The National Geographic Guide to Birding in North America

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great option for learning more about birds! I am only through the first two lectures, but so far, it is very well organized and includes so many examples via photo and video. The PDF allows you to walk back and totally absorb what was presented in the lecture. I am really enjoying this!
Date published: 2020-10-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Bird photos often disconnected from lectures My only comment is that the screen shot frequently shows a video loop of birds that are not the topic of the lecture--not only distracting but confusing. Lecturer is very good.
Date published: 2020-09-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very helpful for my new hobbie I'm retired and decided to start a new hobby. I was always interested in birds and felt birding would be a good hobby. I like birds and being outside. I like to have an excuse to travel. The Birding in North America course is a great way for me to lean the basics. The course is easy to follow and very informative. I purchased the course suggested book, Field Guide to the Birds of North America, which is a big help in learning more about the many species. I would recommend this course for anyone interested in learning about birding.
Date published: 2020-09-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good content and a bargain, but showing its age Video production values are not what one would currently expect. And I had trouble (not yet solved) with getting the audio and video to sync. But again, the content is good if a bit musty.
Date published: 2020-08-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Birding I have found the information provided in this class to be very informative and interesting.
Date published: 2020-08-22
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Makes a better sleep aid! The narrator speaks in such a monotone voice that I fall asleep every time I try to watch it.
Date published: 2020-08-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Class 1 and 2 Just took the first two sessions. Very good. Can’t wait to see more birds now that I’ve had the basics.
Date published: 2020-08-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Birding Excellent clarity of speech and ADA accessibility for visual/hearing impaired. Instructor is fascinating and visuals and graphics outstanding.
Date published: 2020-08-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So informative! I purchased this about a month ago, still haven’t finished it because I just don’t wanna finish it just yet. That’s how much I adore this course!
Date published: 2020-08-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great informative lectures I was given this for my birthday. Luckily my brother asked me if I wanted the online or DVD’s. I opted for the DVD’s ( which also includes on-line) for 2 reasons. I wanted the course book and I like having hard copies because I find online stuff gets lost in limbo land after a while. I am so glad I got the book. It is so much easier to follow along and I can write notes ( which are few). His lectures are pretty much verbatim from the book but I like that. Less trying to scramble writing notes. I can go back and study the things I highlighted. One thing that would REALLY make this an excellent Learning experience would be questions at the end of each lecture. It would be nice to know what I am retaining then study more what I am not. But other than that I am so excited because I have learned so much in just 2 lectures and my birding friend of 60 years is also because I’ll understand some of the terminology she uses. Thanks for this series.
Date published: 2020-08-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Terrific course Extremely well done, comprehensive course that even an experienced birder will appreciate!
Date published: 2020-08-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent information! Have watched the first disc, great instructor whose lectures are logical, easy to understand, informative and entertaining. It's everything that I hoped it would be.
Date published: 2020-07-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great educational series! This is a very good course by James Currie. He does a great job presenting the valuable information.
Date published: 2020-07-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very Informative I bought this for my husband for Father's Day and he just loves it. I just wish it also included bird songs.
Date published: 2020-06-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from bird shots, the binocular demonstration, Really am loving all the information about birds...identication, location, coloration, and so much more about birds.
Date published: 2020-06-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I'm a better bird watcher I'm only halfway through the programs and I have already picked up some valuable hints that make bird watching easier and more fun. The instructor has tips on how to use binoculars that help me when using them to see a bird closer. He tells the best size to purchase too. He also offers websites and apps that are useful when identifying a bird. I have already downloaded one I found through the course that is helping me identify the birds in my backyard.
Date published: 2020-06-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative course. The lecturer seems to be omniscient in his field and presents his material beautifully.
Date published: 2020-06-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very information This birding class has taught me so many things I never knew. The lessons learned will serve me well as I explore the world of birds. Also, the presenter has a pleasant demeanor and is a good speaker.
Date published: 2020-06-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Study at Home This is my second and third course. I can work at my own pace and learn from experts.
Date published: 2020-06-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very Good for Starting Birding This is a comprehensive examination of birds and birding for someone interested in birding who is looking for information to get started. The presenter is easy to listen to and has an obvious enthusiasm for his subject. The organization of the material is logical and takes the viewer from overview to some specific topics about birds, their families, habits, geographic locations, and techniques to help the birder pursue their interest. The only deficiency for me is that although it is called Birds in North America, it tends to be U.S.- centric, with not as much about Canada and Mexico.
Date published: 2020-05-18
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not good first impressions Well, I always find pelagic birds fascinating and difficult, so I turned to it first, and for the 10 minutes I watched, I got a talking head with a background of a temperate forest with songbirds. Then, jumping right in, he did not start from the shore or ferries but went to chartered boats and special one-day trips. Come on already!
Date published: 2020-05-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great overall introduction to the world of birds This is a wonderful overall introduction to the world of birds and birding and serves as a springboard to research your individual interests in birds. No course can cover all aspects of birds and birding, so this course did a wonderful job in providing an introduction. I am quite surprised to see the number of critical reviews mentioning Mr. Currie's accent. In my opinion, this is completely unfair, and the Great Courses should remove these comments.
Date published: 2020-04-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great way to learn I purchased this a month or two ago and my husband and I are enjoying learning more about birdwatching.
Date published: 2020-04-21
Rated 1 out of 5 by from About This Course Slowing moving. Boring. Instructor not an ornithologist. Speaker exhibits slow, stilted speech pattern, unnatural movements. Like I can't figure out difference between a flamingo and bald eagle and why. I watched because I paid for it. Yawn.
Date published: 2020-04-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really learned a lot I bought this to occupy myself during the pandemic and it proved to be a most constructive way to spend this shut in time. I feel I did something positive and enduring for myself.
Date published: 2020-04-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Infomercial for National Geographic The lecturer is very good - clear and well organized but the talks sometimes feel like an infomercial for the National Geographic bird guide. It would also be nice if he should more detailed bird photos and videos as part of his talks.
Date published: 2020-04-10
Rated 1 out of 5 by from poor features not right for me - to much general talking-thinking-compare, and minimum info about each bird (no graphic-scale for size ilustration, no voise-sound each one)
Date published: 2020-03-30
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointing fora a new birder Mr. Currie obviously knows his birds but he races through his material much too quickly to be useful to an inexperienced novice. I was disappointed that the pictures accompanying the lectures weren't sufficient to follow his explanation about why bird A is different from bird B. I was also disappointed that he doesn't clearly explain more about what commonalities put birds in one species rather than another. He talks a lot about birds but surprisingly little about birding. I wouldn't consider this on a par with the other Nat Geo courses I've purchased.
Date published: 2020-03-27
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Birding I bought the CD/print edition book format. The book provided is a word for word rewrite of the lecture. It is not an addition. The lecturer actually references a different book to use with the course. Worst part is that the book we received is in black and white which really does not help with the subject "Birding" because the course references identify birds using color example frequently. The PDF version is in color. So that helps but it means relying on the computer. Had I know the book was in black and white I would not have paid for this format. I reached out to Great Courses for an explanation and resolution but never received a reply. I also bought two other courses. Each about photography which also relies on color photos for the course. Those books are also in black and white. Very disappointed,
Date published: 2020-02-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic series of lectures. This course was presented to me as a gift and it proved inspiring. The amount of information, the depth of discussion and the stunning photography were riveting. I am now a passionate bird advocate.
Date published: 2020-01-03
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The National Geographic Guide to Birding in North America
Course Trailer
Birding Basics: Bird Origins and Taxonomy
1: Birding Basics: Bird Origins and Taxonomy

