Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufrum)
Course Description: Ornithology is the scientific study of birds. This course is an advanced undergraduate survey of ornithology. This means that students will learn about both science and birds at the same time. As a consequence, the course will be a mix of topics. Students will learn about birds: how to identify them, what are the major characteristics and distinguishing features of the major groups of birds, and how birds function in a diversity of environments. However, this course will also cover a modern scientific approach to birds, which has as its goal not just understanding birds, but using birds as a means to uncover general biological principles that may apply to all living things. What this means is that a significant portion of the course will be about ideas: concepts leading to understanding of evolutionary hypotheses, ecological processes, physiological and neurobiological mechanisms, and behavioral characteristics using birds as examples. Finally, this course will also cover methods of doing science, from collecting data on birds to reading, writing, and interpreting scientific literature on birds. Students should acquire by the end of the course a new appreciation and knowledge of birds, additional understanding of biological concepts, and an improved ability to be an active scientist.
The syllabus reflects these goals of the course. The course includes both a lecture and a lab portion. In the lecture, students will read from the text and hear lectures on selected topics. Discussion of unanswered questions, and presentations of studies gleaned from the recent scientific literature will also be part of the lecture portion. Labs will mix learning the characteristics of birds, bird identification field trips, and data collection focusing on testing specific hypotheses.
Web Resources on Birds
Birds and Dinosaurs
The Albatross Project
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
USGS Breeding Bird Survey
The Kentucky Ornithological Society