Pidgeottos are female. I never said the process was going to be perfect. Originally I assumed that I'd only need to do one bird for each evolutionary pokemon family, but looking here, it seems clear that this is an entirely different bird that doesn't really look like a sparrow at all anymore. Ruby Crowned Kinglet was a good match for this too, color wise, but I wanted the bird getting bigger, not smaller.
Defining characteristics: longer crest, eye mask, elements of red and yellow on wings and tail, more aerodynamic shape
Who's that pokebird? Cedar Waxwing (could just as easily be Japanese Waxwing, especially considering that's where these games are generally considered to take place)
Artistic interpretation? Maybe, but I feel like this is a slam dunk match for pidgeot, especially considering you're not going to find any bird with such luxuriously flowing hair.
Defining Characteristics: Hawk-like beak, brown head, reddish wings, pale belly
Who's that pokebird? Swainson's Hawk
Clearly meant to represent a small bird of prey, Spearow's name inexplicably implies a connection to sparrows. I also considered prairie falcon, but found the coloring and body-shape to be a closer match to a Swainson's. This one feels like a sure thing.
Defining Characteristics: Long narrow beak, long neck, red crest, predominantly brown coloring
Who's that pokebird? Sandhill Crane
This is where the mysteries of pokemon evolution really come in to stark relief, and why I had to completely give up on having pokemon in the same evolutionary line connect to birds of the same family. Spearow is very clearly a raptor who turns into something in the crane or heron family. There's one problem with this ID, did you spot it? It's those legs! It's uncommon for a bird to have a long neck and short legs, the only thing I can really think of is a cormorant, and that's just not what he looks like.
Defining Characteristics: Yellow, duck-like bill, clearly a duck of some kind
Who's that pokebird? Honestly, there are no yellow ducks, which leaves me to assume this is a duckling or gosling, which he does bear a good resemblance to.
I assume that psyduck is the young version of whatever our next pokemon turns out to be. For once something about this transformation system makes sense! Alright, let's take a look at his adult form and all will become clear..
Defining Characteristics: Blue color, yellow bill, gem in forehead, red eyes, kind of resembles a dinosaur actually. This is going to be challenging..
Who's that pokebird? Eared Grebe
I think this is the best we're going to get folks. He's got the red eye and the look of madness and a general dark coloring that could probably appear blueish in the right light. It's worth noting that New Zealand has a blue duck, but it lacks the requisite red eyes and gem in forehead. Also, Grebe babies do not look like psyduck at all, so it's time to throw everything we thought we knew out the window again.
That was a lot of work, way more than my last foray into video game bird identification, but now your bird-dex is really coming along. Join us next week when we ID the remaining pokebirds, including the 3 legendaries. In the mean time, try not to walk off any cliffs or crash your car into a tree.
*All pokemon images courtesy of pokemon.com, all bird images from audubon.org. Click here for attribution of bird pictures!