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Birdwatching (Ornithology or Birding) study at home

Course CodeBEN012
Fee CodeS1
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment
ORNITHOLOGY ONLINE COURSE

TAKE YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF BIRDS TO THE NEXT LEVEL!

Learn with us what is a bird, how they evolved, what adaptations they developed to be able to colonize air, land and water so successfully!

This course is designed for people working or wishing to work with birds and animals, life scientists and environmental researchers and consultants, amateur bird watchers, or anyone working with birds. Learn to identify and understand the habits of different birds, from water birds and parrots, to town birds and birds of prey.  

Lesson Structure

There are 9 lessons in this course:

  1. Classification & Introduction to Birdwatching
    • History of birds
    • Classification (Classes, Subclasses, Superorders, etc)
    • Bird Migration
    • Birdwatching clubs & Other information sources
    • Binoculars
  2. The Biology of Birds
    • Anatomy
    • external & internal structure
    • breeding
    • eggs
  3. Common and Widespread Land Birds
    • Pests
    • introduced birds
    • pigeons, crows & their relatives
  4. Giant Birds & Long Legged Birds
    • Emu,
    • Ostrich
    • Herons
    • Storks & Relatives
  5. Seabirds & Waterbirds
    • Order Anseriformes
    • Order Gruiformes
    • Order Charadriiformes
    • Order Gaviiformes
  6. Hunters
    • Birds of Prey
    • Owls
    • Kingfishers
  7. Passeriformes includes all song birds
    • plus lots of other birds including: larks, jays, magpies, swallows, nightingales, wrens, mockingbirds, robins, bluebirds, thrushes, pipits, shrikes, warblers, blackbirds, orioles, finches, grosbeaks, tanagers, and more
  8. Other Birds
    • Parrots
    • Honeyeaters
    • Swifts & others
  9. Attracting, Feeding & Keeping Birds

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

Aims

  • Discuss the study of birds, including bird taxonomy
  • Describe anatomical and physical characteristics of birds.
  • Describe anatomical and physical characteristics of birds.
  • Discuss a range of different common and widespread land birds.
  • Discuss a range of different flightless and long legged birds including Ratites and Ciconiiformes.
  • Discuss and describe a range of water birds and sea birds.
  • Discuss and describe a range of hunting birds.
  • Discuss and describe a range of Passeriformes.
  • Discuss and describe a range of parrots and other birds..
  • Explain domestication of birds and the methodology and implications of attracting and feeding wild birds.

 Bird Families

Family Name

Characteristics

Examples

Struthionidae

Two toes. The only bird with two toes

Ostrich

Casuariidae

Distinct neck wattles, Hard cap (helmet) on head

Cassowary

Dromaiidae

Three toes; skin of head and throat are blue

Emu

Megapodiidae

Ground birds, Eggs incubated in large mounds which the birds create from sand, soil or organic matter

Brush Turkey, Mound Builders

Phasianidae

Ground birds (can fly -some migrate long distances), Small and plump, short or long tail, Three forward pointing toes, one points back; under parts have bold markings

Quail, Pheasant

Turnicidea

Similar to Quail, but no hind toe (generally only 3 forward toes), under parts mostly white to buff colour sometimes black spotted or faintly marked; (Exception is the Plain Wanderer: it has a rear toe, but smaller)

Button Quail; Plain Wanderer

Diomedeidae

Webbed feet, Hook tipped bill, Small tubular nostrils

Albatross

Procellariidae

Webbed feet, Hook tipped bill, Tubular nostrils on top of snout

Petrel, Shearwater, Diving Petrel

Hydrobatidae

Mostly pelagic

Storm petrel

Pelecanidae

Characteristic long bill with loose pouch (underside to bill), Four toes linked by webbing

Pelican

Spheniscidae

Wings modified as flippers, plump body

Penguins

Sulidae

Stout bill; Habit of plunge diving; Fully webbed feet, Stout bills; habit of plunge diving into sea

Gannet, Boobie

Fregatidae

Large birds, Long hooked bills, deeply forked tails, Pointed wings when flying, Dark colouration.

