Be a Better Birder: Shorebird Identification Archived Live Series

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This series gets you up-close-and-personal with the shorebirds of the United States and Canada. You’ll get to know their markings and behaviors so that next time you see a gathering of shorebirds on the beach, you’ll be able to confidently add each species to your list.

Featuring all 47 shorebirds from across the United States and Canada, this video-based course will help you enjoy the thrill of recognizing everything from sandpipers to snipes and plovers.

—Dr. Kevin McGowan, Course Instructor
Lesser Yellowlegs Photo: Kevin McGowan

Build Your Shorebird Confidence

This series of instructional videos helps you build techniques and strategies and gets you up to speed on all the shorebirds commonly found in North America.

  • Learn to use shape cues—especially in the beak—to help you with IDs
  • Get familiar with telltale shorebird foraging techniques
  • Learn keys to ID for all the shorebirds commonly found in in North America

What's Inside

Completion Time:
6 hrs estimated
Optional CEU Credits:

This 6 lesson shorebird identification series was recorded as live-streamed webinars in 2014. Bird Academy is now offering the video archives of this popular series so that you can jumpstart your shorebird identification skills—this time completely at your own pace. Each lesson contains more than one hour of online video instruction by Dr. Kevin McGowan, plus a downloadable handout to help you take notes as you watch.

Meet the Course Instructor

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.

Course Overview

Lesson 1:

Session 1: The Most Important Things

Get familiar with the diversity of shorebirds from plovers to peeps, and more! Get tips on the best ways to get started identifying them— for shorebirds it’s paying attention to shape, size, and behavior.

Lesson 2:

Session 2: Other Important Clues

Explore additional shorebird identification methods beyond shape, size and behavior, including color pattern, markings, habitat, range, and calls. Learn to spot distinctive bold wing stripes and know what birds you’ll find in grassy habitats versus in the tide pools.

Lesson 3:

Session 3: Introducing the Sandpipers

Get to know the key characteristics of every common North American sandpiper species, focusing especially on the confusing little, stout “peeps” and the most common taller and thinner ones.

Lesson 4:

Session 4: Snipes and Small Others

Step through the field marks of snipes and dowitchers, phalaropes, turnstones, and the rest of the small sandpipers. Learn distinctive behaviors and habitat preferences to help you with your IDs.

Lesson 5:

Session 5: Plovers and Big Others

Learn the difference among curlews, godwits, stilts, and oystercatchers with special attention to teasing apart the tricky lookalikes.

Photo: Sarah Rackowski/Macaulay Library

Course Format

This series 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. Instructional videos help you gain skills and understanding. All videos are closed-captioned and available through your web browser, no downloads 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.

Hear What Students Have to Say

Good focus on bill size and shape which brought out differences of which I had been unaware. " Bird Academy Student
Loved participating in this series of events! I will definitely participate in future events! Thank you!" Bird Academy Student
Excellent tips on telling the all the plovers apart." 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 30 days of the start of the course or purchase for a full refund.

Course Instructor: Kevin McGowan
Course Developer: Lee Ann van Leer
Media Collections Manager: Matt Young

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