Ornithology Lecture

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Carmine Bee tree2-F.Gallo.jpg

Carmine Bee eaters; Photo copyright Frank Gallo

Basic Course Information

Spring 2011

Meets: Monday & Wednesdays, 11:00 - 11:50, BPB 130

Instructor: Dr. Margaret Rubega Office: PharmBio 500

Office Phone: 486-4502 Office Hours: Weds, 10-11 am, and by appointment

Email: margaret.rubega@uconn.edu Your emails to me MUST contain the phrase "EEB 4260” in the subject line; email received without that phrase, and especially those with a blank subject line, will be DELETED without being read.


ORNITHOLOGY, 3rd Edition (Freeman) by Frank B. Gill

See also online materials at: http://www.whfreeman.com/gill3e

Optional supplemental texts

MANUAL OF ORNITHOLOGY (Yale Univ.), by N.S. Proctor and P.J. Lynch

BIRDS OF STORRS (Natchaug Ornithological Society) by G.A. Clark, Jr.

SIBLEY GUIDE TO BIRD LIFE AND BEHAVIOR (Knopf), ed. by C. Elphick, J.B. Dunning and D.A. Sibley.

Class Schedule

Lecture # Date Subject (click for lecture notes) Required Reading in Gill (unless otherwise stated) Optional reading [in brackets]from Proctor & Lynch (unless otherwise stated) , and other resources
1 Jan 19 Course Introduction READ COURSE GUIDELINES; sign and turn in form. ALSO: Pgs. xxi- xxvi and Chapter 1 in Gill [1–6]

Evidence that multitasking makes you less capable; see also this article for a more thorough description of the problem.

2 Jan 24 What are birds and why would we study them? Course Guidelines Form Due. Pgs. xxi- xxvi and Chapter 1 in Gill [1–6]
3 Jan 26 -31 Birds of the World. Chapter 1 & online at: www.whfreeman.com/gill3e
4 Feb 2- 7 Avian evolution Chapter 2 [13 – 21]
5 Feb 14 Feathers Chapter 4 [81–115] Also: Dinosaur feather colors revealed!
6 Feb 16 -21 Flight Chapter 5 [117,136–139, 148–151, 156–163] Article and videos of wing-assisted incline-running!
7 Feb 21 - 23 Physiology: Endothermy and Thermoregulation Chapter 6 (pgs. 150-164)
8 Feb 28 Feeding, feeding structures and feeding behavior Chapter 1 (pgs. 13-15) [122–130, 152-154], Tool making in New Caledonian Crows!
Mar 2 Mid-term exam Lectures through FEEDING; all associated readings Click here to view a Sample Test
9 March 14 Physiology: Digestion and Excretion; Water Balance Chapter 6 (pp. 164-179) [175-187, 219-239]
10 Mar 16 Physiology: Respiration and Circulation Chapter 6 (141-150) [189-217]
11 Mar 21 Sensory Biology and Intelligence Chapter 7 [241-262] See Evidence that birds are smarter than you!
12 Mar 23 Communication: Visual AND Vocal Pgs. 344-359 and Chapter 8 AND watch Communication in Birds Video Manakins show off -- Michael Jackson rolls over!
13 Mar 28 2nd TEST All Lectures since Spring Break; all associated readings AND supplemental materials
14 Mar 30 Annual Cycles Chapter 9
15 April 4 Migration Chapter 10 (pgs. 273-295)
16 April 6 Social Behavior Chapter 11
17 April 11 Reproduction: Mating Behavior Pg. 359 through Chapter 13
18 April 13 Reproduction: Physiology Chapter 14 [219-239]
19 Apr 18 Reproduction: Nests and Nesting Chapter 15
20 Apr 20 Reproduction: Growth and Development of Young Chapter 16 (pgs. 467-482)
21 Apr 25 Reproduction: Parental Care Chapter 16 (pgs. 482-502)
22 Apr 27 Avian Conservation Chapter 21, pgs.558-569
23 NOT required on test Climate Change & Birds Pgs. 269 - 271 US Forest Service Climate Change Bird (& Tree) Atlas showing how bird distributions will change with changes in climate.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's web page.The Arbor Day Foundation's maps showing changes in hardiness zones since 1990.NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory's sea ice projections.


Course Guidelines and Grading Policies

Use of electronics in the classroom? In a word, no. Your phone should be OFF (not set to vibrate), your music should be off, your earphones should be in your backpack, and your laptop should be used ONLY for taking notes. All other uses (surfing the web, watching videos, email, IM, texting, whatever) are distracting, disruptive of the work we are doing in the classroom, and disrespectful of your classmates and the instructor. I will call you out publicly for the first offense; at the second offense you will be banned from using even a laptop in class; on the third offense I will ask you to leave. If you lack the self-restraint to stay on task in class, then take notes on paper. Recording lectures with any device is prohibited unless you ask for and receive permission from me in writing.

Entering or Leaving the classroom during a lecture is distracting and disruptive; do not do it unless absolutely necessary. If you know you will be late, or will have to leave early, come and go by the BACK door of the lecture hall, and sit in the nearest available seat to the door, whether you know the person sitting in the next seat or not. I will assume that, as adults, we are all capable of anticipating, and managing, the need to use the bathroom without leaving the classroom during a lecture. Assume that if you must leave the lecture hall, you may not come back. If you expect an emergency communication during class, speak to me about it before lecture begins.

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 on tests, minute papers, and other assigned activities (e.g., Twitter). The grades will not be "curved", and there will be no opportunities for "make-up" or "extra-credit" points. If you miss a test or minute paper, you will receive a score of zero. If you have a legitimate reason (e.g., a death in the family) to miss a test or minute paper, you may be excused (at the discretion of the instructor) IF AND ONLY IF you provide written documentation (for example,an obituary documenting a death in your family). In cases where 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 tests and minute papers you did complete. NOTE that this method reduces the number of points you can afford to lose and still do well in the course.

Attendance is not taken, and is not required; however, if you miss class you may miss in-class minute papers or quizzes(see below). As noted above, there are no opportunities for making-up missed minute papers. You may also miss information I give, discussions that arise over questions asked, examples given on the spur of the moment. You are responsible, on tests, for what is said in class, as well as the materials in the reading. If you miss class, you are responsible for using the lecture materials provided above, and for getting any additional notes from lecture from a classmate: I will not re-lecture to you, one-on-one, at a later appointment. Arrive early to the next lecture, or stay a little late, and find out whether you missed a minute paper; do not ask me to meet with you outside of class to "tell you what you missed".

SICK? First, do your level best to let me know before you miss a class exercise/test. Second, if you are sick, believe me when I say that we don't want to see you in class! Please be responsible, and don't spread germs by coming to class with a fever, or hacking and coughing. For illnesses, I pro-rate your grade on the basis of the point-bearing exercises you didn't miss. If you are sick for the final YOU MUST INFORM THE OFFICE OF STUDENT SERVICES & ADVOCACY in order to be allowed to take a make-up after final exam week is over. The final exam is the only point-bearing exercise for which a make-up is possible.

These policies have been developed over years of teaching this and other courses, and are designed to ensure fair treatment of everyone by maximizing everyone's opportunity to learn, eliminating discrepancies in testing and evaluation, and by eliminating differences in the amount of 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.

Tests/Minute Papers


Test 1: 50 points, March 2 (Covers material from Lecture 1 through Feb 28)

Test 2: 50 points March 28 (Covers material from March 14th - 23rd)

Final: 120 points, May 4 (100 points are dedicated to material after 2nd Test, 20 points are dedicated to material from the WHOLE COURSE)

Click here to view a Sample Test

Tests, total points 220 points

Minute papers: are short (it takes a minute!), UNGRADED (if you write something relevant, you're good -- there are no "right" answers) responses to questions we will pose in class. They are worth 3 points each, and there will be 10 of them over the whole semester. Three points apiece may seem trivial, but it's worth remembering that, taken together, the minute papers are worth 10% of your grade, conceivably the difference between a B and an A. The questions on the minute papers are designed to provide us with feedback on your background preparation for certain material, to assess whether you understood what we just tried to teach you, and to prompt you to assess your own understanding of the material. Occasionally, instead of a minute paper, I may administer a GRADED, 3 point quiz. These will be used as practice for larger tests, to assess your knowledge and understanding, and to keep you engaged. If I see evidence that the work of the class is not being taken seriously, I will shift from ungraded minute papers to graded quizzes.