Frigate Bird

Phaethontidae

Solid body, White colour, Two long red or white tail streamers,

Tropicbird

Anhingidae

Slender bill, S shaped necks, Feet fully webbed, Narrow pointed bills used to spear fish, Look like cormorants but larger.

Darter

Podicipedidae

Sharp bill, legs set back on body, poor at walking, good at diving

Grebe

Phalacrocoracidae

Feet fully webbed, Often perch with wings stretched out, Swim and dive for fish.

Cormorant

Anatidae

Dense waterproof plumage, Webbed feet, Flattened bills, Most good at flying,

Goose, Duck, Swan

 

Rallidae

Long toes, short tail, stout body; Small to large, Some have coloured bill shields

Rail, Coot, Swamp Hen, Crake

Ardeidae

Slender bodies, long necks, Dagger like bills to spear prey

Heron, Egret, Bittern

Plataleidae or Threskiornithidae

Feed by feeling with their bills (not spearing)

Ibis, Spoonbill

Ciconiidae

Long solid bills, long legs,

Stork (some include Ibis, herons, egrets, and spoonbills in this group)

Gruidae

Long sharp bills, Long legs, Perform elaborate dancing displays

Crane

Otididae

Long legs, Pointed bills, Cryptic plumage

Bustard

Pedionomidae

Weak flying, Similar to button quail but one hind toe

Plains Wanderer

Scolopacidae

Long legs, Long bills, Migratory Waders

All from Northern Hemisphere but many migrate south

Sandpiper, Snipe, Curlew, Godwit, Phalarope

Glareolidae

Brownish “tern” like; Long wings, Wader

Pratincole

Rostratulidae

Long billed wader, patterned colourings

Painted Snipe

Jacanidae

Rail like, Long toes and hind claws

Jacana, Lotusbird

Burhinidae

Tall, Large eyes, Plover like

Stone Curlew

Haematopodidae

Large coastal waders, black or pied colouring

Oystercatcher

Charadriidae

Waders, Rounded head, Short bill, Large eyes, Plain or camouflaged colourings

Plover, Dotterel, Lapwing

Recurvirostridae

Waders with long legs, Medium size birds, Bills slender

Stilts, Avocet

Stercorariidae

Piratical sea-birds with variable plumage, elongated central tail feathers, white wing flashes.

Skuas, Jaegars

Pandionidae

A fishing hawk with broad wings, strong legs and talons to seize slippery prey.

Osprey

Laridae

Elongated central tail feathers, Webbed feet, Generally strong sharp curved claws

Gull, Tern, Jaeger

Accipitridae

Short head, Broad wings, Hooked bills, Large talons

Kite, Eagle, Hawk, Goshawk

Falconidae

Toothed upper bill, dark cap or teardrop cheek marking, long pointed wings.

Falcon

Columbidae

Plain or colourful markings, Plump, Stout bill, Tail medium to long, square or pointed at end

Dove, Pigeon

Cacatuidae

Medium to large parrots; Obvious erect crests, Either long tail, or short square tail, Complete orbital ring (circular colour patch around eye)

Cockatoo

Psittacidae

Solid body, medium size wings, hooked bill, two toes forward two back.

Parrot

Loriinae

Small birds, Pointed tails (short or long)

Lorikeet

Opoposittinae

Short rounded tail, Smallest parrots

Fig Parrot

Polytelitinae

Long graduated tail, Wings long and pointed

 

Long tailed Parrot

Playtcercinae

Tails medium to long and often fanned

Rosella, Ring necked Parrot, Broad tailed Parrots

Cuculidae

Long tails, Narrow wings, Sizes vary

Parasitic Cuckoos, Coucal

Strigidae

Nocturnal, Varying sizes, Indistinct facial disc, Large pale eyes

Hawk Owl

Tytonidae

Nocturnal, Small to large, Distinct facial disc, Dark eyes, Slender legs

Barn Owl

Podargidae

Nocturnal, Medium-long tails, Large broad bills, Rounded wings, Camouflaged colourings

Frogmouth

Aegothelidae

Nocturnal, Small, Delicate, Grey colour, Small broad bill with bristles at edge, Weak feet, Rounded wings, Long broad tail

Owlet-nightjar

Caprimulgidae

Nocturnal, Long tail, Long pointed wings, Small broad bills, Eyes are very reflective, Camouflaged colouration

Nightjar

Apodidae

Fast flying, Long swept back wings, Forked tails, Large eyes, Small bill that opens wide.

