I learned approximately 70 Wisconsin birds in a class on the UW campus last fall and decided I needed to know more, so this semester I am taking Ornithology with Professor Mark Berres. The lab for the class involves learning to identify 200+ Wisconsin birds, and I thought it would be fun to start a series of blog entries to document and share my pedagogical journey. I plan to post each week about the birds I am seeing and whichever family of species I am required to learn at the time. If you love birds and are an experienced birder, I hope this will be interesting and fun, watching a relatively new birder explore all that Southern Wisconsin has to offer. If you are new to the subject, I hope I can share any tips and tricks I acquire and pass on my love for these amazing creatures.
This week was the first week of classes, or "Welcome Week," as it is known around campus. In my lab on Wednesday morning, we received a list of twenty-three birds to learn for next week. We have to identify each one by sight and sound. The birds we will get to know this week are all common winter birds of Southern Wisconsin, so when we go birding we will be able to recognize what we see and hear. In case you're interested in which birds are still flitting around your back yard, here's a list of this week's study subjects and links to their "All About Birds" pages, where you can find out more about them and listen to their songs and calls.
I'm actually quite familiar with all of these birds by sight, but I can only recognize some of their calls, so learning the rest will be a challenge. For beginners and experts alike, though, field guides are extremely helpful in learning to recognize birds by sight. The public library in Madison has quite a few bird field guides on hand, or you can find them in local bookstores and online. My first guide was Birds of Wisconsin by Stan Tekiela. This guide is fantastic for beginners because it organizes birds by color, which is a major determining factor for beginners when identifying a species. My current guide, though, is Birds of Eastern North America by David Allen Sibley. Filled with over 600 species and amazing illustrations, this book is one of my favorites. If you're looking for a few more ecological facts about these birds, you can learn about Black-capped Chickadees and other common birds with distinctive calls or some birding tips for parents in these past issues of Nature Net News.
Nature Net Intern