birds of all colors
Image: Jeff Szuc

Learn to Know What to Look For

This course trains your eye so that you can recognize important field marks quickly and confidently.

  • Get up to speed on field marks and other distinctive patterns
  • Learn how birds change their plumage seasonally and as they age
  • Practice noticing distinguishing features at a glance

Be a Better Birder 2: Color and Pattern

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About This Course
  • Lessons inside: 6
  • Topics inside: 31
  • Completion time (estimated): 2 hours
  • Instructional videos: 4
  • Total instructional video time: 18 minutes
  • Level: Beginner
  • Categories: Bird Identification, Nature Appreciation
  • Regionality: Anywhere – Non-regional
  • CEU credits: 0.2 (optional additional purchase)
  • Self-paced, no expiration date, 100% online
  • 60-day refund guarantee
Scarlet Tanager
Image: Ryan Sanderson | Macaulay Library

Why I Made This Course

"Birds dazzle us with their colors and markings. But before you know what to look for, it can be hard to get a handle on which marks to pay attention to. Get beyond the frustrations of trying to memorize everything all at once by learning the foundations of field marks and plumage changes.

This course introduces you to strategies used by birders the world over to zero in on the visual cues that help with quick IDs."

—Kevin McGowan, Ph.D., Course Instructor
Image: Daniel Jauvin | Macaulay Library

What's Inside

You’ll learn how locating key bits of color on a bird speeds identification. Instead of trying to memorize every color and pattern on a bird, you’ll learn to do more with less information, focusing on specific body parts that will lead to the right ID. You’ll experience the challenges posed by juvenile birds and molting birds, and how you can even be fooled by the lighting. This course features 6 lessons containing 4 videos, 5 interactives, and 8 quizzes. You can choose to earn a printable certificate by passing the final exam.

Try a Sample Quiz

The course contains a series of interactive quizzes so you gain valuable practice in bird ID along the way.

Try a free sample quiz

Course Overview

Lesson 1:
A Little Preparation

Explore some of the things you will want to know about birds before you start working on species identification—bird anatomy, field marks, birding tips, and more!

Lesson 2:
Color and Pattern—Think Big!

Get used to looking at the arrangement of colors to identify birds, not just the colors themselves—a key skill for making quick IDs in the field.

Lesson 3:
Color and Pattern—Think Small!

Sometimes the big pattern isn’t enough to tell birds apart. Learn to start with the big picture and then look more closely—using precise markings and subtle patterns for bird identification.

Lesson 4:
See the Whole Bird

Practice  developing an impression of a bird from only a glimpse and then using what you noticed to nail your identifications.

Lesson 5:
Cautions and Caveats—Ways It Can All Go Wrong

Learn how and why individuals from one bird species can look very different. Train yourself to look for variation based on age, phase of molt, tricks of the light, and genetic variation.

Lesson 6:
Thank You and Farewell

Apply your new confidence in bird identification and get resources for continuing your studies.

Meet the Course Instructor

Kevin McGowan, Ph.D.
Professional Ornithologist, World Series of Birding Champion
Course instructor Kevin McGowan combines deep knowledge about birds with a passion for helping others learn. He is a professional ornithologist at...

Hear What Students Have to Say

I took three courses this year. Be A Better Birder 1 and 2 and the Spring Field Ornithology. All three courses were fantastic. I have learned so much. Thank you." Bird Academy Student
Great course. Realistic and practical!" Bird Academy Student
I especially enjoyed being forced to recognize and remember the characteristics of a bird when provided only a fleeting glimpse, which is often all you get in the field." Bird Academy Student
I found that the quizzes helped me to practice what the course was teaching, instead of just reading the text, I was having to put the advice into practice. The photography was stunning too and it really emphasized what was being taught." Bird Academy Student
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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 60 days of the start of the course or purchase for a full refund.

Alternative Course Access

Birds can inspire people accross boundaries to build a more sustainable world. At Bird Academy we want to share the love and knowledge of birds! If you would like alternative access to this course, please take a look at our Take Flight Program

This Course is Entirely Online

There’s nothing to be shipped, and no additional material is necessary. Bird Academy courses are online, self-paced, and there is no deadline to complete them. You can return to them for reference or practice as often as you want. All course material, practice tools, instructional videos, and quizzes are available through your web browser. Learn anytime, anywhere*. Gain the skills and understanding you’re looking for.

*Requires an internet connection and a modern web browser.

Course Instructor: Dr. Kevin McGowan

Give the Gift of Learning

Gift certificates are a great way to give the bird enthusiasts in your life something that supports and encourages their passion.

Learn About Gift Certificates