Kevin McGowan, Ph.D. Professional Ornithologist, World Series of Birding Champion

I educate people about birds. I write online courses about birds, including bird identification, behavior, and biology. I am the instructor for our university-level course, “Ornithology: Comprehensive Bird Biology,” and answer student questions about birds. I enjoy all aspects of birds (especially crows), from behavior to functional anatomy, and from ecology to evolution. I am interested in spreading the appreciation of birds to all possible audiences, through all possible avenues.

I have always loved birds, and worked hard to be able to make a living studying and teaching about birds. I got a Ph.D. studying the social development of Florida Scrub-Jays. I came to Cornell in 1988 to be the curator of the bird and mammal collections in the Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates, and started a research project on the biology of the American Crow that continues to this day. I created a series of educational web pages about birds that used specimen examples from the collection.

I continued working with online bird education when I left the museum and joined the Cornell Lab’s Education team to create the All About Birds website. I became the editor and principal author of the Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in New York State, but was still based at the Lab.

After that project ended I came back to Education at the Lab, and took over as the instructor for the long-running Home Study Course in Bird Biology. We started experimenting with translating some of that course to the Internet, creating the online course Investigating Behavior: Courtship and Rivalry in Birds. I was the instructor for that course, and started developing new courses in bird identification.

Having been a lifelong birder as well as professional ornithologist, I was happy to work that side of birds, too. I created introductory birding courses and several series of more advanced identification webinars that we have turned into self-paced courses.

I continue to learn new things about birds every day, which is amazing. I enjoy sharing my excitement with other people and helping stoke their enthusiasm about birds. The Lab is a great place to do that.


B.S., Zoology, Ohio State University, 1977
M.S., Zoology, Ohio State University, 1980
Ph.D., Biology, University of South Florida, 1987

Fun Fact

For nearly 30 years I climbed some of the tallest trees in Ithaca to reach crow nests for my research. I climbed to over 1,000 nests to measure and band nestling crows. The arboreal skills learned over the course of the study took me to the tropics of Central America to help colleagues study canopy mammals, and to teach tree climbing techniques to other scientists.