ESRM 456  Biology and Conservation of Birds


                                                                                    Professor: John Marzluff

                                                                                    Office: 123 E Anderson Hall

                                                                                    Phone: 206 616 6883

















Class Meets Mondays and Wednesday 12:30-1:50 in Winkenwerder Hall, Room 201


Course Learning Goals are to:1) introduce you to the science of ornithology with emphasis on the ecology, evolution, behavior, and conservation of birds, 2) immerse you in the scientific literature written about birds, 3) develop your critical thinking and scientific writing skills, 4) increase your understanding of local, regional, and global conservation issues, and 5) improve your ability to work in interdisciplinary settings to solve problems.


My Teaching Approach is to combine lecture, discussion, and workgroup activities.  The general approach is to use cooperative learning through interaction between students and instructors and especially among students.  I assume that all students will read the required scientific papers, lecture notes, and other assigned material BEFORE each class meeting.  In many cases, the success of a student team will depend on the full participation of each team member.  Your commitment to do the required readings, attend and participate in class will enable us to have focused discussions that explore scientific literature and concepts more effectively.


Lecture Materials and Assigned Readings are available electronically by following the links in the schedule below.  YouTube has video files from David Attenborough’s The Life of Birds, which can be found of the web.


The Required Texts are: Ornithology, 3rd Edition by Frank Gill and Welcome to Subirdia by John Marzluff.  These are available at the UW Bookstore, local bookstores, and at online outlets.


COURSE GRADES will be determined by a combination of assignments and tests.


CRITICAL THOUGHT EXERCISES (~100 Points). Throughout the quarter I will provide materials for you to evaluate (e.g., conservation plans, scientific papers, etc) and discuss.  Each student will turn in a 1 page summary of their review and discussion. There will be 3-5 assignments worth 20-30 points each.


MIDTERM EXAM (100 Points).  My exams include long essay and discussion problems.  The midterm will include all material covered up to that point and will be a take-home exam.


FINAL EXAM (Thursday, DEC 14, 830am, Wink 201; 200 Points).  The final exam will be in class and comprehensive.


RESEARCH PAPER (due NOVEMBER 29; 100 Points).  Feel free to turn this in early!  You can choose the topic of your choice that involves bird biology or avian conservation and write a research paper that reviews and synthesizes the relevant scientific literature. Use standard format for scientific paper (e.g., look at format of a review article in the journal The Condor). Cite primary references appropriately. DO NOT RELAY ON WEB, OR SECODARY SOURCES. Pose questions for future study.  No more than 5 pages in length (double spaced, 12pt font), not including references or tables/figures.


Grades are assigned as follows, based on a grand total of 500 points:

            95% and higher = 4.0

            90% = 3.5

            80% = 2.5

            70% = 1.5, etc.


Lecture Schedule



Topic with Link to Notes

Reading Assignments

Video Assignment (Life of Birds, on YouTube and others)

Wed. Sept. 27

No Class, but see assignments

Gill, Chapters 1, 2

To Fly or Not to Fly

Mon. Oct. 2

Evolution of Birds

Gill, Chapters 1, 2


Wed. Oct. 4

Continue Evolution of Birds




Oct. 9


Gill Chapter 3

The Demands of the Egg

Wed. Oct. 11

Speciation and Microevolution

Gill Chapter 19, 20


Mon. Oct 16

Avian Extinction and Important Threats to the Conservation of Birds



Wed. Oct 18

Adapting to Urban Environments

Marzluff Chapter 1, 6

Mon. Oct 23

Feathers and Flight

Gill Chapter 4, 5

Mastery of Flight

Wed. Oct. 25

Feathers, Flight, and Conservation

Gill Chapter 9


Mon. Oct. 30


Gill Chapter 6

The Insatiable Appetite

Wed. Nov. 1

Continue Physiology



Mon. Nov 6


Gill Chapter 7

Fishing for a Living

Wed. Nov. 8

Continue Intelligence and connect it with conservation


Mon. Nov. 13

Subirdia: living with birds

Gill Chapter 11; Marzluff Chapter 2-4, 9, 10 


Wed. Nov 15

Work on Midterm, no class


Mon. Nov. 20

Vocal Behavior


The Eloquent Communicators

Wed. Nov. 22

Migration, Orientation, and Movements

Gill Chapter 8, 10

Godwit slides

The Limits of Endurance

Mon. Nov. 27

Mate Choice, Breeding, Parental Care, etc

Gill Chapter 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

Finding Partners

Wed. Nov. 29

Continue Breeding etc.

Marzluff Chapter 5



The Problems of Parenthood

Mon. Dec. 4

Population Ecology and Conservation

Meat Eaters

Wed. Dec 6

Continue Populations and Conservation

Gill Chapter 18, 21