General Course Information

Course Lecturer Name(s):  Wayne Smart

Course Director Name:  Patricia Rosa

Course Lecturer(s) Contact Information:  wayneasmart@gmail.com

Course Director Contact Information: prosa@sgu.edu 

Course Lecturer(s) Office Hours:  By appointment   

Course Director Office Hours: N/A

Course Lecturer(s) Office Location:  2nd floor Caribbean House

Course Director Office Location: N/A

Course Support:   Anna Neckles-Thomas, anecklesthomas@sgu.edu, x3435

Course Management tool: To learn to use Sakai, the Course management tool, access the link https://apps.sgu.edu/members.nsf/mycoursesintro.pdf

Course Curriculum Information

Course Description: 

This course will provide students with a foundation in the field of ornithology. The fundamental characteristics of birds including evolution, phylogeny, life histories, morphology, ecology and behavior will be covered in this course. Conservation of birds around the world will also be an integral part of this course. Students will learn to identify birds through the use of diagnostic characteristics both in the classroom and in the field.

Course Objectives: 

The goal for this course is to introduce students to the field of ornithology by focusing on theoretical principles related to avian biology, ecology, and behavior, and by learning the basic techniques for studying birds in the field (including visual and auditory identification).

Student Learning Outcomes:

  1. Recognize the importance of studying birds and their origin and evolution. 
  2. Explain how birds are classified and identify key characteristics of the different taxonomic groups.
  3. Describe the different types of feathers and the morphological adaptations that enable birds to fly.  
  4. Examine the relationship between form and function of organs across different physiological systems.
  5. Recognize how different life-history traits among avian species lead to variations in behavior.
  6. Examine threats to avian populations.
  7. Employ field survey techniques to monitor avian populations.  

Technical Skills Outcomes:

TSO-BIOL404-1. Use of field guides and software to correctly identify birds by sight and sound. 

TSO-BIOL404-2. Use of binoculars and field scopes to view avian species.

TSO-BIOL404-3. Use of GPS to determine geographic location, retrieve study site locations, and to map habitats.

TSO-BIOL404-4. Use of compass and rangefinder to estimate subject distance and map distribution.

TSO-BIOL404-5. Use of eBird to obtain, validate, and contribute avian observations.

TSO-BIOL404-6. Use of quadrats to assess plant density, coverage and height.

TSO-BIOL404-7. Use of parabolic microphones and portable recorders to obtain samples of bird vocalizations.*

TSO-BIOL404-8. Use of mist nets to capture birds.* *Subject to seasonal, environmental, and weather conditions.

Program Outcomes Met By This Course:

MWC-PLO1. KNOWLEDGE: Apply knowledge of the biological and physical components of life, and to use this knowledge to understand the interrelationship of organisms with each other and their physical environments. 

MWC-PLO2. APPLICABILITY: Analyze key global ecological and conservation issues to promote long-term species viability and health of marine and terrestrial environments, with an emphasis on the Caribbean. 

MWC-PLO3. RESEARCH: Apply scientific method, ecological and quantitative concepts, and technical skills to design and conduct novel field and laboratory experiments, while considering ethical and regulatory implications.

SAS Grading Scale: Grades will be assigned as follows:

A  = 89.5% or better

B+ = 84.5 - 89.4%

B  = 79.5 - 84.4%

C+ = 74.5 - 79.4%

C = 69.5 - 74.4%

D = 64.5 - 69.4%

F = 64.4% or less 

Course Materials:

Text: Raffaele, H. et al. 2003. Birds of the West Indies. Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Supplementary Readings:

  • Gill, F. B. 2007. Ornithology, 3rd edition. W. H. Freeman and Company, New York. 
  • Lovette, I. J. & Fitzpatrick, J. W. 2016. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology: Handbook of Bird Biology, 3rd edition. John Wiley & Sons, Chichester.


  • eBird Caribbean (ebird.org/content/caribbean/) or (birdscaribbean.org)
  • The Cornell Lab of Ornithology: Neotropical Birds (neotropical.birds.cornell.edu)
  • BirdLife International: Data Zone (datazone.birdlife.org)
  • Birds Caribbean (birdscaribbean.org)
  • Journal of Caribbean Ornithology (birdscaribbean.org/jco/index.php/jco/index)
  • Xeno-canto – Bird Sounds (xeno-canto.org)
  • Dendroica – Bird Sounds (natureinstruct.org/dendroica/)

Course Grading Requirement:

  •  Exams (40%): 
    • Mid-term 20% 
    • Final 20%
  • ID quizzes (30%):     Sight 10% 
    • Sound 10%
    • Sight and sound 10%
  • Practical evaluations (20%): Point-counts and transects 10%    Data entry and analyses 10%
  • Readings and associated discussions (10%): 2 sessions x 5%

Course Requirements:

Exams: Exams will cover material and concepts from lectures. Questions will include a combination of multiple-choice, short-answer, and problem-solving questions, and data and graphical interpretations. You should be prepared to apply your knowledge of course material and concepts to new situations and datasets. Mid-term will be based on material covered in weeks 1 to 6, and final will focus on weeks 9 to 14 (non-cumulative).

