Hi. I’m Kevin McGowan. Let’s talk about warblers. Like most birders, I love warblers. They’re such a great blast of color and pattern in the spring.

After a long winter in central New York with mostly only a few drab birds here and there, it’s like the dawn of a new year when the warblers arrive in April and May. My birthday is in mid-May, at the peak of migration in New York and Ohio, where I grew up, and it’s always like I get birthday presents of warblers.

Lots of warblers are strikingly marked in bright colors and bold patterns, which can make some easy to identify. But, warblers can be a challenge, too. They’re constantly in motion, and often forage high up in the trees. In fact, there is a common ailment among birders called “warbler neck.” It’s a sore neck from looking so high up in the trees so intently for so long. Moving fast and staying high up means that you often only get glimpses of these birds, and you need to be ready to use all the hints you get for warbler ID. And that’s what this series is designed to help you do.

We will be talking about how to quickly recognize diagnostic color patterns, what to look for where on a warbler. We’ll go over which clues are important characteristics to pay attention to, and which ones really don’t help that much. We’ll discuss how to categorize warbler songs to help you make a quick ID. And lots of other warblering tips too.

I can’t help you avoid warbler neck, but I can help you get the most out of your warbler watching. Please join me to talk about warblers.
End of transcript

Warblers are a favorite among birders of all skill levels because they’re so rewarding. With their bright colors and globe-trotting habits, warblers add excitement to spring birding. But they often flit by quickly and can be tricky to identify.

We know that it can feel overwhelming at first. Get the help you’ve been looking for with world-renowned birder Kevin McGowan as your guide. Introducing the most comprehensive online course on warblers.

  • Get to know all 51 warblers
  • Distinguish easily confused species
  • Practice for quick IDs in the field
  • Build your knowledge of songs and behaviors

SnapID Tool

Bird Academy has developed a unique approach to learning bird identification. Our SnapID tool helps you practice identifying birds in all different postures and lighting conditions and builds your confidence through winning streaks.

Try out SnapID now and see how well you know the Yellow Warbler!

Yellow Warbler

Select the Yellow Warbler

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Dive into the lesson for the Yellow Warbler—just one of the 50+ species covered in the course.

Take the free sample lesson

 What’s Inside

This course is designed to train you step-by-step so you can enjoy the thrill of identifying warblers in the field. It also serves as an invaluable media-rich reference guide for you to return to as often as you wish.

  • Learn with short training videos for a total of 4+ hours of instruction
  • Train for field conditions with 5+ hours of photo ID practice
  • Hone your birding strategies with comprehensive quizzes after each lesson
  • Absorb gestures and song through video portraits of each species
  • Have the warblers at your fingertips with 4 free ID poster downloads

Course Overview

Lesson 1: Warbler Diversity
What makes a warbler a warbler? Learn how to distinguish the warblers from similar-looking birds with visual and behavioral cues.

Lesson 2: Color Pattern and Markings
Spectacles, wing bars, tail spots. Black and yellow masks and hoods. Practice zeroing in on the important field marks and patterning.

Lesson 3: Recognizing the Sexes and Fall Warblers
Train yourself to notice subtle visual cues that help you link males and females of the same species and recognize a species in both its fall and spring plumage.

Lesson 4: Sounds
Buzzy, burry, sweet. Get helpful tips on how to train your ear to recognize warbler song.

Lesson 5: Behavior
Bobs, twitches, tail flashes. These behavioral cues are key to making quick IDs in the field.

Lesson 6: Size and Shape
Train your eye to recognize the distinctive silhouettes of warblers and learn to rely less on size cues.

Lesson 7: Habitat and Range
Waterthrushes actually do prefer to be near water. Knowing habitat and range helps you narrow down your IDs quickly.

Lessons 8-11: Warblers by Region
Comprehensive coverage of all 51 species. Get a guided tour of each species from Kevin, watch video portraits, practice with SnapID, and more.

Lesson 12: How to Find Warblers Near You
Get tips on using eBird and Merlin to quickly find warblers in your area.

All the material is available through your web browser. No downloads are required and nothing is shipped. For your convenience, the course is designed to work on all modern web browsers and devices. Access does not expire.

