Image: Kevin McGowan

Build Your Raptor Confidence

This series of instructional videos helps you build techniques and strategies and gets you up to speed on all the hawks and raptors of North America.

  • Practice how to use wingspan and tail length to help you identify raptors
  • Get used to using clues from silhouettes in the sky
  • Learn keys to ID for all the raptors commonly found in in North America

Be a Better Birder: Hawk & Raptor Identification Archived Series

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About This Course
  • Lessons inside: 6
  • Completion time (estimated): 7 hours
  • Instructional videos: 6
  • Total instructional video time: 6 hours
  • Level: Advanced
  • Categories: Bird Identification
  • Regionality: United States/Canada – General
  • CEU credits: 0.7 (optional additional purchase)
  • Self-paced, no expiration date, 100% online
  • 30-day refund guarantee
Golden Eagle Image: Kevin McGowan

Why I Made This Course

"This series gets you up close and personal with the hawks, eagles, and falcons of the United States and Canada. You’ll get to know their markings and behaviors so that next time you see a hawk fly by, you’ll be able to confidently add it to your list.

Featuring all 34 raptors from across the United States and Canada, this video-based course will help you enjoy the thrill of recognizing everything from hawks to falcons, kites, vultures, and eagles."

Kevin McGowan—Dr. Kevin McGowan, Course Instructor
Cooper's Hawk (Juvenile) Image: Chezy Yusuf/Macaulay Library

What's Inside

This 6-session raptor identification series was recorded as live streamed webinars in 2015. Bird Academy is now offering the video archives of this popular series so that you can jump-start your raptor identification skills—this time completely at your own pace. Each lesson contains more than an hour of online video instruction by Dr. Kevin McGowan, plus a downloadable handout to help you take notes as you watch.

Meet the Course Instructor

Kevin McGowan
Dr. Kevin McGowan Professional Ornithologist, World Series of Birding Champion

Course instructor Kevin McGowan combines deep knowledge about birds with a passion for helping others learn. He is a professional ornithologist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and one of the world’s foremost experts on the behavior of crows. Kevin is also an accomplished birder and World Series of Birding champion. Among his contributions to Bird Academy, he created the popular Be a Better Birder series of courses and live webinars and co-authored the university-level Ornithology: Comprehensive Bird Biology course.

Most Recent Course: The Wonderful World of Owls

Course Overview

Lesson 1:

Session 1: How To Get Started

Get to know the diversity of raptors from eagles and hawks to falcons and kites. Learn the best ways to get started identifying them—for raptors that means concentrating on shape and behavior.

Lesson 2:

Session 2: Other Things to Use

Build your raptor identification toolbox by considering how size, color pattern, markings, habitat, range, and calls can help narrow down your IDs. Looking for distinctive patches on the underwing and associating certain species with their preferred habitat will make a big difference.

Lesson 3:

Session 3: Buteos

Learn the key characteristics of the North American buteos, the broad-winged hawks. By paying special attention to wing shape, you’ll can master hawk ID even when you can only see silhouettes in the sky.

Lesson 4:

Session 4: Accipiters and Falcons

Explore the key characteristics of the North American short-winged accipiters and the long-winged falcons. Learn to distinguish the silhouettes both with wings spread and in a perched position.

Lesson 5:

Session 5: Eagles, Vultures, and Others

Focus on the very large raptors, including the eagles and vultures, as well as some other species that do not fit an easy classification. Get up to speed on how to use shape and behavior to tease apart these species in the field.

Lesson 6:

Session 6: Kites and Rarities

To complete your guided tour through the North American raptors, get to know the key characteristics of the kites, both the long-winged, widespread ones and the broad-winged rarities.

Hear What Students Have to Say

The Raptor series I purchased have been so well done I can't say enough good things on how much it has helped me. What a value for such terrific lessons and also a good cause to support Cornell." Fred, Bird Academy Student
Even though I am an experienced birder I am surprised at how much I learn from this series and I look forward to more." Terry, Bird Academy Student
Broke things down for me to help me ID these birds. Things Dr. McGowan said like (mnemonics) Broad Buteos and Fast, Furious Falcons are helpful. Also the notion of comparing a bird's wings and tail to its head and body length is great information. Thank you!" Barbara, Bird Academy Student
Buy Be a Better Birder: Hawk & Raptor Identification Archived Series Now!
Satisfaction Guarantee

Our educators and birding experts take pride in the courses they create. If you're not satisfied with the material for ANY reason, contact us within 30 days of the start of the course or purchase for a full refund.

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Give the Gift of Learning

Gift certificates are a great way to give the bird enthusiasts in your life something that supports and encourages their passion.

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This Course is Entirely Online

There’s nothing to be shipped, and no additional material is necessary. Bird Academy courses are online, self-paced, and there is no deadline to complete them. You can return to them for reference or practice as often as you want. All course material and instructional videos are available through your web browser. Learn anytime, anywhere*. Gain the skills and understanding you’re looking for.

*Requires an internet connection and a modern web browser.

Course Instructor: Kevin McGowan
Course Developer: Lee Ann van Leer
Media Collections Manager: Matt Young

Give the Gift of Learning

Gift certificates are a great way to give the bird enthusiasts in your life something that supports and encourages their passion.

Learn About Gift Certificates