ID quizzes: Quizzes will take place in class where you will be presented with images and vocalizations of birds to identify. You will be expected to study identifying characteristics for each species using your field guide before the tests. See relevant resources in ID Quizzes folder in Sakai. 

Practical evaluations: Practical evaluations will take place in the field for avian point-counts and transects throughout the term. Data entry and analyses will take place during lab sessions and require submission. 

Readings and associated discussions: Two lab sessions will be dedicated to assigned readings relevant to the current field of ornithology. You will be expected to prepare discussion points beforehand and will be evaluated on your contributions to the in-class discussion and understanding of the concepts and issues.

Course Schedule







Jan. 17–21 

1. Why study birds?

2. Origin & evolution

Lab: Bird



Jan. 24–28

3. Diversity & systematics

4. Taxonomy &


Discussion: Franzen (2018)


Jan. 31–Feb. 4

Lab: Avian survey methods  

ID Quiz: Sight

Lab: Data entry


Field: SGU campus


Feb. 7–11

5. Feathers

6. Flight



Feb. 14–18

7. Digestion & feeding

8. Circulation, respiration, & thermoregulation

Field: Belmont



Feb. 21–25

9. Nervous system: Brain & senses

ID Quiz: Sound



Feb. 28–Mar. 4

Lab: Data entry and/or recording vocalizations


Field: Woburn Observatory 


Mar. 7–11


EXAM: Mid-term



Mar. 14–18

10. Communication

Lab: Data and/or recording analyses

Field: Mt. Hartman


Mar. 21–25

11. Reproductive system (1)

12. Reproductive system (2)   



Mar. 28–Apr. 1

13. Territoriality

14. Coloniality



Apr. 4–8

ID Quiz: Sight and sound

15. Migration & navigation

Field: Grand-Etang


Apr. 11–15

16. Anthropogenic disturbances

17. Conservation   



Apr. 18–22


Glausiusz (2018)

Lab: Finalize data entry and analyses  



Apr. 25–29


No lecture:

Independent study



May 2–6


EXAM: Final


*Note that sessions scheduled on Fridays are subject to schedule revision in the first week of the term to accommodate course with concurrent lab/field sessions.  

School of Arts and Sciences Master Syllabi — Info for All Sections

Plagiarism Policy

Academic Integrity

The St. George’s University Student Manual (2019/2020) states as follows:

Plagiarism is regarded as a cardinal offense in academia because it constitutes theft of the work of someone else, which is then purported as the original work of the plagiarist. Plagiarism draws into disrepute the credibility of the Institution, its faculty, and students; therefore, it is not tolerated” (p. 48).

Plagiarism also includes the unintentional copying or false accreditation of work, so double check your assignments BEFORE you hand them in.

Be sure to do good, honest work, credit your sources and reference accordingly and adhere to the University’s Honor Code. Plagiarism and cheating will be dealt with very seriously following the university’s policies on Plagiarism as outlined in the Student Manual.

Your work may be subject to submission to plagiarism detection software, submission to this system means that your work automatically becomes part of that database and can be compared with the work of your classmates.

Attendance Requirement

The St. George’s University Student Manual (2019/2020) states as follows:

Students are expected to attend all classes and or clinical rotations for which they have registered. Although attendance may not be recorded at every academic activity, attendance may be taken randomly. Students’ absence may adversely affect their academic status as specified in the grading policy. If absence from individual classes, examinations, and activities, or from the University itself is anticipated, or occurs spontaneously due to illness or other extenuating circumstances, proper notification procedures must be followed. A particular course may define additional policies regarding specific attendance or participation” (p. 9).

Examination Attendance

The St. George’s University Student Manual (2019/2020) states as follows:

All matriculated students are expected to attend all assigned academic activities for each course currently registered. Medical excuses will be based on self-reporting by students. Students who feel they are too sick to take an examination or other required activity on a specific day must submit the online SAS medical excuse, which is available on Carenage. Students are only allowed two such excuses a year. Upon consultation with the Director of University Health Service, the third excuse will result in a mandatory medical leave of absence. The policies regarding make-up examinations are at the option of the Course Director” (p.46).

For additional specific examination policies and procedures, refer to the St. George’s University Student Manual (2019/2020), pages 31 through 37.

Student Accessibility and Accommodation Services Policy

The St. George’s University Student Manual (2019/2020) states as follows:

A student with a disability or disabling condition that affects one or more major life activities, who would like to request an accommodation, must submit a completed application form and supporting documentation to the Student Accessibility and Accommodation Services (SAAS) located in the Dean of Students Office. It is highly recommended that students applying for accommodations do so at least one month before classes begin to allow for a more efficient and timely consideration of the request. If a fully completed application is not submitted in a timely fashion, an eligibility determination may not be made, and accommodations, where applicable, may not be granted prior to the commencement of classes and/or examinations” (p. 8).


It is the responsibility of the student to read and understand the policies, laws, rules and procedures that while they could affect your grade for a course, have not been specifically outlined in the course syllabus. These are contained in the St. George’s University Student Manual.