I recently happened upon a bird identification website that I found really helpful called www.whatbird.com. The thing I liked the most about it was the way the search thing worked by process of elimination based on a number of different features like location, bill shape, habitat, bill size, etc. That seems like a good approach for an amateur like me.
For instance, it starts with 891 total birds. Then if you use the location feature and choose Arizona, it goes down to 366 birds. Then if you further refine it by choosing desert habitat, it goes down to 42. And so on, making further refinements based on other features until you have just a few choices. At that point you can click on up to five choices and it the Compare button and it brings up a display of those 5 birds with a bit of explanation about the features of each.
But, I did find at least once case where the search thing led me astray. I was observing birds in the desert, but when I chose desert habitat it eliminated the bird I saw (at least, I think it did!).
The other thing is that it is only for North America birds.