Begin by delving into the history of birdwatching in the U.S., from the early naturalists of the 18th century to today's highly organized activity. Then look into the origins of birds, and how they are linked evolutionarily to dinosaurs and early reptiles. Finally, explore bird taxonomy, and how their scientific classification aids us in identifying them in the field....

31 min
Basic Bird Anatomy
2: Basic Bird Anatomy

Investigate the anatomy of birds, and how understanding anatomical features aids us in identification. Then learn about the fascinating range of bird feathers, and their different functions. Observe how understanding the flight patterns of birds helps identify them in the field. Last, compare two common birds, as an exercise in using the knowledge you've learned so far....

30 min
Size, Shape, and Color as Birding Tools
3: Size, Shape, and Color as Birding Tools

Look first at three physical tools that you can use right away to become a more effective birder. Consider how familiarity with the shape or silhouette of bird families, as well as bird size, aid you in focusing in on exact species. Study the color factors of pigment and keratin, as they produce the dazzling range of bird coloration, and investigate color as an identification tool....

30 min
Bird Distribution, Status, and Endemism
4: Bird Distribution, Status, and Endemism

Take account of three further aids for bird identification. See how charting birds' distribution or geographical range provides much useful information about specific species. Grasp the benefits of knowing a bird's status, or abundance vs. rarity, and how status can change. Also study the factor of endemism, where birds are limited to one specific region, and the uses of this information....

32 min
Habitat and Season as Birding Tools
5: Habitat and Season as Birding Tools

Explore the North American habitats of forest, grasslands, desert, sagebrush, chaparral, and tundra, distinguishing their specific features and the amazing birds that are native to each of these environments. Add to this knowledge by investigating the roles of habitat specialization, the seasons, and migration patterns as they help us in identifying bird species....

