Have you ever been stumped when you’re out for a hike and a friend asks, “Hey, what kind of plant/bird/tree is that?” Of course you have. And you answer, “I think that’s a type of cactus,” or “Is that a bluejay?” or “I believe that’s…some sort of evergreen tree.” Unless you are an obsessed birdwatcher, or field biologist, or interpretive hiking guide, you will probably never acquire a level of knowledge to confidently announce the species of every single piece of flora or fauna you encounter.

But you can be full of B.S. Which is sometimes just as fun, if not more so than actually having knowledge.

A while back, my friend Mitsu Iwasaki, for many years a fearless wilderness guide, told me the classification system he used for years during outdoor education outings when students asked him, “What kind of bird is that?” According to Mitsu, there are only three types of birds – a concept he first learned this from his friend Mark Miller when they worked at Outward Bound together.


You might note that this number, three, is a lot easier to memorize than the total number of bird species on earth, which is somewhere around 10,000.

All birds fall into one of these three categories. The three types are:

1. Tweety Birds
These are little birds that tweet. Examples include sparrows, finches, robins.

Classic tweeter. Photo: Ruyan Ayten

2. Ducky Birds
These are birds that float in water. Examples include ducks, swans, sea gulls, and albatrosses.

Your classic duck-type bird behavior. Photo: Harry Grout

3. Hawk-like Birds
The birds of this category are, well, hawk-like in nature. Examples include eagles, vultures, and even chickens.

Super hawk-like behavior right here. Photo: Martin Adams

Confused by a certain bird and what type it is? Don’t be. Go with your gut, Mitsu says.

“Then there are other birds that don’t easily fit,” Mitsu says. “Say, ostriches. It’s important to just make it fit. Maybe it’s hawk-like because of its ferociousness or duck-like because of its shape. Doesn’t really matter, makes for great debate.”

And as always when you’re BS-ing, the more confidently you say it, the better.


For more funny stuff from longtime friend of AJ, Brendan Leonard, check out some of his books:

I Hate Running and You Can Too
The Art of Getting Lost
Bears Don’t Care About Your Problems

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