Will you be ready to identify this bird in early May if you only get a two-second view of it? We can up our bird identification game in the coming weeks with lots of online bird identification quizzes. Photo by Paul Nicholson
Whether you are an avid and experienced bird watcher who is out every week all year or a fair-weather birder who simply delights in the antics of the Cardinals and Juncos at a backyard feeder, we all look forward to spring migration. And many of us welcome the opportunity to brush up on our species identification skills before May arrives. Fortunately, there are a lot of free online quizzes that can help us do just that. Some focus on field marks while others key in on bird vocalizations.
One of my favourite online bird quizzes might be the one at BirdingQuiz.com because it is so customizable. You can key in on Ontario birds and you can also set the level of difficulty.
At BirdQuiz.net, there are three beginner quizzes, three intermediate, and three advanced ones. Each quiz has twenty identification questions based on field marks. From the home page, you can then easily navigate to other pages for additional tests based on bird families or particular geographic locations. Each of these “slideshow quizzes” has twenty questions based on photographs. If you want a score, keep track of your hits and misses yourself.
Bird Watcher’s Digest has a number of online spring migration quizzes including an eight-question spring migrant quiz that keys in on field marks of some songbirds. Do you need to brush up on the “Little Brown Jobs”? Sparrows – also known as LBJs – are a perennial challenge for most of us. Try a sparrow ID quiz. Bird Watcher’s Digest has other quizzes as well, including one that features some feeder birds.
In May, we will see many warbler species. There a number of quizzes that can give us a leg up through early spring. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a short warbler quiz on YouTube with audio and visuals.
One interesting quiz that incorporates both field marks and vocalizations is an eBird Photo and Sound quiz. You need a (free) eBird account to participate. What I find ingenious about these quizzes is that while honing your own ID skills, you are enhancing the eBird database. In fact, the tag line for these pages is “Practice your skills. Help science.” Like the tests at BirdingQuiz.com, you customize your twenty-question eBird quizzes based on where you are, the time of year, and whether you want photographs or audio recordings. You rate the media before proceeding to the next question.
At SibleyGuides.com there are some specialized quizzes relating to counting flocks of birds in flight. This can be useful if you post frequently to the eBird platform.
If you’re feeling especially confident in your bird vocalization ID abilities, you can try the Dendroica Canada quiz. I find the interface to be mediocre but the challenge is very good, and as with the other quizzes, there is an opportunity to learn.
There are of course almost as many ways to learn about birds as there are birders. You might prefer self-directed learning, formal in-person courses, guided field hikes, or interactive websites such as Larkwire. There are also lots of online courses such as those offered by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Bird Academy and excellent Zoom-based birdsong courses led by the University of Guelph’s Chris Earley. But the quizzes highlighted above are still fun to try, and they might take you straight to a Northern Parula ID when you see the pretty bird above.