Learn to Identify Birds at Birding By Ear

A song sparrow with white and reddish-brown feathers sings while sitting on a branch with thorns.

A brown and white Song Sparrow perched on a branch with its head thrown back and beak open in song. Photo by Mick Thompson.

Just as unique as their color and shape, bird songs come in all tunes and pitches. Identifying birds by their song is an exciting activity and skill, and experienced bird watchers will tell you that most birding is done without actually seeing the bird, but by hearing it.

Birding By Ear, held in partnership with Madison Audubon, teaches techniques for identifying birds by close listening. Participants new to the hobby of birding by ear, as well as birders of any level continuing to learn and practice their skills, are welcome. People who have taken this class before will hear some of the same content but are welcome to participate and continue developing their listening skills.

Ellen Connor, who participated with her partner last year, calls Birding By Ear a highlight of 2020. The Oregon resident says the class got the couple outside more.

“I started getting into birding at a time my vision was starting to change,” Connor says. “This class got me back into something I really love, walking and hiking on park trails, and it gave me back something I thought I was going to lose.”

The class is held in two sessions. Cost is $20, with scholarships available. The first session will focus on techniques and context, as well as introduce some of the most common bird songs heard in early May in southern Wisconsin. The second session will focus on strengthening your listen-memory skills and strategies for picking a song out of a chorus. While the class content is geared for Wisconsinites, the skills and techniques learned in this class can be transferred anywhere!

Classes will be offered online and designed for people with vision impairment or loss, as well as individuals with full sight. Materials will be available digitally, in large font or braille. Classes will be:

First session: April 29, 6:00-8:00 p.m. or May 1, 10:00-12:00 p.m.
Second session: May 6, 6:00-8:00 p.m. or May 8, 10:00-12:00 p.m.

Find out more or register for Birding By Ear at the Council’s website or call 608-255-1166.

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