• Jim Steele & Mark Kudrav
  • Section 1:
  • June 4-9, 2017
  • Section 2:
  • June 10-15, 2017
  • Workshop
  • $397
  • Section 1 open
  • Section 2 open

  • Request registration information by emailing sfsu.snfc@gmail.com; include the keywords Bird ID by Song in the subject line

Bird Identification by Song

General Description:

This course will work on your song identification skills both in the field and through the use of recordings. Please download “Introduction to Learning Bird Song” for a brief description of the techniques emphasized in this class. Also download the folder with 150 bird songs. Throughout the week you will be amazed at the tremendous abundance and diversity that you "see" with your ears but miss with your eyes. In the early mornings when song is abundant, we will visit diverse habitats near the San Francisco State University's Sierra Nevada Field Campus and familiarize ourselves with the birds of those different localities. Some of the habitat visited will include pine-oak forest, boreal forest, riparian woodland, marsh and savannah, sage scrub (See SNFC bird checklist). We will take mid-day breaks and then use recorded songs to discuss and hone our ability to identify birdsong. Jim Steele has been involved in avian research using point counts for over 20 years.


Students should arrive in time on Sunday or Saturday evening to set up camp and attend an introductory class at 7:30 PM to introduce your ears to the class protocols and the next day's most likely songs.

Section 1: Students should arrive on Sunday for the introductory meeting after dinner. We will then meet each morning at 5:30 AM and bird around or near the campus, returning for a hot breakfast at 7 AM and to pack our lunch. We will then spend 4 hours at a variety sites. Students are free for the remaining afternoon but we will return for lab work using recordings from 4-6 PM. Class will end on Friday about noonish.

Section 2: Students arrive Saturday for the introductory meeting after dinner. Every day plan to be out in the field by 6:00 AM with a packed-cold breakfast - nothing hot but the coffee/tea. We will return for a hot lunch around 12:30 PM. Students are free for the remaining afternoon but we will return for lab work using recordings from 4-6 PM. Class will end on Thursday about noonish.


Binoculars, field guides, notebook. An IPOD, laptop with head set or similar a device will allow you to study recordings of local songs. A folder with 150 bird songs in MP3 format can be downloaded here. Each song has the names deleted from the recording in order for you to quiz yourself. We will use these songs for our lab work.

Very Very Helpful Option

I highly recommend that each student download a free copy of Cornell's software Raven Lite to a laptop and learn how to use it. Raven turns any recorded song into a sonogram with which you can analyze the song and visually help yourself hear the song. You can generate your own sonograms for all songs in the course CD or any other useful CD's. We will use these sonograms extensively to help us hear the various structural patterns of songs.

Camping gear


Although days are generally warm, or even hot at lower elevations, be prepared for temperatures as low as freezing at night. Variable weather clothing that may be layered is best. Long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, warm sweater and jacket, t-shirt and shorts or skirt, tennis shoes or hiking boots, sun hat, rain gear, and a warm hat or gloves for cold weather or night activities. Old sneakers, rubber boots, or hip-waders may come in handy for marsh prowling.


  • day pack
  • sunscreen
  • insect repellant
  • alarm clock
  • water bottles
  • Lunch fixings will be set out each morning for us, so it is nice to have a sturdy plastic container for your sandwich.
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