Effective Bird Identification

Distance learning: 9th January - 27th February 2023 (Part-time)

Imagine being able to clearly identify different birds quickly and effortlessly.

Bird spotting can feel overwhelming at the start, but this course gives you clarity and insight into British and European birds as we teach you how to identify and distinguish between species.

We begin with your existing understanding of birds – and you’ll be surprised how much you already know.  Then we’ll guide you to become more effective with your bird identification, increasing your field and note taking skills.

Whilst anyone can take this course to increase their knowledge, completing it also enhances employability within the nature or conservation sector.  Our Effective Bird Identification course also counts as valuable CPD learning.

Key Facts

Location: Remote – home learning

Course details:  Our practical bird identification course runs remotely for 8 weeks of part time distance learning through January and February.

Course delivery: Ambios are a team of professional ecologists, land managers and nature conservation educators with a 30 year track record. We have a range of skills that will support your learning by sharing our knowledge and expertise. 

Dates: Winter 2023: 9th January – 27th February.

Cost: £199

Our Effective Bird Identification course is perfect for:

  • Students at university or recent graduates looking for practical field based skills before employment
  • Candidates applying for job roles which require specific bird knowledge
  • Volunteers keen to take on wildlife surveys
  • Anyone wanting to know more about birds

We operate an open recruitment policy and welcome applications from all.


Previous course participants have said:

“I’m really, seriously overjoyed at doing this course!  I feel like I’ve learned so much in a couple of weeks, but I’ve taken it in quite easily… you have good teaching materials and it is all made fun!  Thank you so much for this :)”

“Brilliant course, really enjoyable…”
“The balance [of different learning materials] was great and I always found myself excited to learn more and engage with the content.”
“I really enjoyed the course and feel it would enhance my CV and help with future job prospects. I believe it is another very important string on my bow.”

Course Content

This course provides you with the skills you need to determine species of birds in any given area.  Being able to put a name to a bird can have conservation or legal consequences and can help engage the public with nature.

Becoming an effective bird identifier means practising nature detective field skills and increasing your familiarity with key species.

This course will help you develop these abilities ready for practical work, a future role or your own personal learning.

The eight weeks are structured to cover all you’ll need to know about British and European bird species.

Weekly Timetable

Week 1 – Observing Birds

  • Use of binoculars and how to make field notes
  • Learn how to sketch a bird sighting in the wild
  • The five key features of bird identification

Week 2 – European Bird Families

  • Describing key differences between 5 major European bird families

Week 3 – Shape

  • Understanding the role of shape in identifying birds
  • Learn how to describe the stance and proportion of a bird
  • Know different beak shapes and how they relate to identification

Week 4 – More Shapes

  • Learn different leg shapes and how they relate to identification
  • How to describe the shape of birds in flight

Week 5 – Size, Calls and Song

  • Learn the role of size in identification, how to determine and describe it
  • The importance of song, calls and how to describe them

Week 6 – Colour and Markings

  • The importance of colour and markings in bird identification
  • Learn which markings are particularly important when describing a bird in the field

Week 7 – Behaviour, time of year and location

  • Why behaviour is important in identifying birds
  • Learn how time of year, location and habitat are useful to help with identification

Week 8 – Summary and final Q&As

The remote learning experience

This course is designed to fit around your own work, study or family commitments.  Each week, the learning materials are uploaded on a Monday, and you have a full week to complete the tasks.  Your study is supported by a live Zoom call each Thursday at 7pm in which all delegates will come together with our trainers for an interactive session to consolidate learning.

Your time will be split 50:50 between online learning (mostly through video content) and field observation.  You’ll watch our instructional videos, and then find a good site for birdwatching.  We recommend somewhere near water rather than in wooded areas as identification is easier here.  If you live in a city, a park with a lake will work just as well.  We estimate the course will take between 4-6 hours of your time each week.

During each week, you will be instructed to complete at least one sketch of a bird you see.  You don’t need to be an artist – you’ll be taught basic sketching skills and learn how to annotate your drawing in the field notebook we send you. The aim is to record key features on an outline of a bird, and make some notes of shape, colour and stance.

You’ll then upload this picture with your identification for our tutors to see.  At the live Zoom each Thursday, we’ll go through each student’s sketch and ID.  This gives you instant feedback on your progress but also a greater breadth of learning as you try out your identification skills on other student’s sketches and sightings.

This course is delivered by our tutors Simon Roper and Fraser Rush.  Both have decades of experience in conservation and nature work and bring a wealth of expertise and knowledge.

How to apply

We welcome applicants from all over the world.  If you’d like to join the course from outside the UK, all you have to do is buy a field notebook and the second edition of the Collins Bird Guide for Britain and Europe.

UK applicants will receive a blank field notebook and a secondhand copy of the Collins Bird Guide a week before the course starts.  You’ll then be given access to the Ambios Ltd online learning environment where we support you with live online workshops and additional materials.

All students need a computer and internet connection – desktops and laptops work best. You’ll also need access to a variety of outdoor locations which can begin with your own garden or environs and move to local parks or nature reserves.

We do require a minimum of 10 students to run the course, so if we are undersubscribed we may have to refund your payment.  However, this course will run again, so you will be able to join the next cohort.

The e-badge

On completion of the course, you will gain an e-badge that will contain all the course information and a detailed description of your achievements.  This can then be shared on social media, professional platforms and with any potential future employers.

If you’re excited to start learning how to effectively identify birds with us, simply book your space and pay for the course below.


Effective Bird Identification Course
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