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Module BSX-3157:

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Charles Bishop

Overall aims and purpose

The purpose and aim of this module is to provide a detailed account of the diverse behavioural ecology of birds, to impart an understanding of monitoring and survey techniques and to develop field experience and skills. Examples will also be given of key processes that underpin individual and lifetime reproductive success, such as those involved in reproductive strategies, locomotion and migration. The role birds play in promoting conservation will be emphasised and the requirement for standardised methods in ecological and behavioural monitoring.

Course content

This module will cover the main extant groups of birds and their intra- and inter-ordinal evolutionary relationships. The role of flight and its subsequent loss in key groups will be discussed, along with effects of environmental variables on the ecology, behaviour and migration of birds more generally. The biology of sexual display and adornments, acoustic communication and mate selection will be presented. Key factors affecting the conservation of birds will be discussed and ecological techniques, survey methods and related use of modern technological approaches evaluated, with regard to their value to behavioural monitoring, ecological surveys, and population and species management.

Assessment Criteria

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 organisms survive in specific environments.


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 an organism enhance its 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.


69% - 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.


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 governing the interactions of organisms and their environment, using specific examples. Some evidence of further reading and ability to integrate material from the full range of the lecture content.

Learning outcomes

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

  2. Gain knowledge of the major threats facing some bird species and how such threats can be quantified, evaluated, managed and countered.

  3. Demonstrate an appreciation of the complexity and diversity of life processes through the study of organisms, their molecular, cellular and physiological processes.

  4. Engage with the essential facts, major concepts, principles and theories associated with the adaptations shown by birds to their environments.

  5. Demonstrate practical fieldwork skills, including ornithological survey techniques.

  6. Exhibit an ability to analyse, synthesise and summarise information critically and write formal reports or manuscripts.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
COURSEWORK Species Poster

The college rubric for marking a scientific poster has been adapted for assessing a public communicatin poster.

COURSEWORK Field Trip Report 2 35

Answer 2 out of a choice of 4 questions. Answers should be in an essay format.


Teaching and Learning Strategy


23 lectures cover subjects such as phylogenetic diversity, major ecological and behavioural trends, contribution of birds to the development of socio-biology theory, comparative flight biology and migration, reproductive biology and sexual selection, foraging theory, field and survey techniques, conservation biology and population management.

Private study

Time for researching the published literature, writing up notes from lectures, field trips and practical, along with any associated data analysis and writing.


Workshop 1: 2 hour poster session. Workshop 2. 3 hour group presentations and class discussion session.


One compulsory day long (8 hour) field trip, focussed on ornithological survey methods, species identification, habitat management and conservation practice. An optional 1/2 day field trip (5 hours) is also offered.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • Develop and identify research question(s) and/or hypotheses as the basis for investigation.
  • Conduct fieldwork and/or laboratory work competently with awareness of appropriate risk assessment and ethical considerations
  • Recognize and apply appropriate theories and concepts from a range of disciplines.
  • Consider issues from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives.
  • Apply subject knowledge to the understanding and addressing of problems.
  • Collect, analyse and interpret primary and/or secondary data using appropriate qualitative and/or quantitative techniques.
  • Engagement with current developments in the biosciences and their application.
  • Appreciation of the complexity and diversity of life processes through the study of organisms.
  • Engage in debate and/or discussion with specialists and non-specialists using appropriate language.
  • Undertake field and/or laboratory studies of living systems.
  • Undertake practical work to ensure competence in basic experimental skills.


Resource implications for students

Transport, demonstrators, binoculars, telescopes and field guides will be provided for field trips. Students must wear warm and waterproof clothing and bring food and drinks for the field trip.

Talis Reading list

Reading list

Davies, N.B. Krebs, J. R. West, S.A. (2012) An Introduction to Behavioural Ecology. Wiley-Blackwell. 506 pages.

Gill, F.B. and Prum, R.O. (2019) Ornithology. WH Freeman. 666 pages.

Lovette, I. and Fitzpatrick, J.W. (2016) Cornell Lab of Ornithology's handbook of bird biology. John Wiley & Sons. 716 pages.

Scott, G. (2010) Essential Ornithology. Wiley-Blackwell. 520 pages.

Sutherland, W.J. Newton, I. Green, R.E. (2004) Bird Ecology and Conservation: A handbook of techniques.Oxford University Press.

Svensson, L. Mullarney, K. Zetterström, D. (2009) Collins Bird Guide. Harper Collins. 448 pages.

Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Optional in courses: