– Hi, I’m Kevin McGowan. Let’s talk about bird watching.

Birds are fascinating creatures. First off, they fly. Flight seems like a magical thing. I know I’ve always wanted to fly.

I tried it once with cardboard wings when I was a kid and it didn’t go very well. So watching birds zip past, float in the wind, or hover in mid-air always amazes me.

Another great thing about birds is that they’re mostly active during the day, like us. They’re out in the open, singing and calling, and you can actually see them. They’re not hiding in holes and only coming out after dark like mammals do.

And they’re beautiful, some are spectacularly beautiful. Gaudily colored and breath-taking hues. Even the more subdued species are attractive if you look at them in the right light.

I can safely say that I find almost all birds delightful in some way. I wanna share with you the joy of birdwatching.

I’ve designed a course to help beginners get going and learning how to appreciate birds. Whether you’re interested in learning to identify the different kinds of birds you see or if you want to find out more about what they’re doing, I’ll help teach you how to go about it.

This course will introduce you to the diversity of birds and will teach you some ways to identify them. It will help you to find out about your local birds and what to expect to find when and where.

It will describe interesting things birds do and places they live. It will help you learn to keep track of the birds you’ve seen and how to share your sightings, and who knows? Your observations might just help conserve birds around the world.

I hope you’ll join me in experiencing the joys of watching birds.

End of transcript

Welcome to the Joy of Birdwatching

This course is designed for beginners. Start your journey and let us help you enjoy every bird you encounter.

  • Discover how to find more birds in your area
  • Get the most out of binoculars, field guides, and apps
  • Gain essential tips and techniques for identifying birds
  • Learn to decode the everyday lives of birds

Joy of Birdwatching

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About This Course
  • Lessons inside: 8
  • Topics inside: 41
  • Completion time (estimated): 5 hours
  • Instructional videos: 14
  • Total instructional video time: 35 minutes
  • Level: Beginner
  • Categories: Nature Appreciation
  • CEU credits: 0.5 (optional additional purchase)
  • Discussion groups to keep you learning
  • Self-paced, no expiration date, 100% online
  • 60-day refund guarantee
Black-capped Chickadee
Image: Evan Lipton | Macaulay Library

Why I Made This Course

"The beauty of birds is all around us. And once you learn more about them, your experiences with nature become so much richer. I made this course for anyone who’s curious about birdwatching and just needs the tools to get started. After taking this course, you’ll have newfound appreciation for the birds that make your neighborhood special. I can’t wait for you to experience the joys of birdwatching!"

—Kevin McGowan, Ph.D., Course Instructor
Cedar Waxwing with berry
Image: Dennis Mersky | Macaulay Library

What's Inside

This self-paced course, designed for brand-new birdwatchers, includes eight lessons that give you the tools you need to find, ID, and connect with birds.

Eight in-depth lessons get you started with birdwatching—with brief instructional videos and in-depth text to support your learning. Suggested assignments with both indoor and outdoor options will help you practice. Benefit from our vibrant community of learners by participating in the optional discussion group.

Birdwatching is a great way to build wellbeing and mindfulness into your daily life. It’s a hobby that can sustain you for a lifetime. Enjoy!

Take a Free Peek Inside the Course

Preview four examples of Joy of Birdwatching content plus a discussion forum.

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Course Overview

Lesson 1:
Discover the Diverse World of Birds

There are about 10,000 different kinds of birds in the world, and many have amazing and surprising abilities. Explore the world of bird diversity and learn the major groups of birds. You’ll get up to speed on the differences between shorebirds, waterfowl, flycatchers and more.

Lesson 2:
Bird Identification Strategies

Build your identification skills by practicing the keys to ID: size and shape, color pattern and markings, behavior, habitat and range, and sounds. Plus, gain confidence on choosing and using binoculars.

Lesson 3:
Getting to Know Your Local Birds

Harness the array of powerful tools available for finding birds in your area and connecting with other birdwatchers. Includes tips and techniques for using field guides, websites, and apps like Merlin and eBird.

Lesson 4:
Birdwatching Through the Seasons

Learn how and why birdwatching changes so dramatically from season to season—with sections on behavior changes during a bird’s annual cycle, and why some birds migrate and some stay put.

Lesson 5:
Behaviors to Look and Listen For

Birdwatching is so much richer when you know a bit about the behaviors you witness—get a joyous introduction to the spectrum of behaviors that you’re likely to encounter.

Lesson 6:
Habitats Birds Depend on

Learn where to look for birds based on what habitats they need—with special sections on how habitat can be a bird ID clue. You’ll also find out why some birds are found pretty much everywhere while others can be found only in very specific locations.

Lesson 7:
Tracking and Sharing Your Bird Sightings

Get familiar with the many options you have for recording your bird sightings, and get a primer on how and why so many birdwatchers choose to share their sightings with projects like the Great Backyard Bird Count, eBird and Project FeederWatch.

Lesson 8:
How Birds Can Save the World - With Your Help

Explore how important birds are to healthy ecosystems, what is happening to bird populations around the world, and how you can contribute to bird conservation efforts—with a special section on simple steps you can take to help birds today.

Meet the Course Instructor

Kevin McGowan, Ph.D.
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...

Hear What Students Have to Say

This course has completely changed the way I think about birds!"


I'm really grateful for this course! Feels like a nice start of a great journey!"


I just love this course!"


My thanks to the Bird Academy and its instructors for making this course very interesting for an amateur bird watcher."


Instructive introduction into the fundamentals of birdwatching. Provides a solid foundation on which to build one's knowledge of birds, as a whole, and birdwatching techniques, in particular. Clearly written. Easy to understand. Enjoyable."


What fun! This course has really enhanced my enjoyment of birding."

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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 60 days of the start of the course or purchase for a full refund.

Alternative Course Access

Birds can inspire people accross boundaries to build a more sustainable world. At Bird Academy we want to share the love and knowledge of birds! If you would like alternative access to this course, please take a look at our Take Flight Program

Mountain Bluebird
Image: Eric Gofreed | Macaulay Library

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.

Course Instructor: Kevin McGowan
Course Producers: Mya Thompson, Laura Helft
Course Developer: Elissa Johnson, Lee Ann van Leer
Video Producer and Editor: Shayna Muller
Video Editor: Melanie Arnold
Videographer: Karen Rodriguez
Web Designer: Jeff Szuc
Copy Editor: Noah Warnke
Special Thanks: Bobby Stickel, Francesco Senatore, Katherine Welch

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.

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