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Field Ornithology

Cross-listed: Cornell University course BIOSM 3740 (3 cr.); Univ. of New Hampshire course MEFB 510 (4 cr.)

This is a 2 week course dedicated to field studies of birds. It is located on Appledore Island, Maine and hosted by the Shoals Marine Laboratory. Throughout the course students will be immersed in the biology of breeding seabirds and songbirds. They will learn about methods of studying migration and learn how to capture and band migratory songbirds (see Appledore Island Migration Station). Students will learn to collect physiological and behavioral data, participate in long-term research projects, and design and carry out their own independent study project.

The purposes of this course are:
Image result for sibley birds east
  • To recognize the birds of the Isles of Shoals by sight and sound
  • To learn and appreciate the diversity of life-history strategies pursued by these birds
  • To develop and test ecological hypotheses through an independent project, to summarize and analyze data, and to present scientific information appropriately in both written and oral form
  • To learn and practice a variety of field techniques used for studying birds including banding, census methods (point counts, transects, spot mapping), nest monitoring, and behavioral observations
  • To keep an appropriately detailed field journal.
Required text is a field guide (like the one on the right). 

Required readings are listed below by general category. There are PDFs of the required readings in addition to some suggested readings. Students should plan on perusing several of the additional articles (or others not listed here) throughout the course as inspiration for their independent study projects. 
Enjoy :)

Gull breeding biology

Bonter et al. 2014
Ellis et al. 2007 (Raccoons)
Ellis et al. 2007 (Food web)
Ellis et al. 2014
Rome & Ellis 2005

Seabirds & Restoration

Borrelle et al. 2015
Buxton et al. 2016
Lamb et al. 2016
Mulder & Ellis 2010

The course syllabus which includes a tentative schedule can be found here.

Point Counts & Transects

Dobkin & Rich 1998
Rapole et al. 1998

General Field Methods

Ralph et al. 1993
NABC Bird Bander's Manual

Other relevant papers

Ruegg et al. 2014
Hobson et al. 2014



Required Species:
American Goldfinch
Carolina Wren*
Cedar Waxwing
Common Yellowthroat
Eastern Kingbird
Gray Catbird
Northern Cardinal*
Red-winged Blackbird
Song Sparrow
Yellow Warbler