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Fundamentals of Avian Biology: The Study of Birds, Fall Session (6 classes)

  • National Wildlife Federation 11100 Wildlife Center Drive Reston, VA, 20190 United States (map)

Mallard ducklings, Tom Warren/Audubon Photography Awards

Classroom Instruction: Thursdays, 7:00 - 9:00PM; October 3, 10, 17; December 5, 12, 19
Field Trips: October 12; December 14 (location TBD)

National Wildlife Federation
11100 Wildlife Center Drive
Reston, VA 20190

ASNV is pleased to present this in-depth course about birds, designed for all skill levels. Experienced birders and novices will improve their understanding of birds and birding skills through classroom sessions and field trips.

Fundamentals of Avian Biology: Fall Session
This course is designed and presented at an introductory, university level in 6 parts, with each classroom session 2 hours long. Fundamentals of Avian Biology will feature major underpinnings to ornithology within a context of U.S. national history. Topics covered in this class encompass: the origins and then separation of amateur from professional interest in birds; form and function in the avian body; avian flight mechanics, movement, and dispersal; bird distribution and biogeography; evolutionary relationships and naming systems for birds; and standardized field methods used to study birds. Whenever appropriate, contrasting perspectives are offered, including controversial views that arose from reliance on different theories or applications. Instructional presentations will include PowerPoint slides, auditory or video supplements, and some in-class participatory exercises.

Required textbook: Manual of Ornithology: Avian Structure and Function, 1993, Procter and Lynch, ISBN-10: 0300076193

Optional textbook: Handbook of Bird Biology (Cornell Lab of Ornithology), 3rd edition, 2016, Lovette and Fitzpatrick, ISBN-10: 1118291050

Recommended supplement: The National Geographic Society’s Field Guide to the Birds of America, The Sibley Guide to Birds, or a similar guide for field identification


Classroom 1, October 3: Introduction; history of professional ornithology and of bird-watching in the United States; avian conservation; socio-biological, economic, and cultural dimensions to birding as a human endeavor.

 Classroom 2, October 10: Basic anatomy and physiology of birds, including foraging, nutrition, and diet; feather form, function, and moult; mechanics and adaptations of avian flight. 

Field Trip 1, October 12: Saturday field trip for fall migrants (songbirds, shorebirds, and/or raptors)

Classroom 3, October 17: Patterns, function, and origins of avian migration; causes of vagrancy, range expansion, and extirpation.

Classroom 4, December 5: Biogeography of bird distribution in North America and throughout the world; endemism, convergence, sympatry, allopatry, and other noteworthy spatial patterns.

Classroom 5, December 12: Evolutionary context for avian systematics and classification; the conventions of bird naming; emergence of molecular techniques and genetic differentiation in determining the taxonomic relationships of birds.

Field Trip 2, December 14: Saturday field trip for waterfowl, winter migrants (or a local Christmas Bird Count)

Classroom 6, December 19: Bird field methods, including protocols and applied uses for Christmas Bird Counts, Breeding Bird Censuses, Breeding Bird Surveys, mist-netting and bird banding (ringing); other common field and laboratory techniques used to understand the life of birds.

Dr. Chris Haney, Founder and President of Terra Mar Applied Science

Dr. Chris Haney, Founder and President of Terra Mar Applied Science

Instructor: Dr. Chris Haney's expertise straddles the fields of ornithology, including: marine science, climate change, wildlife biology, ecosystem management, and conservation policy. His projects and scholarly work have taken him to Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Bahamas, Lesser Antilles, several countries of southern Africa, and the former Soviet Union. He has authored over 80 peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, and technical notes, and over 150 reports, abstracts, and testimony. He has delivered more than 150 seminar, conference, and workshop presentations. Dr. Haney’s knowledge and enthusiasm in the classroom is contagious!

Limit: 30 students. Don’t delay, this class will sell out quickly.
Fee: $250 members, $275 non-members

This course is designed and presented at a university introductory level in two separate sections (Fall and Spring) with a total of 12, two-hour classroom sessions. The two sections are independent and field trips will focus on birds that are present during the season. The Spring Session will begin in late winter 2020, there is no prerequisite for this section.