Minute papers/Quizzes, total points 30 Points

Other Required Class Activities

Every student is expected to visit the EEB Biological Collections for a tour that will introduce you to the resources and opportunities in the collection. We will offer 4 different opportunities, on different days and times. You will need to sign in at the collection; at the end of the semester, everyone who has signed in, will have 5 points added to their grade. Tours will take about 45 minutes, they meet at the south end of the Biology/Physics building lobby on the hour. You are responsible for finding a day and time to attend from the options listed below; if your class schedule prohibits you from attending any of these, you are responsible for letting me know that you will need an alternate opportunity BEFORE THE LAST WEEK OF CLASS. If you have already toured the collections (e.g., in a previous class with me or another instructor), provide me with documentation to that effect, and I will just add the 5 points to your grade without you needing to tour the collections again.

Available tour days/times:

Thursday Feb 3 9 am SH

Wednesday Feb 16 12 pm MR

Monday March 21 3 pm ARG

Thursday April 7 2 pm SH

Biological Collections tour total points 5 points

Twitter is a social networking resource that allows users to communicate in short, frequent posts. Posts ("tweets") are limited to 140 characters. I expect you to go to Twitter, sign up (a matter of giving an email address and picking a password and username), and, over the course of the semester, post at least 10 times; 5 of your posts must be up by 5 pm on March 2. Your posts should consist of any observation of birds you make that somehow relates to the content of the course. Each post should say: where you are; what you are seeing in the birdlife around you; and make the connection to the course content. For example: "Two sparrows are beating each other up outside the student union. Territoriality or dominance fight?" You must sign up with a username that allows me to "follow" you on Twitter: use your first initial/last name, thus Matthew McHenry would have a user name of mmchenry. If you find your particular username is already taken, pick something logical. Once your account is in place, then use "Find People" on Twitter to locate me (type in "Margaret Rubega" or "ProfRubega")and then click on "Follow" to follow me. I will receive an autumated message informing me that you are following me, and will then follow you to keep track of your posts. If you end every tweet with the string "#BirdClass", we will all be able to see every tweet generated by the class. We will be keeping track of posting and points during the semester by tracking the posts themselves. The beauty of Twitter is that it can be posted to virtually at any time, anywhere --- it's possible to post using many types of cell phones. However, anyone with an internet connection can post from a computer, and you should be mindful (as you are responsible for) of any texting charges that posting from your phone may incur.

Twitter posting total points 30 points

Academic Rules/Conduct

All students should be aware of the guidelines on academic integrity contained in the Student Conduct Code. Click here to see the Conduct Code.

Course Guidelines Form

After you have read ALL of the above, print out and sign the Course Guidelines Form. Hand it in to Dr. Rubega no later than the end of the last lecture of the 2nd week of classes.


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.

....I was just wondering, as far as the birds orders, how in depth do we need to know them? Will we need to do classifications again?

I am expecting you to know the bird orders (including classifications) as well as I expected you to know them for the midterm -- they will definitely constitute a portion of the cumulative section of the test. Since you mastered them for the midterm, I expect mastering them for the final shouldn't be too much additional work.

I would imagine old tests would be a good review, but we shouldn't expect to see repeated questions, correct?"

I will not repeat verbatim questions you saw in the tests we had earlier in the semester; I might well ask you about the same material in a different way.

"Can I expect a chart similar to the one on test 1, part 1 regarding the different orders of birds? (in all honesty, I loved that chart!)"

Glad to hear someone loved it; yes, you can expect a chart similar, but not identical, to that chart.

"Where exactly does it mention that Tyrannosaurus bone collagen indicates that dinosaurs are more closely related to birds than reptiles? (can't find it in my book or notes)

This is an example I gave in class; a link to a more detailed description of the research is here

"In the notes, you always give us a specific example of birds that match the topic being discussed, (for example: Common Cuckoos are obligate brood parasites) is it in my best interest to know as many of these examples as possible?"

It is in your interest to know those examples well enough to understand why they are good illustrations of the principle/topic I discussed them in the context of.

"What exactly is a fovea..?"

A fovea is a depression (dent) in the retina where the density of cones (light-sensing cells) is highest, therefore a section of the retina where visual acuity is enhanced.

Bird News

A link to a page set up and maintained by Dr. Elphick.

Useful and Amusing Links

Field Ecology Internships

Summer Environmental Internships

CT Beardsley Zoo Summer Internships

Wicked Nova Series on Four-winged Dinosaurs! Watch it here.

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

UConn Ornithology Collections Donation Page -- where to go if you find a dead bird! University of Connecticut Biological Collections, including the Bird Collection.

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.

Images of Bird Wings Online. The Slater Museum, at the University of Puget Sound, provides high-resolution images of their entire collection of spread (open) bird wings. Useful for studying flight style as a function of wing morphology.