Hi. I’m Kevin McGowan. Let’s talk about warblers. Like most birders, I love warblers. They’re such a great blast of color and pattern in the spring.

After a long winter in central New York with mostly only a few drab birds here and there, it’s like the dawn of a new year when the warblers arrive in April and May. My birthday is in mid-May, at the peak of migration in New York and Ohio, where I grew up, and it’s always like I get birthday presents of warblers.

Lots of warblers are strikingly marked in bright colors and bold patterns, which can make some easy to identify. But, warblers can be a challenge, too. They’re constantly in motion, and often forage high up in the trees. In fact, there is a common ailment among birders called “warbler neck.” It’s a sore neck from looking so high up in the trees so intently for so long. Moving fast and staying high up means that you often only get glimpses of these birds, and you need to be ready to use all the hints you get for warbler ID. And that’s what this series is designed to help you do.

We will be talking about how to quickly recognize diagnostic color patterns, what to look for where on a warbler. We’ll go over which clues are important characteristics to pay attention to, and which ones really don’t help that much. We’ll discuss how to categorize warbler songs to help you make a quick ID. And lots of other warblering tips too.

I can’t help you avoid warbler neck, but I can help you get the most out of your warbler watching. Please join me to talk about warblers.

End of transcript

Be a Better Birder: Warbler Identification

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Warblers are a favorite among birders of all skill levels because they’re so rewarding. With their bright colors and globe-trotting habits, warblers add excitement to spring birding. But they often flit by quickly and can be tricky to identify.

We know that it can feel overwhelming at first. Get the help you’ve been looking for with a course that gives you practice identifying all 51 warblers from across the United States and Canada.

—Dr. Kevin McGowan, Course Instructor

Get the Help You've Been Looking For

We know that it can feel overwhelming at first. Get the help you’ve been looking for with world-renowned birder Kevin McGowan as your guide. Introducing the most comprehensive online course on warblers.

  • Learn with short training videos for a total of 4+ hours of instruction
  • Train for field conditions with 5+ hours of photo ID practice
  • Hone your birding strategies with comprehensive quizzes after each lesson
  • Absorb gestures and song through video portraits of each species
  • Have the warblers at your fingertips with 4 free ID poster downloads

SnapID Tool

Bird Academy has developed a unique approach to learning bird identification. Our SnapID tool helps you practice identifying birds in all different postures and lighting conditions and builds your confidence through winning streaks.

Try out SnapID now and see how well you know the Yellow Warbler!

Yellow Warbler

Select the Yellow Warbler

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What's Inside

Completion Time:
16 hrs estimated
Optional CEU Credits:
1.6

Learn with short training videos for a total of 4+ hours of instruction. Train for field conditions with 5+ hours of photo ID practice. Hone your birding strategies with comprehensive quizzes after each lesson. Absorb gestures and song through video portraits of each species. Have the warblers at your fingertips with 4 free ID poster downloads.

Try a Sample Lesson

Dive into the lesson for the Yellow Warbler—just one of the 50+ species covered in the course.

Take the free sample lesson

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:

Warbler Diversity

Explore the variety of warblers living in the United States and Canada. Learn the different taxonomic groups, and see what makes a warbler a warbler.

Lesson 2:

Color Pattern and Markings

Learn to pay attention to which colors are present, and where the colors are on the warbler. Look for the pattern, placement, and arrangement of those colors and look to see where the birds have smaller markings, too.

Lesson 3:

Recognizing the Sexes and Fall Warblers

Get to know the brightly colored and patterned spring males well, and you hold the key to being able to identify female warblers and dull fall warblers.

Lesson 4:

Sounds

Learn how to think about bird song, so you can learn the important skill of identifying warbler songs. Warblers sing a lot in the spring and summer, and their songs can be very distinctive.

Lesson 5:

Behavior

Learn what behaviors to watch for to bump your warbler identification skills up a notch—the behavior of warblers can offer important clues to identification.

Lesson 6:

Size and Shape

Size and shape are important clues to identification for many kinds of birds, but they’re not as useful for distinguishing among the warblers. Learn when they can help, and when they don’t.

Lesson 7:

Habitat and Range

Knowing where you saw a warbler can be a big help in figuring out what it was. Learning to pay attention to where you are in the world and what habitat you saw the bird in can help you come to the right ID.