31 min
Introduction to Birding Optics
6: Introduction to Birding Optics

This lecture discusses the core optical tools that aid us in observing birds in the field. Study the parts of a pair of binoculars, and the pros and cons of different types of binoculars. Learn how to use binoculars for birding, highlighting matters such as magnification, field of view, and depth of field. Also take account of spotting scopes, and how they provide detail that binoculars can't....

30 min
Tactics for Better Birding
7: Tactics for Better Birding

Today, review a range of methods for attracting birds, in the field and at home. In both places, consider the use of stealth and concealment techniques, for observing while remaining unobserved. Study the remarkable ability of sounds to attract birds, and the use of water, plants, and feeders in your yard. Also learn about important ways to record your observations....

30 min
Using Bird Behavior to Identify Birds
8: Using Bird Behavior to Identify Birds

Look into six categories of bird behavior, as they provide vital information for identification. See how individual species are distinguished by typical or unique behavioral traits. Study the distinctive feeding habits of many species, and how we can recognize species from flight and flocking behavior. End by exploring the extraordinary mating and nesting customs of North American birds....

31 min
Understanding Variations in Plumage
9: Understanding Variations in Plumage

Plumage variation in a single bird reveals much useful information. First, take account of plumage differences based on sex, and seasonal plumage changes. Then investigate the remarkable range of age-related plumage variation in birds. Learn how birds molt (shed and replace plumage), and how hybrid species, as well as genetic and environmental factors, pose challenges for identification....

29 min
Birding by Ear
10: Birding by Ear

Study the physics and biology of avian sounds, which underlie the rich range of birdsong heard in the field. Discover how birds learn to vocalize, and how bird songs and calls are used for a remarkable spectrum of communication. Look at mimicry in birds, ways to use recordings to attract birds, and how digital technology can teach us more about bird vocalization....

31 min
Essentials of Bird Migration
11: Essentials of Bird Migration

Migration seasons provide excellent opportunities to sight unfamiliar bird species. Here, uncover the evolutionary origins of migration, and why birds migrate. Study the triggers and geographical patterns of migration, and the four principal "flyways" (migration zones) of North America. Learn how to maximize your sightings of migrating birds, and how technology can aid this....

30 min
Birding at Night
12: Birding at Night

Some additional birding skills are needed for night viewing of birds. Learn about equipment for night birding, ways of locating nocturnal birds, and approaches to viewing migrating birds at night. Then investigate the fascinating range of night birds, encompassing the great diversity of owls, as well as species such as night-herons, nighthawks, and nightjars....

30 min
Pelagic Birding
13: Pelagic Birding

Open sea birding adds another exciting dimension to birdwatching. Begin with an introduction to sea trips for birding, covering types of excursions and vessels, equipment, and important logistical and safety information. Preview the remarkable birds you'll see, from the mysterious albatross to petrels, tropicbirds, pelicans, gulls, puffins, and the best places to embark from to see them....

29 min
Waterbirds, Shorebirds, and Game Birds
14: Waterbirds, Shorebirds, and Game Birds

In the first of six lectures on the bird families of North America, study four groups of birds that most people will find close to home. Begin with waterfowl, birds that swim in fresh water or near the ocean shore. Continue with wading birds, with their distinct physical profile; shorebirds, a vast group which includes sandpipers; and upland game birds....

33 min
Diurnal Raptors
15: Diurnal Raptors

Now travel into the world of these iconic and alluring birds of prey, and their distinguishing features, ranges, and behaviors. Learn about New World vultures, including the magnificent California condor. Also encounter the osprey, kites, eagles, hawks, falcons, kestrels, and the crested caracara. Consider the challenges of raptor-watching, and their unusual history with humans....

33 min
From Doves to Kingfishers
16: From Doves to Kingfishers

Here, study several diverse groups of birds, ranging from the familiar to the exotic. Explore the surprising variety of pigeons and doves, and trace the sad demise of the passenger pigeon. Note the presence of "introduced" parrots in the U.S., and discover the range of cuckoos, anis, woodpeckers, trogons, swifts, hummingbirds, and kingfishers that flourish across North America....

32 min
Passerines: From Flycatchers to Thrushes
17: Passerines: From Flycatchers to Thrushes

Begin to uncover the huge spectrum of Passerines (perching or songbirds). Start with the flycatchers, aerialists adept at catching insects in midair, and the shrikes, rare songbirds with a raptor lifestyle. Within this far-ranging lecture, encounter bird families such as the crows and jays, magpies, larks, swallows, chickadees, wrens, dippers (the only aquatic songbirds), and thrushes....

32 min
Passerines: From Thrashers to Warblers
18: Passerines: From Thrashers to Warblers

Continue with the astonishing variety of North American songbirds. Learn about birds that mimic, the mockingbirds and catbird, and the thrashers, with their namesake feeding behavior. Track the striking bulbuls, the starlings, pipits, wagtails, waxwings, longspurs, and snow buntings, and finish with the vast array of warbler species, and the challenges they pose to identification....

