Be a Better Birder 2: Color and Pattern
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.
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
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
Meet the Course Instructor
Course 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thank You and Farewell
Apply your new confidence in bird identification and get resources for continuing your studies.
The course is entirely online and self-paced so you can take it at your own speed and come back to it as often as you wish. Custom practice tools, instructional videos, and quizzes help you gain skills and understanding. All the material is available through your web browser, no downloads required and nothing is shipped. Videos are closed-captioned. For your convenience, the course is designed to work on all modern web browsers and devices. Access does not expire.
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
Course Instructor: Dr. Kevin McGowan