Swift, Swiftlet

Alcedinidae

Stout body shape, Large head; Long pointed bills, Small feet, Brightly coloured

River Kingfisher

Halcyonidae

Stout body shape, Large head; Long pointed bills, Small feet, Usually but not always brightly coloured

Tree Kingfisher

Meropidae

Long downward curved bill, Small legs, Brightly coloured migratory birds

Bee eater

 

Coraciidae

Stout body, Red bills, When flying silver dollar wing spots are seen, Habit of rolling when flying

Roller

Pittidae

Short tail, Long legs, Bright colourings with white wing patches, Plump medium sized birds

Pitta

Menuridae

Approx 30cm long, with tails to 60cm (ie. 90cm head to tail); Body plumage grey to dark brown; Bills conical shape; Wings short and rounded, Legs strong

Lyrebirds

Atrichornithidae

Up to 23cm long, Dull brownish plumage, Short rounded wings

Scrub-bird

Neosittidae

Small up to 12cm long; When flying you can see a broad band of colour on the wing; Run up and down tree trunks (like Treecreepers…but Treecreepers only run up)

Sittella

Climacteridae

Run spirally up (not down) tree trunks; 12-18cm long, Commonly camouflaged plumage, Southern hemisphere family

Australian Treecreeper

Certhiidae

Run up (not down) tree trunks, Northern hemisphere family

Typical Tree Creepers (Europe and Asia)

Picidae

Widespread family, but not in Australia

Woodpecker

Maluridae

Long tails and a habit of cocking these tails

Fairy Wren

Pardalotidae

Small or tiny usually dull coloured birds,; Short tails; Short broad bills

Bristlebird, Greygone, Scrubwren, Thornbill, Parddalote

Meliphagidae

 

Sometimes split in 2 families: Chats in Ephthianuridae; and Honeyeaters in Meliphagidae. Honeyeaters have up to 3cm bills curving downwards, and tipped tongues. Chats appear more adapted to drier climates than honeyeaters

Honeyeater, Australian Chat

Orthonychidae

Medium sized ground dwellers;

Logrunner, Chowchilla

Cinclosomatidae

Long tails, Songbirds living on or close to ground

Whipbird, Wedgebill, Quail-thrush

Pomatostomidae

Plump bodies, Longish tails, Brownish, Bills pointed and curved down

Australo-Papuan Babbler

 

Timaliidae

Birds from the above 3 families (ie. Orthonychidae Cinclosomatidae Pomatostomidae) are often grouped together.

 


Petroicidae

Some have brilliant coloured males; Juveniles have mottled colouration, many will perch sideways on vertical stems

Robin

Pachycephalidae

Robust bodies and relatively thick heads; Well developed sometimes thickened bills, Obscure bristles at edge of mouth; Usually dull appearance(commonly grey-brown)

Crested Shrike-tit, Crested Bellbird, Whistler, Shrike-thrush

Dicruridae

Robust bills and bristles on the mouth

Drongo (sometimes:Magpie-lark, Monarch Flycatcher, Fantail)

Monarchidae

Often included in the family Dicuridae

Flycatchers

Grallinidae

Often included in the family Dicuridae

Mudlark, Apostlebird, White Winged Chough

Oriolidae

Often strong yellow plumage, sometimes greenish, and dull in Figbird; 20-30cm long body, Relatively long bill.

