Jane of BirdLife Cyprus recently posted on ‘Gaining Identification Skills’:
It is stating the obvious to say that once you start bird watching you will want to be able to put a name to the different types or species that you see. When you start, trying to put the right name to the bird can be difficult and confusing. It is easy to be discouraged but it does get easier and with more and more practice you make more correct identifications.
If you try to name every bird that you see it will help speed up the learning process and improve your birding skills. It is too easy to give up and say that you will never be able to identify, for example, birds of prey and never try. It is also easy to ask a more experienced bird watching friend or hunt through your new field guide until you find a picture of the matching bird. In his book “How to Birdwatch”, author Stephen Moss suggests that these actions will do little to help in the long run and that the best thing to do is to look at the bird itself properly.
The intention is to gain as many clues as you can about the bird which you can then use to piece together to put a name to the unknown species.