Leading a local community in appreciating, understanding, and protecting birds and their natural habitats.


Master Birder Program

The Seattle Audubon Master Birder program is an incredible opportunity to learn about the birds of Washington state. Master Birder is a two-semester course and education-for-service program focusing on the identification and natural history of Washington's birds. Since its origin in 1988, the course has usually been offered every other year. Participants intensively study Northwest birds and serve as valuable resources for Seattle Audubon and the community.



All Master Birder participants are required to contribute at least 100 volunteer hours to Seattle Audubon within two years of completing the program. Seattle Audubon’s volunteer opportunities are varied and include bird surveys, environmental education, The Nature Shop, outreach, field trips and more.  Contact the Volunteer Coordinator for more information.



Class Fee

The class fee of $550 per student offsets a portion of the expenses associated with the program.  Half the class fee ($275) is due by July 15 and the total fee must be paid by September 1. Seattle Audubon is committed to ensuring that this fee is not a barrier for any student; we strive (on our limited budget) to offer a Partial Fee Waiver for qualified individuals.  After students are accepted into the program, they have the option to request a payment schedule or a Partial Fee Waiver. These requests are handled by Seattle Audubon staff (not Master Birder volunteers).  If you have questions about fee payment or Partial Fee Waivers, please contact the Education Manager

Congratulations to the graduates of the 2017 Master Birder class!

Key dates planned for the 2018-2019 Master Birder class (as of May 2017):

  • Information session about the class: Wednesday March 7, 2018
  • Applications and application quiz due on March 17, 2018
  • Applicants notified in early April
  • Class meets Mondays and Wednesdays, 7 – 9 p.m. The likely location is Greenwood’s Phinney Center at 6532 Phinney Ave. N.
  • Fall term: September 10, 2018 through November 14, 2018
  • Spring term: March 4, 2019 through May 15, 2019; final overnight field trip May 18/19

If you have questions, please email MBadmin@seattleaudubon.org



Class Schedule

The Master Birder class is usually offered every other year, beginning with a fall term followed by a spring term, and meets on Monday and Wednesday evenings in the Greenwood/Phinney Ridge neighborhood. See sidebar for dates regarding the next class. There are weekly homework assignments, weekly quizzes, and a test at the end of each term. During each term, there are several class field trips, as well as optional smaller-group field trips. The class is pass/fail, based on full participation in the class and field trips, completing homework assignments, performance on quizzes and tests, and fulfilling the volunteer commitment.



The primary instructor is legendary naturalist and educator Dennis Paulson. His background includes a Ph.D. in Zoology, more than 35 years of teaching about natural history in college and adult-education courses, 15 years as Director of the Slater Museum of Natural History at the University of Puget Sound, and writing or co-authoring more than 90 scientific papers and 9 books, including A Guide to Bird-Finding in Washington, Shorebirds of the Pacific Northwest and Shorebirds of North America: The Photographic Guide.


Application Process

To apply for the Master Birder program, you must complete an application and take a short birding quiz (see below). The application process is in winter or early spring, and class begins the following September.

Each Master Birder class is limited to 24 qualified students. Applicants should be at least intermediate-level birders who are familiar with the birds of Washington. Master Birder applicants should be able to recognize about 80-100 Washington birds by sight (and identify most of the rest to family) and at least 20 by song.

Bird identification skills aren’t the only measure for acceptance into the program. The application form covers other elements, including why you are interested in the program, previous volunteer experience, and how you plan to use the knowledge you gain. Factors such as involvement with Seattle Audubon (membership and volunteer service), and likelihood and suitability for ongoing volunteer participation are all considered. The Master Birder program attracts more applicants than can be accommodated, and Seattle Audubon considers each application carefully to find the best fit for this program. 


About the ID quiz

The application process includes a short identification quiz about some of the birds that occur regularly in our state. For example, species that were on the quiz for the 2014-2015 Master Birder class are listed below. The quiz includes 30 species to identify visually and 15 to identify by sound. There is no requirement or expectation that you can identify all of the species – the quiz simply gives a very general indication of your birding knowledge. The quiz score is only one of many elements considered for each application.

Example species from a previous application quiz – 

Visual identification: Varied Thrush, Wilson’s Snipe, Bushtit, Red-breasted Nuthatch, European Starling, Orange-crowned Warbler, Eared Grebe, Bald Eagle (first year), Green-winged Teal, Brown Creeper, White-crowned Sparrow (first winter), Hairy Woodpecker, Townsend’s Warbler, Common Nighthawk, Red-necked Grebe (nonbreeding), Mew Gull, Spotted Sandpiper (nonbreeding), Common Yellowthroat, Common Murre (nonbreeding), Merlin (Pacific), Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Warbling Vireo, Canvasback, Northern Harrier (adult male), Harlequin Duck (female), Bewick’s Wren, Black Scoter, Pelagic Cormorant, Sagebrush Sparrow, Short-eared Owl. 

Birding by ear identification:  California Quail, Killdeer, Northern Flicker, Song Sparrow, Red-tailed Hawk, House Sparrow, Western Meadowlark, House Finch, Hermit Thrush, Bald Eagle, American Robin, Anna’s Hummingbird, Olive-sided Flycatcher, American Wigeon, Spotted Towhee. 


Want to increase your knowledge? Need to prepare for the Master Birder program?

Consider taking these steps:

·         Participate in Seattle Audubon’s adult classes program.

·         Join Seattle Audubon field trips

·         Check out these print and online resources.

·         Consider some tips from Master Birder graduates. 


If you have questions:  Please contact the Seattle Audubon Master Birder Committee Chair Teri Martine.

Read about the 25 year reunion of the first Master Birder class.

Seattle Audubon is nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization. Copyright 2017 Seattle Audubon.