Oriole, Figbird

Paradisaeidae

Robust body, Strong feet and legs; Large bill sometimes long and curved down; Plumage mostly black; Closely related to Bowerbirds

Bird of Paradise

Ptilonorhynchidae

Females dull camouflage colouring, Males are bright and colourful

Bowerbird

Campephagidae

Slender body, Graduated tails, Long pointed wings; Feathers are black, grey, brown or combinations of these colours

Triller, Cuckoo-shrike

Artamidae

Small birds, Wings are distinctive “bat wing” shape when flying, Tails rotate while perching

Currawong, Butcherbird, Woodswallow

Corvidae

Even glossy black coloured plumage, Stout and relatively long bills

Crow, Raven

Corcoracidae

Small grey, or large black birds; live in groups building nests from mud

Mud nester

Hirundinidae

Long, straight, pointed wings; Tails forked or square; Small song birds; Appearance is similar to Swifts and Wood swallows but this family is in fact not closely related. Swallows are less streamlined than Swifts and have shorter, broader wings that are straight -Swifts have bowed wings.

Swallow, Martin

(NB: These common names are largely interchangeable)

Motacillidae

Slender birds, Long tails, Pipits have yellow legs and no crest

Old World Pipit, Wagtail

Alaudidae

Long hind toe with sharp claw; Mostly brownish plumage often with camouflage blotches or streaks

Old World Lark, Skylark, Bushlark

Sylviidae

Generally drab browns and greys, which makes them difficult to see in woodland, but with distinctive songs.

Old World warblers: Laughing thrushes, Babblers, Wrentit

Passeridae

Small, Brown colourings; sometimes classified as Ploceidae (with Weavers)

Old World Sparrow

Fringillidae

Can have either bright coloured or camouflaged appearance, Stout conical bills, Small size

Finch

Ploceidae

Small, colourful appearance

Grass finch, Weaver, Mannikin, Waxbill

Nectariniidae

Slender bills, Small bright coloured

Sunbird

Dicaeidae

Very small, Short tails, Short bills

Mistletoebird, Flowerpecker

Zosteropidae

Small green-yellow birds, Brush tipped tongues; Most have a white ring around the eye

White eye

Pycnonotidae

Often crested, Distinctive head markings, Mostly small brown to olive green birds

Bulbul

Muscicapidae

Small to medium size, Mostly brown or black,

Common Blackbird, Song Thrush

Sturnidae

Sharp strong beak; Strong legs; Mostly dark plumage

Myna, Starling

Phoenicopteridae

Long legs and long necks and a very distinctive bill that is bent about half way along its length to point downwards in a steep angle.

Flamingos

 

WHAT CAN YOU ACHIEVE FROM THIS COURSE?

  • An ability to identify birds easier - even ones you might not know. All birds fit into a sensible classification system; and when you understand the framework of that system, it becomes far easier (even second nature) for you to determine the family a bird belongs to, then from there, drill down to determining it's species. This course develops this approach to understanding birds. 
  • An understanding of the biology, behaviour and even feeding habits of a wide range of birds
  • A greater sense of the environment we live in and share with birds - our place and the place of birds as integral parts of the environment.
  • Develop your passion for all things ornithological
  • Improve employment or career prospects working with birds as pets, in zoos, managing wildlife, conservation, etc

 



Meet some of our academics

Dr. Gareth PearceVeterinary scientist and surgeon with expertise in agriculture and environmental science, with over 25 years of experience in teaching and research in agriculture, veterinary medicine, wildlife ecology and conservation in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Post-graduate qualifications in Education, Wildlife Conservation Medicine, Aquatic Veterinary Studies and Wildlife Biology & Conservation. Gareth has a B.Sc.(Hons), B.V.Sc., M.A., M.Vet.S,. PhD, Grad. Cert. Ed.(HE), Post-Grad.Cert. Aq.Vet.Sc., Post-Grad. Cert. WLBio&Cons., Dipl. ECPHM, MRCVS.
Tracey JonesWidely published author, Psychologist, Manager and Lecturer. Over 10 years working with ACS and 25 years of industry experience. Qualifications include: B.Sc. (Hons) (Psychology), M.Soc.Sc (social work), Dip. SW (social work), PGCE (Education), PGD (Learning Disability Studies).
Marius Erasmus Subsequent to completing a BSc (Agric) degree in animal science, Marius completed an honours degree in wildlife management, and a masters degree in production animal physiology. Following the Masters degree, he has worked for 9 years in the UK, and South Africa in wildlife management, dairy, beef and poultry farming.


Check out our eBooks

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