Sharing the joy of birds since 1971
Julie Simpson

Learn at Home

Southern Maryland Audubon Society encourages everyone to learn about birds in ways that best suit them. Some folks prefer to come out on field trips, but others are more self-directed. We have compiled this page for those who like to learn on their own or from home. Thankfully the Internet offers a great array of free resources!

General Information

Bird Identification

Bird Song

Books and Field Guides

General Information

National Audubon Society https://www.audubon.org

National Audubon Society’s birding portal, Get Outside, has just about everything a beginner needs: How to Start, What You Need, Identifying Birds, In the Field, Backyard Birding, Rules of Birding, Photography, Travel, Binocular Guide, Scope Guide, and more. https://www.audubon.org/birding

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Cornell’s Bird Academy offers lifelong learning online with self-paced classes, some free, some paid. It also has a library of articles from its magazine Living Bird. All About Birds is a comprehensive ID tool rich with multimedia. Home of Merlin bird ID app and extensive Macaulay Library of bird photos, videos, and audio. Explore eBird database of bird species in your area. Open lectures have also been archived here under Bird Academy. https://www.birds.cornell.edu/home

Maryland/DC Breeding Bird Atlas

This is a portal for a five-year study (2020 through 2024) of breeding birds in the state. Learn about it at https://ebird.org/atlasmddc/about.

Maryland Ornithological Society

Explore birding sites, hotspots, calendar of events, habitat information, and checklists for birds in Maryland and DC. https://mdbirds.org/

BirdNote

BirdNote is a daily public radio show and podcast that tells sound-rich stories about birds and the environment. Listen to these engaging, two-minute stories day by day or search for topics that interest you. https://www.birdnote.org/

3 Billion Birds, #BringBirdsBack

In September 2019, Science magazine published a study finding that 2.9 billion birds have been lost since 1970, nearly 30% of bird populations. Find out which species have been affected most and learn what you can do about it in 7 Simple Actions to Help Birds. Explore the social media hash tag #BringBirdsBack for even more.

Find details, videos, articles, and some shareable resources at these websites: https://www.3billionbirds.org/ and https://www.birds.cornell.edu/home/bring-birds-back

Bird Identification

Audubon North American Bird Guide features information about habitat, breeding, behavior, as well as a photo gallery and audio of calls and songs for each species. https:// www.audubon.org/bird-guide

See also the Audubon Bird Guide app for mobile devices at https://www.audubon.org/app.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds is a similar guide to North American birds with extensive descriptions and multimedia at https://www.allaboutbirds.org. Note huge archive of articles on bird ID skills at https://www.allaboutbirds.org/news/browse/topic/bird-id-skills.

See also Cornell’s Merlin bird ID app for mobile devices.

Cornell’s series of four free videos, Inside Birding, is a great introduction to bird identification. Ten-minute videos cover Size and Shape, Color Pattern, Understanding Behavior, and Habitat. Check out the launch page at https://academy.allaboutbirds.org/inside-birding-size-shape/

Bird Academy‘s paid online courses for bird ID can be found at https://academy.allaboutbirds.org/course-list/?category=bird-identification&order=featured

Bird Song

Extensive information about bird songs and calls of particular species can be found in the Audubon and Cornell guides noted above—Audubon North American Bird Guide and All About Birds. Look up audio files by species.

If you cannot guess the bird singing or calling, try the BirdGenie app. Point, record, and BirdGenie will identify the bird.

To learn songs in a fun way, see Cornell’s Bird Song Hero tutorial at https://academy.allaboutbirds.org/features/bird-song-hero/bird-song-hero-tutorial.

Also see the article Bird ID Skills: How to Learn Bird Songs and Calls at https://www.allaboutbirds.org/news/how-to-learn-bird-songs-and-calls/

If you are prepared to go deeper, consider the online course (for a fee) How to Identify Bird Songs at https://academy.allaboutbirds.org/learn-how-to-identify-bird-songs/.

For a truly deep dive into bird vocalizations, look up Xeno-Canto: Sharing Bird Sounds from around the World at https://www.xeno-canto.org/.

Books and Field Guides

Sibley’s Birding Basics, David Allen Sibley, Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.

Songbirds of North America, Noble S. Proctor, Chartwell Books, 2016.

This book provides a visual directory of 100 most popular songbirds and includes a companion CD in addition to 2-page fact sheets for 100 birds. Other topics include when, where, why, how birds sing; identifying songbirds; and backyard birdwatching. It has a 12-page, at-a-glance bird identifier and introduces spectrographs and distribution maps for the beginner birder.

What makes this book/CD combo so helpful, is that you can listen to the sounds as you read the text and study the drawing. Each of the birds has a track number. The tracks are only labeled by number, so, if played randomly to test your skills, there are no other labels to identify the bird.

The Warbler Guide, Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle, Princeton University Press, 2013.  Especially helpful to prepare for the spring migration.

Peterson Field Guides: Eastern Birds’ Nests, Hal H. Harrison, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.

Princeton Field Guides: Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds, Paul J. Baicich and Colin J. O. Harrison, second ed., Princeton University Press, 2005.

Field Guides

Sibley Birds East, David Allen Sibley, second ed., Knopf Publishing, 2017.

Birds of Eastern and Central North America, Roger Tory Peterson and Virginia Marie Peterson, fifth ed., Houghton Mifflin Company, 1980.

The New Stokes Field Guide to Birds, Eastern Region, Donald and Lillian Stokes, Little, Brown, and Company, 2013.