Test takers can earn one of three certification levels, which are achieved for each Bird Conservation Region (BCR) and habitat category (forest, grassland, wetland, and comprehensive). Tests can be challenging and may include birds that breed, migrate, or overwinter in a BCR, birds in juvenile or immature plumage, and rare to uncommon species.
A Certification Level 1 birder is capable of visually identifying typical backyard birds and at least some of the common species found in natural habitats. This level requires an ability to use a field guide for bird identification but involves minimal ability to identify birds by song or calls. Most casual birders are likely to fall in this category. In order to achieve Level 1 Certification for a given BCR × habitat combination (e.g., BCR 13 Forest), a birder must complete two Visual Identification Tests, correctly identifying at least 15 of the 20 species on both tests. There is no audio component at this level.
A Certification Level 2 birder is an experienced field observer who can visually identify most or all the birds in this region without the help of a field guide. Weaknesses are expected with difficult groups like shorebirds, gulls, and fall warblers. Birders at this level can also identify the most familiar of bird vocalizations and calls. In order to achieve Level 2 Certification for a given BCR × habitat combination (e.g., BCR 29 Wetland), a birder must complete two Visual Identification Tests, correctly identifying at least 18 of the 20 species on both tests, and complete two Audio Identification Tests, correctly identifying at least 50% of the species on both tests.
A Level 3 birder is capable of a complete and accurate survey of birds using a point count, transect, or other standard method. Tools such as field guides and audio CD’s can be used, but field surveys by birders at this level are expected to provide high quality, scientifically rigorous data. In order to achieve Level 3 Certification for a given BCR × habitat combination (e.g., BCR 23 Grassland), a birder must complete two Visual Identification Tests, correctly identifying at least 18 of 20 species on both tests, and complete two Audio Identification Tests, correctly identifying at least 80% of the species on both tests.
- Wetlands (may include species from open marsh, shrub-carr, and forested wetland habitats)
Because expertise may be limited to a specific type of habitat, we offer identification tests categorized by habitat. A birder can be certified for forests, for example, but not for wetlands.
The Comprehensive category encompasses all habitats within a particular BCR.
NOTE: Birders can now take a newly added specialty test called BCR 101, also known as the Great Lakes Waterbird Test. Great Lakes waterbirds include loons, grebes, pelicans, cormorants, bitterns, herons, egrets, swans, geese, ducks, rails, cranes, shorebirds, gulls, terns, and other related groups observed along Great Lakes' coastal shores anytime throughout the year. A birder can be certified in BCR 101 simply by taking any habitat category in the BCR 101 visual test module. There are no audio tests for this specialty test module, therefore test takers can only obtain Certification Level 1.
Wood Thrushes are common throughout the entire eastern U.S.; whereas, Hermit Thrushes tend to occur more in the north. However, the ranges of these two melodic thrushes overlap extensively, and their songs can be tricky to differentiate when heard at a distance. At close range, the distinctive “pit-pit-pit” call notes of the Wood Thrush give them away. The Hermit Thrush song tends to have a a single introductory note followed by a clearer, more melodic ending, compared with the more rapid trill of the Wood Thrush.