Bird-Friendly Communities

How to Learn Bird Language

Learn bird language from the comfort of home with these online programs.

There are plenty of ways to get started on your bird language learning journey through online programs.

The courses below are designed by bird language experts Jon Young, author of What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal Nature's Secrets and Josh Lane, author of Conscious Nature: The Art and Neuroscience of Meditating in Nature. The courses are provided by 8 Shields, a nature connection mentoring organization. 


Start learning bird language through a free 10-part email course. Get a new lesson every few days, packed with fun bird language skills you can explore right in the backyard or local park. This  e-course introduces you to the basic skills and concepts of bird language. 

Whether you are new to birding or are an experienced bird-watcher, this free course can help you gain routines for delving deeper into the lives of the birds and other animals around you.

The course includes an introduction to:

  • The basic core routines of Bird Language, the art of interpreting the voices, postures and movement of the birds to locate hidden animals and better understand their behavior
  • The “shapes of alarm”, the sound & motion-based alarm signature that each animal generates as it moves across the landscape
  • How to diminish your field of disturbance in the field and see more wildlife
  • Fun field practices to boost your learning journey.


This course is an engaging, self-paced online course that you can complete in a way that works for your schedule.

Each module takes you deeper into the world of understanding the language of the birds, bringing deep connection with nature and the birds in your neighborhood.

Though these methods are based on ancient wisdom, Jon presents it in a simple and grounded way to make these skills accessible to anyone interested in learning bird language.

 Beginners and experienced birders alike are welcome.

The practices in this course are designed to engage your senses in nature's dynamic patterns.

When you listen with an ear for the pattern language we will share with you in this  course, the birds will "tell" you things that have been happening right under your nose that will astound you, even if you are an avid birder or nature observer.

  • Shapes of Alarm
  • Five Voices of Bird Language
  • Common Codes of Alarm
  • Bird Language Allies
  • Toward a Deeper Connection

Each module includes:

  • Training video, Video transcript (PDF), and MP3 audio version of each video for those who like to listen on the go.
  • Daily Field Exercises with a PDF Reflection Guidebook and MP3 audios to inspire your daily practice
  • Online quiz for each section to test your knowledge & skills
  • A personal response via email for each module that you complete from a course responder - get helpful feedback and suggestions for your personal learning journey.

Learn more:


This DVD set will give you the tools you need to see the landscape through the eyes of the birds, and bringing you to a more intimate relationship with the world unfolding outside your door.

Bird language expert Jon Young distills 35 years field knowledge of bird behaviors to bring you the basics of Bird Language. Learning to recognize the meanings of vocalization types and body signals of common birds, you will clearly see the essential role they play in the lives of the birds.

Get Disc 1 for learning to identify bird language patterns in the field. Get Disc 2 for learning how to map out the behavior you are seeing both on your own and in group settings (Discs sold separately). Purchase here:

Bird Language Basics (Disc 1):

Through animations, nature footage and Jon Young’s compelling narration, you will learn the basic tools necessary to begin deciphering the language hidden in the vocalizations and behaviors of common song birds. In Bird Language Basics we will examine the 5 Voices of the Birds, the 12 Shapes of Alarm, and the five “Best” Bird Language Birds. You will never look at a song bird the same way again!

The animations in Disc One highlight big-picture patterns of bird language that allow you to step into the world of birds and animals unfolding beyond the boundaries of our awareness. Like the Kalahari Bushmen of Africa, people in both cities and rural areas can use knowledge of bird language as a dynamic indicator of predator-prey relationships.

This updated second edition includes new expanded footage of the Five Voices of bird language in action.

WATCH two excerpts from this DVD:

5 Voices of the Birds

Shapes of Alarm

Bird Language in Groups (Disc 2)

With decades of teaching Bird Language, Jon Young has distilled the process down to a fun and efficient Bird Language Group learning model.

Follow five experts in Bird Language Groups, as they conduct their own bird sit, mapping session and debrief, and explain the conduct, conventions and systems necessary to run a Bird Language group in your neighborhood.

In this disc, you will become acquainted with mentoring methods for teaching bird language developed by Jon and other instructors at the Wilderness Awareness School and the 8 Shields Institute. This method of group bird sits and bird language mapping is demonstrated in a way that enhances the experience of both the beginning and experienced naturalist.

Purchase here:

Guide to Bird Language Patterns

Download free guide with 12 common patterns and mapping key. 





What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal Nature's Secrets by Jon Young

A lifelong birder, tracker, and naturalist, Jon Young is guided in his work and teaching by three basic premises: the robin, junco, and other songbirds know everything important about their environment, be it backyard or forest; by tuning in to their vocalizations and behavior, we can acquire much of this wisdom for our own pleasure and benefit; and the birds’ companion calls and warning alarms are just as important as their songs.
Birds are the sentries of—and our key to understanding the world beyond our front door. By learning to remain quiet and avoid disturbing the environment, we can heed the birds and acquire an amazing new level of awareness. We are welcome in their habitat. The birds don’t fly away. The larger animals don’t race off. No longer hapless intruders, we now find, see, and engage the deer, the fox, the red-shouldered hawk—even the elusive, whispering wren.
Deep bird language is an ancient discipline, perfected by Native peoples the world over. Finally, science is catching up. This groundbreaking book unites the indigenous knowledge, the latest research, and the author’s own experience of four decades in the field to lead us toward a deeper connection to the animals and, in the end, ourselves.
“He can sit still in his yard, watching and listening for the moment when robins and other birds no longer perceive him as a threat. Then he can begin to hear what the birds say to each other, warning about nearby hawks, cats, or competitors. Young’s book will teach you how you, too, can understand birds and their fascinating behaviors.” —BirdWatching
“Here is the ancestral wisdom passed down from Apache elder Stalking Wolf to renowned tracker Tom Brown to Jon Young himself, who in turn passes on to the reader the art of truly listening to the avian soundscape. With all senses more finely tuned, you’ll find yourself more aware of your surroundings, slowing down, and reconnecting with a native intelligence and love of the natural world that lies deep within each of us.” —Donald Kroodsma, author ofThe Singing Life of Birds and Birdsong by the Seasons.

Find What the Robin Knows on Amazon :


If you'd like to study bird language with licensed Bird Language organizations who specialize in nature connection mentoring and offer in-person events, we recommend the following organizations:

Northern California:

8 Shields

Contact: Lisa Donahue, Board Chair


Weaving Earth

Contact: Lauren Dalberth Hage, Director


Southern California: Wilderness Youth Project

Contact: Dan Fontaine, Executive Director


Western Massachusetts: Flying Deer Nature Center

Contact: Devin Franklin, Director of Programs


Maine: Lead with Nature

Contact: Dan Gardoqui, Principal


Vermont: Vermont Wilderness Awareness 

Contact: Amy Hyatt, Executive Director 


Arkansas: Ozarks Tracker School

Contact: Carl Keller, Executive Director


Oregon: 8 Shields PDX

Contact: Calen Kennett, Director


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