Lesson 8:

Widespread Warblers

Learn the keys to identification for the warblers that can be found all across the United States and Canada—and practice for the field with SnapID.

Lesson 9:

Eastern Warblers Part 1

Learn the keys to identification for thirteen of the warblers that can be found in eastern North America—and practice for the field with SnapID.

Lesson 10:

Eastern Warblers Part 2

Learn the keys to identification for thirteen of the warblers that can be found in eastern North America—and practice for the field with SnapID.

Lesson 11:

Western Warblers

Learn the keys to identification for the warblers that can be found in western North America—and practice for the field with SnapID.

Lesson 12:

How to Find Warblers Near You

Tag along on a spring warblering adventure to get ideas on how to find warblers next time they are in your area.

Photo: Sarah Rackowski/Macaulay Library

Included for Free: Warbler Song Collection

Included with this course is a free download of 312 sound recordings from the warbler species found in the U.S. and Canada. Use this collection to learn the geographic variation in warbler songs and extend your ID skills. You’ll find download links in the final course lesson— you can stream and download the recordings at your convenience. A $14.99 value.

 

Four sheet downloadable warbler reference guide

We’ll also give you a helpful, four-sheet warbler reference guide that you can download, print out, and bring with you into the field.

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 never expire. 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.

Hear What Students Have to Say

I found many more warblers this spring thanks to this class. I knew they were there and how to look and listen for them. I also trusted my observations more, the course gave me confidence. " Bird Academy Student
Having this as a self-paced course was essential for me. Being tied down to a date and time is hard for my schedule. The instructor was excellent - clearly presented. Fabulous photography. Loved it!" Bird Academy Student
It was helpful to have the instructor identify the most important field marks for each bird. When you're looking at a book you have no idea what's most important." Bird Academy Student
Yesterday was a pretty great day in Central Park. I saw 17 species of warblers, including bay-breasted, cape may and worm-eating. I had to tell you that your course has improved the speed with which I can identify different warblers." Bird Academy Student
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CREDITS
Course credits:
Course author and instructor: Kevin McGowan
Course developers: Sarah Wagner, Lee Ann Van Leer
Instructional design: Mya Thompson, Jeff Szuc
Video production and editing: Shayna Muller
Web design: Jeff Szuc
Applications programmer: Noah Warnke
Copy editing: Noah Warnke
Media collections manager and Audio engineer: Matt Young


Video credits:
Golden-winged Warbler, Benjamin Clock/Macaulay Library 476420
Hooded Warbler, Eric Liner/Macaulay Library 469345
Connecticut Warbler, Benjamin Clock/Macaulay Library 482843
Blackburnian Warbler, Eric Liner/Macaulay Library 469392
Common Yellowthroat, Eric Liner/Macaulay Library 469416
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle), Eric Liner/Macaulay Library 464046
Wilson's Warbler, Eric Liner/Macaulay Library 464050
Mourning Warbler, Eric Liner/Macaulay Library 469452
Ovenbird, Benjamin Clock/Macaulay Library 477416
Yellow Warbler, Benjamin Clock/Macaulay Library 476427
Chestnut-sided Warbler, Eric Liner/Macaulay Library 469467
Kirtland's Warbler, Benjamin Clock/Macaulay Library 486979
Black-and-white Warbler, Jay M. McGowan/Macaulay Library 471336
Prothonotary Warbler, Timothy Barksdale/Macaulay Library 441408
Black-throated Gray Warbler, Larry R. Arbanas/Macaulay Library 464820
Black-throated Green Warbler, Eric Liner/Macaulay Library 469352
Cerulean Warbler, Benjamin Clock/Macaulay Library 470187
Magnolia Warbler, Eric Liner/Macaulay Library 469395
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's), Larry R. Arbanas/Macaulay Library
Louisiana Waterthrush, Benjamin Clock/Macaulay Library 482403
Black-throated Blue Warbler, Eric Liner/Macaulay Library 469443
Cape May Warbler, Timothy Barksdale/Macaulay Library 440256
Pine Warbler, Eric Liner/Macaulay Library 469475

Yellow Warbler SnapID photo: Ian Routley/Macaulay Library57752961

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Photo: Ryan Schain/Macaulay Library