What is the Audubon Master Birder Program?
The Audubon Master Birder (AMB) program is an intensive year-long study of Colorado’s birds and their habitats. The mission of the AMB program is to develop field ornithologists with an understanding of bird identification, behavior, habitat, and conservation, and the desire to share their learning through leadership and ongoing commitment to the Audubon Society of Greater Denver, the Colorado birding community, and beyond
How is the program structured?
The AMB program is composed of 3 parts:
- Classroom lectures
- Field work (including trips and testing)
- AMB notebook (consisting of homework and other assignments)
Students attend approximately 25 classroom lectures, usually every other week. The lectures are presented by leading Colorado birders with expertise in various ornithology topics. The classes are usually held on Monday evenings during the program and last 2.5 to 3 hours. Students must attend 75% of the classes to meet graduation requirements.
Students also participate in field trips to enhance what they’ve learned in class and to introduce them to top birding spots along the Front Range, mountains, and other areas in Colorado. Field trips are usually all-day outings close to the Denver area. Students must participate in 75% of the approximately 23 field trips to meet graduation requirements.
Each student maintains an AMB notebook during the program year. The AMB notebook is used as a study guide, to document program requirements, and to verify program completion.
Mentors work individually with each student to help ensure students are making progress and on track for meeting graduation requirements. Mentors are graduates or affiliates of the Audubon Master Birding program.
Tuition for the 2021-2022 program has not been set, however the tuition for the 2019-2020 Audubon Master Program was $750. Tuition is for the full year-long program and includes all lectures and field trips. Additional expenses can be expected for books and field trip travel costs.
The AMB program’s class size is limited to around 12 students to ensure each student has the opportunity for personal attention and development. Ideal Master Birder candidates are intermediate to advanced level birders who have the desire and enthusiasm to share their knowledge with others and who are willing to volunteer with Audubon for 2 years following the end of the program
What the Program Covers
Field Ornithology is a skill honed over a lifetime. The AMB program develops a strong foundation that enables students to continue to improve their skills.
Colorado Birds & Key Habitats
The program curriculum includes the study of Colorado birds through their biology, field marks, migration patterns, behavior, and habitat.
Birding & Citizen Science
The AMB program also integrates technology with field studies. Students learn to use eBird to report trip sightings, to research sighting history, and to report rare birds. During the program year, students learn how to get involved in citizen science, and use bird watching as a service for conservation, research, and volunteerism.
The time needed to devote to the program is significant. In addition to lectures and field trips, the program requires the completion of homework and readings,
maintaining the AMB notebook, and participating in additional program requirements. Some examples of these requirements are:
Classes are held usually every other Monday evening. The classes are in the Audubon Nature Center, or the Audubon Offices near Chatfield State Park. The course offers 25 classes. Students must attend 75% of the classes in order to graduate.
Field trips are taken throughout the year on Saturdays. Trips take students to birding areas along the Front Range, nearby mountains, and eastern plains. The course offers 23 trips during the program. Students must participate in 75% of the field trips to graduate.
In order to graduate the AMB Program, all students must be able to:
- See, identify, and list 200 bird species in Colorado (can include species seen before joining class)
- identify 100 species by sight
- identify 40 species by sound
- identify 24 key plants
- identify 15 key habitats
Field tests are given by mentors throughout the year to test student’s progress and abilities in meeting these requirements.
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Homework, Research & Presentations
AMB students are given weekly homework assignments throughout the year. Each assignment takes about 2 hours.
A short research paper and presentation is required as part of the requirements.
Students must participate in at least one Christmas bird count and at least one Fall or Spring count.
At the end of the AMB program, students commit to volunteer 48 hours for each of the next 2 years for the Audubon Society of Greater Denver.
The details for the application process for the 2021-22 Master Birding Program are currently under development. Please check back for dates for applying to the program.
How to Apply
The details for the application process for the 2021-22 Master Birding Program are currently under development, but these steps should give you and idea on what to expect.
Step 1 – Request Information
Contact the Master Birder Program at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You will receive updates, important date notifications, and the formal application.
Step 2 – Attend Orientation Meeting
Attend an open house and learn more about the program. Orientation meetings will be scheduled for May 2021. Please check back for details.
Step 3 – Submit Application
Submit an application by tbd 2019 Please check back for details.
Step 4 – Interviews (held in June 2021)
The interview process is a two-step process:
Applicants first take a Colorado bird identification skills assessment to gauge their current knowledge.
An admissions committee will conduct interviews with all applicants to discuss interest, commitment, background, motivation, availability and personal goals for the program.
Current Audubon Master Birders & Mentors
Audubon Master Birders
2017/2018 Graduates. Barbara Fahey, Mary Geder, Don Hall, Pat Heller, Cynthia Kristensen, Christina Leslie, Tracy Rackauskas, Michelle Robbins, Bill Schreitz
2015/2016 Graduates. Sharon Cobb, Ruth Gabreski, Keith Hidalgo, Gloria Nikolai, Christy Payne, Denise Reznicek, Jamie Simo, Bea Weaver, Maikel Wise, Susan Wise, Pam Zimmer
2013/2014 Graduates. Karen Drozda, Martha Eubanks, Patti Galli, Chris Goulart, Georgia Hart, Judy Henderson, George Mayfield, Mary Fran O’Conner, Sue Summers, Wendy Wibbens
2011/2012 Graduates: Chuck Aid, Cheryl Chessick, Celia Greenman, Marsha Heron, Diane Hutton, Rhonda Kelly, Cynthia Madsen, Megan Miller, Michele Ostrander, Sharon Pfeifer, Janet Shin, Jeffery Stroup, Scott Yarberry
2009/2010 Graduates: Richard Anderson, Nicole Buyck, Laurie Duke, Kate Frost, Michael Kiessig, Lois Levinson, Jessi Oberbeck, Marilyn Rhodes, Bob Santangelo, Barbara Schissler, Cindy Valentine
2009 Graduates: Karen Bickett, Kathy Bollhoefer, Tom Bush, Mackenzie Goldthwait, Dave Hill, Mary Keithler, Alison Kondler, Kathanne Lynch, Deb Mallory, Katie Morrison, Tom Parchman, Harriet Stratton
2008 Graduates: Fran Blanchard, Mary Ann Bonnell, Bill Eden, Kris Koff, Barbara Masoner, Mary Ellen Sargent, Karen von Saltza
2011/2012 Mentors: Bill Eden, Hugh Kingery, Urling Kingery, Mackenzie Goldthwait, Tina Jones, Karen von Saltza, Dave Hill, Mike Henwood, Bob Andrews, Lois Levinson, Michael Kiessig.
2012/2013 Mentors: Bill Eden, Hugh Kingery, Urling Kingery, Mackenzie Goldthwait, Tina Jones, Karen von Saltza, Dave Hill, Lois Levinson, Michael Kiessig, Chuck Aid, Cynthia Madsen, Janet Shin, Jeffery Stroup
Emeritus Mentors: Robert Andrews, Ann Bonnell, Doris Cruze, Mike Henwood, Alison Kondler