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Hi! I’m Kevin McGowan.Let’s talk about raptors. They’re fast, powerful, and they’re impressive hunters. There are raptors that are faster than your car, and others that can take prey as large as a small deer. They’re also some of the most noticeable birds out there, because they’re pretty big and many of them perch out in the open.I always watch for raptors when I’m the passenger in a car, zipping down the highway. But, sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s who, especially when they’re far away or go by too quickly, almost in a blur.

In this self-paced, online course, you’ll learn how to identify all 34 species of raptors in the U.S. and Canada. You’ll discover how to use shape, behavior, habitat, and other clues to identification to figure out if you’re looking at a kestrel, or a kite. The course is packed with videos, photos, and information about species that are easy to mix up, so that you can learn how to tell these raptors apart in the field. There are dozens of interactive exercises that let you practice identifying raptors, too.

So, if you’d like to improve your raptor ID skills, I hope you’ll join me for this course.

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All the Raptors at Your Fingertips

This comprehensive self-paced course covers all 34 species found in the continental U.S. and Canada, with Dr. Kevin McGowan as your friendly guide.

  • Discover raptor diversity—from vultures and eagles to kites and falcons
  • Learn ID shortcuts with Kevin's Keys to ID videos and diagrams
  • Build field skills with the powerful SnapID practice tool

Be a Better Birder: Hawk and Raptor Identification

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About This Course
  • Lessons inside: 13
  • Topics inside: 40
  • Quizzes inside: 2
  • Completion time (estimated): 12 hours
  • Instructional videos: 48
  • Total instructional video time: 2.75 hours
  • Level: Advanced
  • Categories: Bird Identification
  • Regionality: United States/Canada – General
  • SnapID makes practice easy
  • Self-paced, no expiration date, 100% online
  • 30-day refund guarantee
Swainson's Hawk flying with beak open calling Image: Darren Clark/Macaulay Library
Swainson's Hawk

Why I Made This Course

"How many times have you seen a raptor on a fencepost or passing overhead and wondered what it was? Raptors are a great group of birds to learn because they’re so visible on the landscape and so awe inspiring. I’ve packed all my identification tips and techniques into this course, along with a powerful training tool, so that next time you see a hawk, vulture, or kite fly by, you will be able to name it with confidence. Enjoy!"

Kevin McGowan—Dr. Kevin McGowan, Course Instructor
A labeled diagram of a flying Sharp-shinned Hawk indicating short rounded wings, barring in wings, squared tip, long barred tail, white undertail coverts Image: Alex Lamoreaux/Macaulay Library
Sharp-shinned Hawk Keys-to-ID diagram—Photo by Alex Lamoreaux

What's Inside

This course is packed with videos and cutting-edge practice tools that build your skills in ways that no field guide can. Hone your birding strategies with 9 instructional videos that jumpstart your raptor skills by covering the key techniques for ID—including how to judge size, proportion, and markings from afar. Dive in, species by species, with training videos that provide expert tips for all of the 34 raptors you’ll encounter in the U.S. and Canada. Gain exclusive access to Bird Academy’s custom Keys-to-ID diagrams for each species—both perched and in the air. Get ready for the field with the new and improved SnapID training tool that offers unlimited photo practice to quickly build your confidence. Download the Raptor Cheat Sheets covering all 34 species. It’s self-paced, practice-based, and it’s a lot of fun. 

Try SnapID!

Here’s your chance to play with the SnapID tool before you enroll in the course.

a two hawk photo quiz

Try out SnapID now!

Meet the Course Instructor

Kevin McGowan
Dr. Kevin McGowan 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 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.

Most Recent Course: Be a Better Birder: Hawk and Raptor Identification

Try a Sample Lesson

Dive into the lesson for the Swainson's Hawk—just one of the 34 species covered in the course.

Check Out the Free Sample Lesson

Course Overview

Lesson 1:

Raptor Diversity

Learn the three steps to identifying a raptor and get an overview of the seven groups of raptors covered in this course.

Lesson 2:

Raptor Size and Shape

Shape might be the most important character for identifying a raptor. Discover how wing shape, tail shape, and body proportions can be used to determine what kind of raptor you are seeing.

Lesson 3:

Raptor Behavior and Sounds

Raptors have different styles of flight, ways of hunting, and social tendencies. Some of them also make calls that are useful in ID. Cue in on which characteristics to watch and listen for. 

 

Lesson 4:

Raptor Habitat and Range

Some raptor species need very specific habitats, while others don’t. Explore which species can be found where, and how habitat can be a clue for identification.

Lesson 5:

Raptor Color Pattern and Markings

Raptors have spots, stripes, marks, and patches of light and dark that can help you identify them. Get up to speed on the distinguishing markings that can help you make a quick ID. 

Lesson 6:

Buteos

Learn about the 12 species of buteo hawks found in the U.S. and Canada—and practice for the field with SnapID.

Lesson 7:

Accipiters

Learn about the three species of accipiter found in the U.S. and Canada—and practice for the field with SnapID.

Lesson 8:

Eagles

Learn about the three species of eagles found in the U.S. and Canada—and practice for the field with SnapID.

Lesson 9:

Vultures

Learn about the three species of vultures found in the U.S. and Canada—and practice for the field with SnapID.

Lesson 10:

Falcons

Learn about the six species of falcons found in the U.S. and Canada—and practice for the field with SnapID.

Lesson 11:

Kites

Learn about the three species of kites found in the U.S. and Canada—and practice for the field with SnapID.

Lesson 12:

Other Types of Raptors

Learn about the four other species of raptors found in the U.S. and Canada—and practice for the field with SnapID.

Lesson 13:

Finding Raptors Near You

Find out about hawk watches, wildlife rehabilitation centers, and other resources to help you connect with raptors in your area.

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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.

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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 have no deadline to complete the course. 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.

CREDITS
Course Instructor and Author: Kevin McGowan Course Producer: Laura Helft Course Developers: Marla Coppolino, Laura Helft Video Producer and Editor: 11 Lakes Media Web Designer: Jeff Szuc Graphic Designer: Jessica French Additional Graphics: Marla Coppolino, Jill Leichter Copy Editor: Jill Leichter Marketing Manger: Bobby Stickel Executive Producer: Mya Thompson Special Thanks: Jay McGowan, Matt Medler, Shayna Muller, Lee Ann van Leer

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