Be a Better Birder 1: Size and Shape
Tired of flipping through the field guide to try to identify birds? Ready to learn strategies that will jump-start your birding skills and come in handy whenever you encounter something new? Benefit from tips and tricks from the team here at the Cornell Lab as you learn to use size and shape cues to take your skills to the next level.
This course is all about building your bird identification toolbox so that your field guide becomes a friendly companion.
Learn to Know What to Look For
With so many birds out there, we can all use strategies for learning to identify them. Get help from the Cornell Lab.
- Learn how to use the "Bird Yardstick" to gauge size
- Get familiar with the silhouettes of the major bird groups
- Practice ID shortcuts so that you can make quick ID in the field
Instead of frantically trying to remember every detail when you spot a bird, it helps to step back and zero on what’s most important. Size and shape key characteristics to notice and learning to interpret how they stack up will transform your birding skills. Get to know just from a silhouette whether it’s a dove, woodpecker, or finch. This course features 6 lessons containing 4 videos, 4 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 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.
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!
Making Sense of Diversity
Discover the array of birds you might encounter from the amazing diversity of 10,000 species of birds worldwide. To help sort them out, we’ll show you ways of grouping them for easier identification.
Get familiar with ways that size cues can help in bird identification—including the handy “bird yardstick” tool.
Experienced birders use shape above almost all other characteristics to identify birds, but beginners often neglect it. Explore the shapes of birds and how they can be a key to better birding.
Course Wrap Up
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
Great course! Easy to go outside and put these techniques to use. " Bird Academy Student
The entire format is what I find most useful. Small, digestible chapters, subchapters, short videos, quick and frequent quizzes for me to check if I "get it" or not. " Bird Academy Student
I would recommend this course to my beginning birder friends as an easy way to try the shape and size approach to birding and to get them to step away from just looking at colors in the field guide. It improves critical thinking about field guide images as an image of just a general template instead of an exact illustration of every bird of that species. " Bird Academy Student
Even though I am edging beyond "beginning birder" status, I still liked going back and seeing a finer point put on some of the techniques I am developing." Bird Academy Student
As a beginning birder, the information as presented helped confirm possible problem spots that I need to work on to be able to identify birds better. " Bird Academy Student
Course Instructor: Dr. Kevin McGowan