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Spring Field Ornithology

 SFO 2018

Discover birds of the Cayuga Lake region and beyond!

March 28 - May 20

 Registration is open!


Learn about bird behavior from the world’s experts and take your bird identification skills to the next level with Spring Field Ornithology. Now in our 5th decade (!) this popular 8 week course features lectures, weekend field trips and special overnight trips to places like Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge and Magee Marsh in Ohio.

Wednesday evening lectures are taught by Dr. Steve Kress, Vice President for Bird Conservation for the National Audubon Society and director of Project Puffin, along with other experts at the Lab of Ornithology. The lectures portion of the course introduces students to common birds of the eastern US through audio recordings, slides, videos, and interesting talks.  Lecture topics include identification skills, bird behavior, museum collections, local migrants and gardening for birds.  Optional video presentations are offered before each class.

I took this course so that I could go beyond identifying birds from a field guide in my back yard and it surpassed my expectations!  I now know how to look at birds, to look for their distinguishing characteristics, to look at their flight, to look at the habitat, to know when & where to look for certain species.  It was very educational and a lot of fun.   - Lois, Plymouth, NY

Weekend morning field trips visit habitats including Sapsucker Woods, Dryden Lake, Derby Hill, Braddock Bay, and other select birding locations in Central NY. Students chose between Saturday OR Sunday trips.  For the field trips portion of the course, Kress is joined by some of the area’s best birding experts to form birding groups at beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. Field group size is small (maximum of 12 students, usually 7-10) in order for the participants to gain the most from their experience. Students stay in the same group throughout the class and every weekend the course's various field trip leaders will introduce their group's participants to different local birding "hot spots" and give tips on how to locate, identify and learn from the behaviors of different birds. Lessons vary depending on the group skill level (beginning, intermediate or advanced) and personal interests of participants.

Everything about this class is fantastic! The leaders are friendly and gifted people who are choosing to share their time, knowledge and  love of birds and I will take this course every year if I can.     - Jane, Syracuse, NY

Overnight trips Students may also choose to participate in the overnight trips to the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in Seneca Falls, NY, and/or Magee Marsh, OH. Extra fees apply for overnight trips.

Enrollment is open to anyone over the age of 12. Space is limited, as the course is very popular. Students may be able to take the course for credit as independent study by obtaining approval from their advisor prior to enrolling. 

To enroll or to obtain the latest course information, please contact the SFO Course Coordinator at 607-254-2165, call the Lab's (toll-free) number at 800-843-2473, or send an email to

I have gone from an occasional bird looker to someone who is out several times a week with my binoculars and pad an paper for now I am able to identify a bird by wing bars, eye bands, kind of beak, habitat.  It is so exciting.      - Marlaine, Groton, NY

Prairie warbler
Prairie warbler on a cherry tree branch in spring. 

Articles about SFO


Spring Field Ornithology Celebrates 30 Years with Steve Kress

You Must Believe In Spring (2012)


2017 Class Supporters--thank you!

Plantsmen logo
The Plantsmen Nursery is donating a native landscaping plant to each member of the in-person 2018 class, as well as offering a 15% discount on all purchases for a single day. Coupons will be distribute the last day of class. 
Wild Birds Unlimited at Sapsucker Woods has for years donated bird-friendly coffee for SFO lectures.