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Ornithology Distance Learning Course - Distance

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  • Objectives
    This course endeavours to develop an enhanced appreciation of birds through increasing knowledge. The student should also develop a fuller appreciation of the diversity of bird life.
  • Course description

    Assessment takes the form of question papers and directed report writing. The reports are designed to test the student’s ability to understand the modules as a whole. The question papers are designed to test the student's understanding of the individual concepts within the lessons. The reports (3 in total) represent 70% of the total mark, the questions papers (12 in total) representing the remaining 30%.

    Lesson One
    • To enable the student to understand the technique of thermal soaring, its relevance to the lifestyles of certain birds, and to appreciate the types of birds that might utilise the technique
    • To demonstrate to the student what environmental factors are required for thermal soaring to occur
    • To explore the phenomena of slope soaring and the environmental factors required for it to occur
    • To develop within the student, an understanding of dynamic soaring and an appreciation of the importance this has to seabird life
    • To enable the student to understand the selection pressures behind feather development
    • To introduce the student to basic wing structure
    • To develop within the student an understanding of the ‘aspect ratio’ and how it can relate to lifestyle
    • To enable the student to understand the role of brood patch’s, and the relevance of feathers in insulation
    • To introduce the student to the component types of avian muscle and their relevance to lifestyle

    Lesson Two
    • To enable the student to understand the principles behind binocular and monocular vision
    • To demonstrate to the student the requirements of predatory and prey birds in respect to monocular and binocular vision
    • To enable the student to understand the anatomical differences between mammalian and avian eyes
    • To introduce the student to the role of the pecten and the nictitating membrane in avian vision
    • To develop an appreciation of the adaptations that have enabled owls to sense prey nocturnally
    • To enable the student to appreciate the role of the elongated fovea in certain aspects of seabird navigation

    Lesson Three
    • The student will be introduced to ‘Bernoulli’s Principle as applied to avian flight and wing structure
    • To enable the student to appreciate how some engineering principles did not necessarily apply to birds
    • To an appreciation of the technique of ‘clapping’ in order to initiate flight
    • To understand the presence of the two types of vortices in avian flight and their relevance to different to different flight speeds.

    Lesson Four
    • To enable the student to understand the term instinct
    • To demonstrate to the student the terms social releaser and sign stimuli in relation to instinct
    • To develop an understanding of associative and none associative learning
    • To enable the student to appreciate the roles of filial and sexual imprinting in regards to avian survival
    • To create awareness as to the role of cultural behaviour in the avian class
    • To enable the student to appreciate the relevance of imitation in bird song
    • To develop an understanding of how play can be important to more intelligent bird species

    Lesson Five
    • To enable the student to understand the role of Archeopteryx in the development of the evolutionary theories
    • To demonstrate to the student the selection pressures that gave rise to feather development
    • To development an understanding of the biological time scales involved with speciation
    • To enable the student to understand the role of speciation in creating diversity on earth
    • To enable the student to understand the key feature of avian classification and binomial nomenclature

    Lesson Six
    • To appreciate the components of conservation, and how they help in developing an approach to conservation problems.
    • To understand the consequences and reasons behind direct persecution.
    • To appreciate the challenges facing the conservation of the golden eagle.
    • To appreciate the reasons behind indirect persecution.
    • To understand how the approach’s to indirect persecution that are developing     
    • To understand the relevance of pesticide usage in the realm of avian conservation.
    • To understand (with historical examples) how the Aves that inhabit the higher realms of the food chain are particularly effected by pesticide pollution.
    • To appreciate how DDT has taken such a marked effect on certain avian populations.
    • To understand how habitat destruction can effect conservation.
    • To understand the basic principles behind the different approach’s of autoecology and synecology.

    Lesson Seven
    • To appreciate the basic categories of hunting techniques utilised by the raptors.
    • To understand how the peregrine falcon utilises speed and power in its hunting.
    • To appreciate ambush strategy with reference to the sparrowhawks techniques.
    • To understand the strategies involved in hovering as a hunting technique and how tail length can reflect the development of such techniques.
    • To appreciate low level attack as a form of hunting.
    • To understand how birds use different techniques and adaptations in hunting snakes and fish.
    • To appreciate the adaptations (anatomically and behaviourally) of the vultures for soaring and eating.

    Lesson Eight
    • To appreciate the three broad categories of wildfowl and seabird feeders?
    • To understand the reasons and principles behind surface feeding
    • To appreciate the different feeding methods used in the surface feeders at sea.
    • To understand the differing feeding depths and consequential co-existence of the underwater feeders.
    • To appreciate the skills and techniques of the wildfowl divers.
    • To understand the techniques used in the marine divers.
    • To appreciate the skills and adaptations required in the varying types of feeding.   
    • To appreciate the foraging techniques of the land feeders.
    • To understand the principles of social facilitation and local enhancement, and their place in avian feeding.

    Lesson Nine
    • To understand the term sexual selection and recognise how it can impact upon bird populations
    • To understand gamete production and the differences between sex’s.
    • To appreciate dimorphism as a consequence of sexual selection.
    • To understand Intersexual rivalry and the theories behind the phenomena
    • To appreciate bird song as a means of mate selection.
    • To appreciate the relevance of flight displays in courtship.

    Lesson Ten
    • To appreciate the four primary methods used in avian navigation.
    • To understand the relevance of magnetic sense and the experiments that aided its discovery.
    • To appreciate the limitations of using the earth’s magnetic field as a navigational aid.
    • To understand the principles of sun navigation, and intention movement.
    • To appreciate the development and use of the star compass in avian migration.
    • To understand the importance of landmark navigation in the birds.

    Lesson Eleven
    • To understand polygamy and the subheadings of polygyny and polyandry.
    • To understand the term monogamy and appreciate the circumstances underwhich it becomes the most viable method of reproduction.
    • To appreciate that co-operative breeding occurs and to appreciate why some birds have helpers at the nest, and some exhibit communal nesting.
    • To understand the phenomena of brood parasitism and egg recognition.

    Lesson Twelve
    • To understand that animals are influenced by rhythmic indicators.
    • To appreciate the circadian rhythm as an influential marker of the seasons.
    • To understand that differing levels of the hormone melatonin can influence reproductive behaviour.
    • To understand that birds are often long day breeders, and appreciate what this means.
    • To understand the presence of a circannual rhythm in birds and appreciate its place in avian lifestyle.
    • To understand the pineal gland as an integral part of the reproductive process.
    • To appreciate the term zietgeber and understand its relevance.

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