NS6202: Avian Biology


Please note this module descriptor is indicative of the structure of this course and may be subject to change.

NS6202: Avian Biology

Module Title Avian Biology
Module Code NS6202
Module Tutor Anne Goodenough
School School of Natural and Social Sciences
CAT Points 15
Level of Study 6
Brief Description

This module considers the ecology, behaviour and evolution of birds. It seeks to link theory to practice by providing a detailed understanding of how key biological concepts apply to this large and diverse taxonomic group. Throughout the module, emphasis is placed on the role of research methods in ornithology and how data gained are used to achieve maximally effective conservation and management. The module will be of interest to any student wishing to learn more about the Aves, including those who wish to pursue ornithology or practical ecology as a career. This module complements NS6201 Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology, allowing students to apply theoreticalknowledge to a specific taxonomic group.

Indicative Syllabus

The module begins by setting the temporal and spatial context for our understanding of birds. We track the evolution of the Aves, from Archaeopteryx to the present day, using evidence from the fossil record and, more recently, molecular techniques. This will include an investigation into ornithological classification and taxonomy, as well as examination of the importance of speciation and adaptive radiation in shaping current avian diversity at global, regional and national scales. Birds are then examined at several levels: (1) Individual-level (anatomy and physiology, with particular reference to feathers and the mechanics of flight); (2) population-level (population size and structure, habitatchoice, territoriality, density-dependence); (3) species-level (avian senses, methods of communication, migration patterns, navigation, mating strategies, breeding systems, behaviour and learning).

Learning Outcomes

A student passing this module should be able to:

1. Discuss the current diversity of birds at global, regional and national scales in the light of our knowledge of past evolution and speciation

2.  Synthesise the relative importance of a  range of biotic and abiotic influences on avian life histories

3. Critically evaluate theories of bird navigation, as well as assessing the appropriateness of experiments to test these hypotheses

4. Demonstrate knowledge of a range of different avian mating systems and breeding strategies and provide explanations for how they have evolved

5.  Make linkages between theory and practice, particularly with regard to how species-specific understanding is applied in conservation schemes

 6.  Demonstrate an ability to select and justify an appropriate experimental approach to answer a specific ornithological research question

Learning and Teaching Activities Scheduled Contact Hours: 36
Independent Learning Hours: 114
Assessment (For further details see the Module Guide) 001: 50% Coursework: Individual, standard written: 2000 words or equivalent
002: 50% Written Exam: End of module, unseen, closed book: 2.00 hours
Special Assessment Requirements
Indicative Resources The current reading list can be found in the Module Guide, which your lecturer should make available via Moodle.

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