Ornithology Collections: Specimen Donation and Tracking

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Collection Manager: Susan Hochgraf Office: BioPhysics ??

Office Phone: 486-????

Email: susan.hochgraf@uconn.edu

Preparators: Jorge deLeon, Margaret Rubega

What To Do If You Find a Dead Bird, and Want to Donate It to the Collection

Our collection of bird skins, tissues and bones is currently growing largely through salvage: we accept birds found dead by members of the public. These specimens add to the "library of birdlife" we maintain, and will make it possible for future researchers to investigate the nature and condition of the birds populations of Connecticut.

If you find a dead bird, the very first thing to do is to determine if it is fresh enough to make a useful specimen. A bird that hasn't been dead for long will be round, not flattened or sagging; the eyes will be full and still moist; the feathers will not fall out when you handle the bird; the body will not smell. In contrast, a specimen that has already begun to decay will be collapsed, and may be oozing fluids; the eyes will be sunken and dry-looking; the feathers will be loosely attached and fall out easily when tugged, or when you handle the bird; there may be insects (ants, maggots) on or in the specimen; and the body will smell bad.

Specimens showing advanced signs of decay are best left where they are. Specimens in good condition should be sealed in a plastic bag (a ziploc with the air squeezed out of it is ideal) with a note containing the following information: your name and contact information; the location (at least town) where the bird was found; the date; and any information you may have about the bird (e.g., how it died - "Hit a window"). If you have the means to measure the bird's weight at the time you picked it up, that information is also very helpful. Once the bird is sealed in a plastic bag, PUT IT IN THE FREEZER AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

The collection manager works part time (one day per week)

Class Schedule

(very subject to change; check back before every lab)

Date Required Reading Subject Meeting notes, and other resources
Jan 25 P & L p. 274-281,286-287; Sibley p. 9-14; Clark p. 1-19 Tools of the Trade: Optics, Field Guides, Field Notebooks
Feb 1 P & L p. 22-37, 47-65, 263-265; Sibley p. 15-21; Clark p. 21-40 North American Bird Orders; topography & field marks CHECK UNIVERSITY WEB SITE BEFORE LEAVING HOME in case of class cancellation and BRING YOUR FIELD NOTEBOOK
Feb 8 Handouts Field Techniques: Survey Methods
Feb 15 Birding, whole class BE ON TIME! WE LEAVE AT 8 AM!
Feb 29 Handouts Birding First, then Opportunities in Ornithology - You Mean I Can Get Paid For This Stuff? Be on time! We leave at 8 am! Bring your resume, if you have one, for the second half of lab. If you haven't looked at it yet, check out: Jobs in Ornithology, the job board for the Ornithological Societies of North America.
March 7 P & L p. 81-105 Birding first (BE ON TIME!) then Feathers & Aerodynamics Meet in Front of Torrey; we leave at 8 am
March 21 MIDTERM EXAM - Birding After
March 28 P & L p. 266-273 Weather and Bird Movements If weather allows, we'll bird first then do the EBird Setup Lab. Horrible weather = weather and bird movement lab.
April 4 P & L Chapters 6 & 7, 205-209, 219-226 Anatomy - Musculature and Internal Organs
April 11 Sibley; herons, gulls, and ducks Tour de Local Birds 4 hour field trip -- we'll be out of the lab from 8-12.
April 18 Chap. 5 Anatomy - Skeletons 8 am - birding first
April 25 P & L p. 66-77 Feet, Beaks, and Body Form
May 2 Handouts Field Techniques: Behavioral Observations
May 5 8-10am FINAL EXAM in TLS 371


Grading in this course is done on a straight percentage-of-points basis, i.e., to obtain an A, you need to earn 90% or more of the available points. The grades will not be "curved", and there will be no opportunities for "make-up" or "extra-credit" points. Attendance on the field trips is required. If you miss a field trip, you lose 10 points. If you miss a test, you will receive a score of zero. If you have a legitimate reason (click here for a sample of legitimate vs. lame excuses) to miss a field trip or test, you may be excused (at the discretion of the instructors) IF AND ONLY IF you provide written documentation (for example, a doctor's note documenting illness; an obituary documenting a death in your family). In cases where the instructors determine you have a legitimate excuse, there still will be no make-ups administered: you will be graded only on the basis of the points contained in the field trips and tests you did complete. NOTE that this method reduces the number of points you can afford to lose and still do well in the course.

These policies have been developed over years of teaching this and other courses, and are designed to ensure fair treatment of everyone by eliminating discrepancies in testing and evaluation, and by eliminating differences in the amount of field and study time available to students. I am very willing to discuss my reasoning for these policies, but if you try to talk me into making an exception to them for you, you will fail, and probably make me grumpy to boot.

Point Structure for Grading


Test 1: 50 points, March 3

Test 1 Key

Final: 100 points, May 5 (50 points for post-midterm material, 50 points for from material from the WHOLE COURSE)

Ebird Set-up Document: click here

Field Notebook: 30 points

Independent Field Observations: 70 points and Point Count Protocol and Point Count Datasheet and Point Count Example

Independent Field Observation Locations: Map of Hillside Environmental Education Project

Field Trips 50 points (Field trips are required: you lose 10 points for every missed trip, 20 if you miss the all day trip. Note that field trips are VERY subject to change, depending on birds, weather, circumstances, and whim. Don't assume you know what you are going to miss.)

All-Day field trip: April 5

Academic Rules/Conduct

All students should be aware of the guidelines on academic integrity contained in the Student Conduct Code. The Conduct Code is available at http://www.dosa.uconn.edu/student_conduct.html.


If you have questions, by all means collar me or email me and ask. I will post both the questions (questioners will be anonymous) and answers here.

Useful and Amusing Links

Bird songs online!

Cell phone towers and bird strikes

Bird Rehabilitation Internship Opportunity!

Feather Identification Resource Online! The Feather Atlas of North American Birds provided high-resolution scans of flight feathers of the major groups of birds; useful for comparison with found feathers whose origin you aren't sure of.

Jobs in Ornithology, the job board for the Ornithological Societies of North America. THE central clearing house for field research internships and jobs.

David Sibley's Blog, wherein the field guide guy riffs mostly on the finer and philosophical points of bird identification, and reports his experiments in window treatments to prevent bird strikes.

NPR piece and song by Sufjan Stevens about the Ivory-billed Woodpecker "rediscovery", and the effect on Brinkley, AK. See also this recent NY Times article on the effect in Brinkley as hope has faded that the bird is actually there. (Thanks to Kevin Burgio for the link.)

North Coast (Oregon) Diaries Comments on photo documentation versus detailed notes. See also the March 2 post on Ugly Gulls (browse Main calendar).

ECOLOG-L listserve postings Job postings, other miscellaneous information and discussions about field ecology.