Lark Buntings GISS Series

Aplomado Environmental is proud to present the Guide to Identification by Structure and Sound series of mini-guides for birdwatching.  The G.I.S.S. Series is a take off from the popular birding term “giss” or “jizz,” commonly interpreted to stand for “general impression of size and shape.”  The G.I.S.S. Series is intended to complement your field guide and introduces “structural” standards for observing the size, shape, and sounds of a bird. 

The use of structure, or physical characteristics, to describe a bird is not new to birdwatching or science, and in fact was the foundation for the systematic (or taxonomic) description of the orders and families of birds and other forms of life.  With Roger Tory Peterson’s guides, he introduced this concept to the pastime of birdwatching.  As he noted in his 1949 book How to Know the Birds, for the identification of birds “we first place them in their families, and then run them down by their ‘field marks.’ ”  His first steps emphasize a bird’s size and shape, and the Peterson’s guide books still provide silhouettes to aid in distinguishing between families. 

The G.I.S.S. Series focuses on individual families of birds and provides a standard approach to gauging the relative size and shape of the bird’s bill, wings, and tail - significant elements to distinguishing genera and species of birds.  In addition, the G.I.S.S. Series presents a standardized method to describing bird sounds.  The vocalizations are described structurally according to the nature of the sounds by their “shape,” rhythm, presentation, and pitch. 


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