31 min
Passerines: From Tanagers to Finches
19: Passerines: From Tanagers to Finches

Today, complete your review of the Passerines (songbirds). Beginning with the seed-eating towhees, explore the many varieties of New World sparrows, the juncos, and Old World buntings. Then study the tanagers, cardinals, dickcissels, grosbeaks, and vivid New World buntings, before concluding with families such as the meadowlarks, blackbirds, grackles, orioles, finches, and crossbills....

32 min
Photography for Birders
20: Photography for Birders

Lay a foundation for fine bird photography, starting with the basics of aperture, shutter speed, ISO (light sensitivity), and focus. Investigate the use of natural light at different times of the day, and the best equipment for photographing birds. Learn how to approach birds and capture them on camera, and consider the advantages of digiscoping (photography through a spotting scope)....

30 min
Birding Sites in Eastern North America
21: Birding Sites in Eastern North America

Learn about eleven of the best birding destinations in the Eastern U.S. and Canada. Among them, pay visits to Maine's Monnegan Island, a stopping place for a huge variety of migrants; Cape May, New Jersey, a locus of great birding sites and a haunt of famed birders; and Ohio's Magee Marsh, a legendary birding spot which hosts 338 bird species....

32 min
Birding Sites in Western North America
22: Birding Sites in Western North America

Among twelve top Western birding sites, visit the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, nesting site of forty million seabirds; California's Point Reyes National Seashore, which hosts a massive 490 species; the Grand Canyon, a Globally Important Bird Area; and a Texas park that sees a million migrating raptors each fall....

33 min
Birds and People
23: Birds and People

Contemplate the deep and long-term interactions between birds and humans. Beginning in ancient times, explore the roles birds have played in diverse civilizations, and how birds have benefited people in ways ranging from hunting to pest control. In today's world, take account of citizen science efforts, bird banding, and other ways birders can contribute to scientific knowledge....

29 min
Birding Ethics and Conservation
24: Birding Ethics and Conservation

Consider guidelines for ethical birding, based in respect for fellow birders and non-birders alike. Conclude with a far-reaching look at matters affecting bird welfare, at both the individual and species level. Review current environmental factors that endanger birds, and actions you can take, both individually and through organizations, to safeguard our precious bird species....

40 min
James Currie

My goal is to inspire your next adventure and answer your questions about what to do, where, and when to do it. I want to ignite a sense of passion and love for wild and wonderful places that’ are like no other in the world.


National Geographic

About James Currie

James Currie is a safari guide with the world-renowned company Wilderness Safaris. As a lifelong wildlife enthusiast and native of South Africa, he has led professional wildlife and birding tours for many years, and his passion for adventure and remote cultures has taken him to nearly every corner of the globe.


Mr. Currie is an expert in the fields of sustainable development and environmental management, holding a bachelor’s degree in African Languages from the University of Cape Town and a master’s degree in Sustainable Environmental Management from Middlesex University London. His dissertation, which he presented to the Icelandic government in 2001, received a distinction and has been used as a model for assessing the relationships between wildlife areas and local communities. One of Mr. Currie’s passions is forging links between local communities, wildlife, and international travelers. From 2004 to 2007, he worked as the managing director of Africa Foundation, a nonprofit organization that directs its efforts toward uplifting communities surrounding wildlife areas in Africa.


Mr. Currie is a highly sought-after public speaker who has spoken to sold-out audiences at various venues, including the prestigious Explorers Club in New York City, The G2 Gallery in Los Angeles, the National Audubon Society headquarters in New York City, Zoo Miami, the Educational Travel Consortium’s Annual Conference, and the Travel & Adventure Show. He has appeared as a special guest on various television shows and radio programs, including Martha Stewart Living Radio and WGN-TV, and has been the subject of several newspaper articles in periodicals such as The Wall Street JournalThe Palm Beach Post, and the Orlando Sentinel.


Mr. Currie was the host of Nikon’s Birding Adventures TV, a popular birding show that aired for 10 seasons on Discovery Communications’ Destination America and the NBC Sports Network. He also hosted the action-birding show Aerial Assassins on Nat Geo WILD. Additionally, Mr. Currie provided footage and consulted for the 2011 Hollywood birding movie The Big Year, starring Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson.


Mr. Currie has contributed to several publications, including the Southern African Birdfinder, and he was a contributing author of the acclaimed book The Last Elephants. His book, When Eagles Roar: The Amazing Journey of an African Wildlife Adventurer, details his life as a wildlife guide in Africa.


In 2007, Mr. Currie immigrated to the United States with his American wife and three children, and he currently resides in West Palm Beach, Florida.


Mr. Currie’s other Great Course is The National Geographic Guide to Birding in North America

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