Included for Free: Warbler Song Collection

Included with this course is a free download of 312 sound recordings from the warbler species found in the U.S. and Canada. Use this collection to learn the geographic variation in warbler songs and extend your ID skills. You’ll find download links in the final course lesson— you can stream and download the recordings at your convenience. A $14.99 value.

Four sheet downloadable warbler reference guideWe’ll also give you a helpful, four-sheet warbler reference guide that you can download, print out, and bring with you into the field.

What Kevin’s Students Have to Say

Kevin knows so much and conveys his info at just the right level. And I ID’ed my first warbler last week! Yellow Warbler, right in my back yard! What a thrill!!!”

I felt like I was exposed to the information in a way I had never thought about it before, yet easy to understand.”

I am much aware of bird markings now and how to distinguish them than I was before I took this course. I apply what I learned to seeing other kinds of birds.”

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Satisfaction Guarantee

Our educators and birding experts take pride in the courses they create. If you're not satisfied with the material for ANY reason, contact us within 30 days of the start of the course or purchase for a full refund.

Meet the Course Author and Instructor

Dr. Kevin McGowan

Kevin McGowanCourse instructor Kevin McGowan combines deep knowledge about birds with a passion for helping others learn. He is a professional ornithologist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and one of the world’s foremost experts on the behavior of crows. Kevin is also an accomplished birder and World Series of Birding champion. Among his contributions to Bird Academy, he created the popular Be a Better Birder series of courses and live webinars and co-authored the university-level Ornithology: Comprehensive Bird Biology course.

Course Co-authors:

Dr. Sarah Wagner

Dr. Sarah WagnerSarah Wagner is a course developer for the Cornell Lab’s Bird Academy. An accomplished field researcher specializing in the feeding biology of birds, Sarah has worked all over the continent and has years of professional experience identifying birds in the field. She co-authored the Ornithology: Comprehensive Bird Biology course and is a public educator in the Cornell Lab’s visitor center.

Lee Ann van Leer

Lee Ann van LeerLee Ann van Leer develops course content for Bird Academy and supports our community of learners. She is a certified bird bander and recreational birder, as well as having a degree in zoology. She is a long-time participant and field-trip leader for the Spring Field Ornithology course at the Cornell Lab, and leads weekend bird walks.

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Course credits:
Course author and instructor: Kevin McGowan
Course developers: Sarah Wagner, Lee Ann Van Leer
Instructional design: Mya Thompson, Jeff Szuc
Video production and editing: Shayna Muller
Web design: Jeff Szuc
Applications programmer: Noah Warnke
Copy editing: Noah Warnke
Media collections manager and Audio engineer: Matt Young

Video credits:
Golden-winged Warbler, Benjamin Clock/Macaulay Library 476420
Hooded Warbler, Eric Liner/Macaulay Library 469345
Connecticut Warbler, Benjamin Clock/Macaulay Library 482843
Blackburnian Warbler, Eric Liner/Macaulay Library 469392
Common Yellowthroat, Eric Liner/Macaulay Library 469416
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle), Eric Liner/Macaulay Library 464046
Wilson's Warbler, Eric Liner/Macaulay Library 464050
Mourning Warbler, Eric Liner/Macaulay Library 469452
Ovenbird, Benjamin Clock/Macaulay Library 477416
Yellow Warbler, Benjamin Clock/Macaulay Library 476427
Chestnut-sided Warbler, Eric Liner/Macaulay Library 469467
Kirtland's Warbler, Benjamin Clock/Macaulay Library 486979
Black-and-white Warbler, Jay M. McGowan/Macaulay Library 471336
Prothonotary Warbler, Timothy Barksdale/Macaulay Library 441408
Black-throated Gray Warbler, Larry R. Arbanas/Macaulay Library 464820
Black-throated Green Warbler, Eric Liner/Macaulay Library 469352
Cerulean Warbler, Benjamin Clock/Macaulay Library 470187
Magnolia Warbler, Eric Liner/Macaulay Library 469395
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's), Larry R. Arbanas/Macaulay Library
Louisiana Waterthrush, Benjamin Clock/Macaulay Library 482403
Black-throated Blue Warbler, Eric Liner/Macaulay Library 469443
Cape May Warbler, Timothy Barksdale/Macaulay Library 440256
Pine Warbler, Eric Liner/Macaulay Library 469475

Yellow Warbler SnapID photo: Ian Routley/Macaulay Library57752961