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Birding by Ear: Learning to identify birds without sight

Co-organized by the Madison Audubon Society and the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired

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

Birding by Ear is a class that meets on two Saturdays with classroom and outdoor components.  It is directed toward individuals with vision impairment.  The first meeting on Saturday, June 2, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon will involve classroom-based learning, exploring the various songs of common bird species found in June in Pheasant Branch Conservancy. The classroom component will be held in the conference room at the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired, 754 Williamson Street, Madison, WI.

The second meeting on Saturday, June 16, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. will take place at Pheasant Branch Conservancy in Middleton, WI.  A wide, flat, gravel/boardwalk path will take us through wooded habitat to practice our newfound skills using techniques and songs for identifying birds by close listening.

The outdoor portion of the class will offer sighted assistants at a 2:1 ratio to help participants safely maneuver through the Conservancy. Participants are encouraged to bring a friend or family member to serve as a sighted guide.  Those without a sighted guide will be paired with volunteer guides.  Guide dogs are welcome, but note that leashed dogs are also allowed in the Conservancy.

For the outdoor component, we will meet at the trailhead on Marina Drive (off Century Avenue in Middleton, WI).  If you come with a personal driver, parking is available along Marina Drive.  We will provide transportation from the Council to Marina Drive for those requesting it at registration.  Madison Metro can also get you there.  Bus Route 78 drops off at Century Avenue and Marina Drive. If riding the bus, we encourage you to ride past the Marina Drive east-bound stop; the bus will turn around just a couple blocks down the street. Get off on the Marina Drive west-bound stop. This will prevent you from needing to cross Century Avenue without a stoplight.  We will have someone at the bus stop to walk with you to the trailhead for those requesting this assistance at registration.

Birding by Ear is part of Madison Audubon Society's Audubon Naturalists Series.  Membership in the Madison Audubon Society is not required to enroll in this class.  If you are interested in joining, go to!

Dates, times and locations:

Please note that this class is a 2-part series. When you register, you automatically sign up for two classes: June 2 and June 16.

Classroom portion: Saturday, June 2, 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon at 754 Williamson Street, Madison, WI.

Outdoor portion: Saturday, June 16, 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., Pheasant Branch Conservancy, Marina Drive location. In case of inclement weather, the rain date is Sunday, June 17, same time and location.

Registration fee: $20.00 per person with vision impairment; there is no fee for a sighted guide who attends with you. A Council staff member will contact you to collect the registration fee.

Class enrollment cap: 16-24 people, depending on the mix of participants and guides.

Taught by: Kerry Wilcox, Biologist

Cover photo by Arlene Koziol


To register, click here.