Biology 380

BIOL 380

Catalog Entry

Biology 380. Ornithology
Two hours lecture, four hours laboratory (4).

Prerequisite: A grade of "C" or better in eight credits in Biology or permission of instructor.

Offered as an integrated lecture and laboratory/field study emphasizing the evolution, anatomy, physiology, identification, behavior, and ecology of birds. At least one weekend field trip will be scheduled.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

1. The history and current status of bird study


A. Historical background
B. Who studies birds - professional and amateur
C. Use of birds in current research


2. Origin, characteristics, classification


A. Origin of birds


1. Fossil history
2. Evolution of birds


B. Avian characteristics
C. Classification


1. Survey of birds of the world
2. Major orders of birds
3. Bird families of the United States



3. External features and adaptation


A. Feathers - structure, function
B. Other integumentary structures
C. Bills and feet


4. Body systems of birds - structure, function


A. Skeletal system
B. Muscular system
C. Digestive system
D. Respiratory system
E. Circulatory system
F. Urogenital system
G. Nervous system
H. Endocrine system


5. Bird behavior


A. Breeding behavior


1. Songs, calls, other sounds
2. Territorial behavior
3. Courtship and mating behavior


a. Nest building
b. Egg laying
c. Incubation
d. Care of young



B. Feeding habits
C. Social organization and behavior


6. Ecology of birds


A. Energy flow
B. Effects of weather and climate on birds


1. Light
2. Temperature
3. Precipitation and humidity


C. Biological factors of the environment
D. Limiting factors
E. Habit selection
F. Economic importance


7. Migration and orientation


A. Studying migration
B. Origins of migration
C. Advantages and disadvantages of migration
D. Patterns of migration
E. Mechanisms of migration
F. Orientation - visual, magnetic, celestial (sun, stars)


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

Biology 380 will be taught in the lecture/discussion format. Students will be required to prepare and present a formal paper. Various films and videos will also be used. The laboratory portion of the class will include a series of field trips designed to expose the students to a variety of different birds and bird habitats. At least one weekend field trip to coastal Virginia will be scheduled to increase the diversity of bird species studied. Students will be required to maintain a written log for all field trips.


Goals and Objectives of Course

At the completion of this course, students should be able to:


1. Understand the role of birds in nature - specifically, their origin, evolution, anatomy, physiology, and ecology.
2. Identify the majority of birds found in Virginia and throughout the eastern United States using a variety of identifying visual and auditory characteristics.
3. Interpret various birds behaviors and classify the behavior in the categories of breeding, territorial, courtship, mating, and social behavior.
4. Develop a life-long interest in observing and studying birds.


Assessment Measures

1. Written examinations. Students will be given the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of ornithology by taking four one-hour exams and a comprehensive final exam covering the information accumulated during the lecture/discussion portion of the class.
2. Oral presentations. Each student will be graded on the quality of his/her oral presentation of a research paper.
3. Research paper. An evaluation will be made of the research paper submitted by each student.
4. Field identification. Periodic evaluations will be conducted of each student's ability to identify birds in the field. Both visual identification and the ability to identify birds by their calls or songs will be evaluated.


Other Course Information

Students will be required to prepare ten written summaries of articles they will read in the scientific literature during the semester. While a few of the articles will be specifically assigned, most of the articles read will be chosen by the student.


Review and Approval

October, 2007