Free Online Bird Identification Resources
NatureInstruct – Dendroica
Specially designed to help you learn bird vocalizations. View birds from all of Canada, Ontario or a Bird Conservation Region (BCR; to see a map of BCRs click here). You can make custom lists to study smaller groups at a time or can set to select species randomly. Each species has multiple photos and sounds to study from. Along with the tools to learn bird identification, NatureInstruct – Dendroica also has quizzing capabilities! Quiz yourself on sight, sound, or both! Quizzes can be taken based on custom lists or based on all species. Quizzes can be done by song-type, taxonomy, or location (such as all of Ontario). This site gives you the option to select answers from the entire bird species list (advanced), 18 species (intermediate), or 6 species (basic). Written descriptions of bird vocalizations are provided and you can also view sonograms. For a video tutorial on how to use Dendroica, click here
Bird Watchers Digest – Bird Identification
Select groups to view individual species’ names, photos, descriptions, and calls. This site offers in-depth descriptions of what to look for when identifying species, where to find them, and their nesting behaviors.
Bird Certification Online
Bird Certification Online provides practice tests for visual or sound identification. Quizzing by sound is broken down into three sections: forest, grassland, or wetland audio. This site randomly selects 20 species for the quiz. This would be a good test for individuals who are comfortable with their bird identification.
All About Birds – Bird ID and Skills
Cornell – All About Birds offers various articles with tips for bird identification, including bird songs, how to use size and shape to help visually identify a bird, and how bird behavior can help in visual identification. Cornell also offers many useful video resources for birders, including a video playlist of bird sounds!
This podcast takes the listeners on audio birding tours of different habitats in the Great Lakes region of Ontario. Each episode has recordings of a particular habitat as the guide describes each species that is heard.
Some other resources that provide videos or sound clips of birds singing and calling are Lang Elliott – Music of Nature and Stony Brook – Bird Songs.
For those interested in how to visualize bird sounds, Earbirding offers a description on how to interpret spectrograms of bird songs to facilitate bird identification.
Other Bird Identification Resources
The University of Guelph is offering virtual bird ID courses for beginner and intermediate birders. Join Chris Earley, Arboretum Interpretive Biologist and author of 5 bird field guides, for a series of eight virtual noon-hour lectures on eight different bird groups (Hawks, Ducks, Sparrows, Sandpipers, Gulls, Spring Warblers, Fall Warblers and Spring Migrants). ID techniques, field marks, shapes, behaviour clues and more will all be covered. Courses will be held on Fridays from 12-1 p.m. from October 22 – December 10, 2021.
Cornell offers many paid online courses for learning bird identification. Spring Field Ornithology – Northeast contains 16 lectures and 7 quizzes on bird identification for species found in eastern United States and Canada. This material covers winter residents, waterfowl, hawk and owl species, shorebirds, early migrants, late migrants, warblers, and vireos. This course does not explicitly cover song however, Cornell also offers a course on How to Identify Bird Song. This course includes 8 lectures and practice quizzes geared toward training your ear to identify bird songs as well as the difference between songs and calls. This resource also includes the Cornell Macaulay Library included as a bonus material – the Macaulay Library contains songs and calls from 729 North American bird species.
The two most popular bird identification field guides for the Ontario region are The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America, and Peterson Field Guides – Eastern and Central North America. Both field guides have depictions of male, female and juveniles for over 500 bird species and include information such as important field markings, and ranges.
Cornell and Audubon both offer free phone apps to help with bird identification. Cornell – Merlin App helps identify unknown birds by allowing users to input the location, date, habitat, size and color of the spotted bird and offering a list of potential species. The Merlin app also contains a feature for users to search for specific species to see photos, hear songs / calls, see range maps, and to read more about the species. The Merlin App connects with the eBird app to view species that have been recorded by the user in eBird. The Audubon App contains many of the same features as Merlin – including the step-by-step bird ID and species’ profiles. However, Audubon also allows individuals to keep track of bird sightings directly in the app. Additionally, Audubon connects with eBird to allow users to discover nearby birding hotspots and real-time bird sightings.
Another useful app for learning bird identification is LarkWire. LarkWire is a paid game-based app for phones and computers geared toward learning bird songs. A song or call is played and users pick which bird species they think would produce that sound.
Birding by ear
Listen to narrated song recordings by Canadian recordist John Neville on Spotify for Eastern Canada and the Central Boreal Forest, or find all of his collections at nevillerecording.com.