Module BSX-3166:

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1 & 2

Overall aims and purpose

The purpose and aim of this module is to engage Zoology with Ornithology BSc and MZool students with current scientific issues and developments in ornithology, to foster critical thinking and communication skills on ornithological topics, and to develop field, laboratory, data analysis and reporting skills to gain an insight into different careers involving ornithology.

Course content

This module builds upon the second year Introduction to Ornithology module, advancing knowledge on the diversity, evolutionary history, ecology, behaviour and adaptive specializations of birds. The content will deepen understanding of the highly complex interactions that underpin individual and lifetime reproductive and evolutionary success is the class Aves.

Field trips and laboratory practicals will focus on developing bird identification, behaviour observation, breeding monitoring, and population survey skills. Students will develop the critical evaluation skills necessary to select appropriate practical skill sets and methods to answer biological and conservation questions.

Assessment Criteria


60-69% - The student should be able to express a thorough factual knowledge of much of the core material (facts and concepts) presented in the module. They should have a competent and detailed ability to critically evaluate the principles and processes by which birds are adapted to their environment, using specific examples. Some evidence of further reading and ability to integrate material from the full range of the lecture content.


70%+: The student should demonstrate comprehensive factual knowledge, critical understanding of theory, evidence of extra reading of primary literature and the ability to integrate this extra knowledge in a relevant manner.


40-49% - The students should be able to express a basic factual knowledge of at least some part of the core material (facts and concepts) presented in the module. They should be able to appreciate how the features and adaptations of birds enhance their survival and lifetime reproductive success in a specific environment. Reports should demonstrate a basic ability to introduce the subject, present methods, analyse and present results, discuss the implications of the main research findings. Test and exam answers should demonstrate a basic ability to present lecture material and to outline key concepts.

C- to C+

50-59% - The student should demonstrate a reasonable factual knowledge of some of the core material (facts and concepts) presented in the module. They should have a reasonable ability to evaluate the processes governing how birds are adapted to their environment.

Learning outcomes

  1. Develop interpersonal and teamwork skills by working jointly with other students to undertake a short practical project.

  2. Deepen knowledge of the major threats facing bird species, how threats may interact, and how such threats can be quantified, evaluated, managed and mitigated.

  3. Exhibit an ability to analyse, synthesise and summarise information critically, including the identification of trade-offs or unresolved conflicts of oppinion, and gaps in knowledge, and to write formal reports or manuscripts.

  4. Communicate complex theories and critically evaluate the extent to which they are supported by observations and experiments.

  5. Evidence an advanced knowledge ot the evolutionary and ecological significance of birds, and describe major evolutionary trends within each group.

  6. Develop competence in practical field ornithology skills, including bird identification, breeding bird survey methods, and population survey techniques.

  7. Understand the a range of factors and possible responses that trade-off to produce the range of adaptations shown by birds to their environments.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
COURSEWORK Public communication poster

You will individually create, print and present a poster about a single "focal" bird species. Your poster should be in the style of an information poster that you might see in a visitor information center.

The SNS poster rubric for academic posters, has been adapted to suit this public communication poster exercise.

ESSAY Essay on a seminar topic

Students will individually choose which seminar they will write their essays on. The SNS essay rubric will be used.

COURSEWORK Reserve Management Plan

Protected area management plans are individual documents, specific to a site and to the organisation that develops them. Exercise guidelines will be provided and ample class, group and individual discussion time will be provided through the time-tabled activities.

COURSEWORK Field Survey Report

A write up on a field survey skills exercise. This will be on one of the folowing i. nest finding and recording ii. breeding bird survey method
iii. wetland bird survey iv. waterways breeding bird survey These are standardised British Trust for Ornithology survey methods with standardised reporting formats. Students will have to complete the standardised reporting form and write a 500 word reflective statement on the exercise.


Teaching and Learning Strategy


Day field trips, focussed on ecological methods of surveying and species identification, along with land use management and species conservation practice, contributing to the reserve management plan exercise.

Half day trips to ornithologically important sites to learn field survey skills, which will contribute to the Field Surey Report assessment.

The module will run through both semesters to allow us to take advantage of the full range of seasons for our field practicals. Where possible field trips will be scheduled in reading weeks.


Seminars, based on reading lists, will be used to engage students in discussion and to explore a range of topics. Lectures (8 hours) and Seminars (8 hours) will be distributed as evenly as time-tabling can facilitate.


2 hour poster session (Public communication Posters), includuing peer review of each others posters and feedback from lecturers and external experts (RSPB and/or BTO). Summative (marked by teaching team). 2 hour group presentation and discussion session about the management of the focal species within the reserve. Following the poster session students are grouped by their species to prepare a comprehensive presentation about the status and management of thier species within the reserve. This includes class discussion of the trade-offs between the species.

Private study

Writing essay. Self studying to improve bird identification skills. Researching the published literature, writing up notes from lectures, reading in preparation for seminars, reading arround field trips and practical, along with any associated data analysis and writing.


Lectures Lectures and Seminars will be distributed as evenly as time-tabling can facilitate through the two semesters.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Safety-Consciousness - Having an awareness of your immediate environment, and confidence in adhering to health and safety regulations
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting

Subject specific skills

  • PS1 Communication skills, covering both written and oral communication with a variety of audiences
  • PS2 Skills in the employment of common conventions and standards in scientific writing, data presentation, and referencing literature
  • PS3 Problem-solving skills, relating to qualitative and quantitative information
  • PS4 Numeracy and mathematical skills, including handling data, algebra, functions, trigonometry, calculus, vectors and complex numbers, alongside error analysis, order-of-magnitude estimations, systematic use of scientific units and different types of data presentation
  • PS5 Information location and retrieval skills, in relation to primary and secondary information sources, and the ability to assess the quality of information accessed
  • PS7 Basic interpersonal skills, relating to the ability to interact with other people and to engage in teamworking
  • PS8 Time management and organisational skills, as evidenced by the ability to plan and implement efficient and effective ways of working
  • PS11 Problem-solving skills including the demonstration of self-direction, initiative and originality
  • PS6 Information technology skills which support the location, management, processing, analysis and presentation of scientific information
  • PS12 The ability to communicate and interact with professionals from other subjects
  • PS13 The ability to make decisions in complex and unpredictable situations
  • PS14 Independent learning skills required for continuing professional development
  • PS15 The ability to think critically in the context of data analysis and experimental design
  • PS9 skills needed to undertake appropriate further training of a professional nature

Specalist Ornithological Field Skills.


Resource implications for students

Students are required to have suitable footwear and outdoor clothing, including a waterproof coat, waterproof trousers, day pack, and hiking boots.

Reading list

Essential Ornithology (Graham Scott), Introduction to Behavioural Ecology (Davies et al.), Ornithology (Gill), Bird Ecology and Conservation: A handbook of techniques (Sutherland et al.), Collins Bird Guide (Lars Svensson).

Peer reviewed scientific litterature.

Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses: