EEB 4260: Ornithology

Basic Course Information

Meets: Monday & Wednesdays, 11:15 – 12:05,  BPB 130

Instructor: Dr. Margaret Rubega Office: PharmBio 500 Office Phone: 486-4502 Office Hours: Weds, 10:05 – 11:05 a.m., in the BioPhysics Cafe, and by appointment

Email:  Twitter name: @profrubega

TA: Eliza Grames Office: PharmBio 223  Office Phone: 486-0805

Office Hours: Mon 12:05 -1:05 pm in the BioPhysics Cafe, and by appointment

Email:  Twitter name: @elizagrames

Your emails to us MUST contain the phrase “EEB 4260” in the subject line; email received without that phrase, and especially those with a blank subject line, will be DELETED without being read.


ORNITHOLOGY, 3rd Edition (Freeman) by Frank B. Gill

See also online avian phylogeny at: Tree of Life Project page for Neornithes

Optional supplemental texts

MANUAL OF ORNITHOLOGY (Yale Univ.), by N.S. Proctor and P.J. Lynch

BIRDS OF STORRS (Natchaug Ornithological Society) by G.A. Clark, Jr.

SIBLEY GUIDE TO BIRD LIFE AND BEHAVIOR (Knopf), ed. by C. Elphick, J.B. Dunning and D.A. Sibley.

Class Schedule


Lecture # Date Material (click for lecture notes) Reading in Gill/Assignments Optional (unless otherwise stated) reading from Proctor & Lynch [pages in brackets] and other resources
Jan 18 Course Goals, Structure and Guidelines read Course Guidelines on class website; print out, sign and turn in statement at end; read Twitter assignment description, and get a Twitter account Evidence that multitasking makes you less capable; see also this article for a more thorough description of the problem. And, see this article to consider meditation as a way to counteract the problem.
1 Jan 23 What are birds and why would we study them? Pgs. xxi- xxvi and Chapter 1 [1–6]
A good article from Audubon on the practical value of birds
2 Jan 25 Avian Taxonomy


Explanation of Ordinal Summary Assignment

and Guidelines for using Nature citation style.

(Course Guidelines Form due)

Chapter 1 & online at:
Fill out, bring to class and hand in Twitter Handle Sheet & Course Guidelines Form
Tree of Life Project page for Neornithes online

News article on recently published genome study on bird phylogeny

Nature genome study research paper referenced in the article

3 & 4 Jan 30 &

Feb 1

Avian Evolution

(pick an Order to summarize by Feb 1)

Chapter 2 [13 -21]
5 Feb 6 & 8 Feathers


Chapter 4 [81-115]

Dinosaur feather colors revealed!

5 Feb 13 & 15 Flight Chapter 5 [117,136–139, 148–151, 156–163]

Great, 8 minute “explainer” video about wing-assisted incline running

Original Article and videos of wing-assisted incline-running

6 Feb 20 Physiology: Endothermy and Thermoregulation

First draft of Ordinal Summary deadline

Chapter 6 (pgs. 150-164)
7 Feb 22 Feeding, feeding structures and feeding behavior


Chapter 1 (pgs. 13-15) [122–130, 152-154]

Tool making in New Caledonian Crows!

8 Feb 27 Physiology: Digestion and Excretion; Water Balance


Chapter 6 (pp. 164-179) [175-187, 219-239]
9 Mar 1 Physiology: Respiration and Circulation


Chapter 6 (141-150) [189-217]
10 Mar 6 Physiology, continued
MIDTERM Mar 8 2nd draft of Ordinal Summaries Due; in class peer reviews. Deadline for First 5 Twitter posts
Mar 20 Class CANCELLED Instructor immune system failure


11 Mar 22 Sensory Biology and Intelligence Chapter 7


 12 Mar 27  Communication: Visual & Vocal  Pgs. 344-359 & Chapter 8  Manakins show off — Michael Jackson rolls over!
 13 Mar 29 Annual Cycles Chapter 9
14 April 3 Migration Chapter 10 (pgs. 273-295)
15 April 5 Social Behavior Chapter 11
16 April 10 Reproduction: Mating Behavior Pg. 359 through Chapter 13
17 April 12 Reproduction: Mating Behavior (in-class exercise)
18 April 17 Reproduction: Physiology Chapter 14 [219-239]
19 April 19 Reproduction: Nests and Nesting Chapter 15
20 Apr 24 Reproduction: Growth and Development of Young  & Parental Care Chapter 16 (pgs. 467-482) &

Chapter 16 (pgs. 482-502)

21 Apr 26 Climate Change & Avian Conservation
Final Ordinal Summary Due.
Chapter 21 and

Pgs. 269 – 271

US Forest Service Climate Change Bird (& Tree) Atlas showing how bird distributions will change with changes in climate.The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s web page.The Arbor Day Foundation’s maps showing changes in hardiness zones since 1990.
6-8 P.M.

Course Guidelines and Grading Policies

Use of electronics in the classroom? In a word, NO. Your phone should be OFF (not set to vibrate), your music should be off, your earphones should be in your backpack, and your laptop should be used ONLY for taking notes. All other uses (surfing the web, watching videos, email, IM, texting, whatever) are distracting, disruptive of the work we are doing in the classroom, and disrespectful of your classmates and the instructor. I will call you out publicly for the first offense; at the second offense you will be banned from using even a laptop in class; on the third offense I will ask you to leave. If you lack the self-restraint to stay on task in class, then take notes on paper. Recording lectures with any device is prohibited unless you ask for and receive permission from me in writing.

Entering or Leaving the classroom during a lecture is distracting and disruptive; do not do it unless absolutely necessary. If you know you will be late, or will have to leave early, come and go by the BACK door of the lecture hall, and sit in the nearest available seat to the door, whether you know the person sitting in the next seat or not. Assume that if you must leave the lecture hall, you may not come back. If you have a disability that would keep you from meeting these expectations, or expect an emergency communication during class, speak to me about it BEFORE lecture begins.

Grading in this course is done on a straight percentage-of-points basis, i.e., to obtain an A, you need to earn 90% or more of the available points on all assessments, assignments and activities (e.g., Twitter). The grades will not be “curved”, and there will be no opportunities for “make-up” or “extra-credit” points. Opportunities to miss/drop your lowest grades are built into the recurring assignments (see below), but these are to account for, e.g., sick days, so do not skip assignments frivolously. If you have a legitimate reason (e.g., a death in the family) to miss tests or other assignments, you may be excused (at the discretion of the instructor) IF AND ONLY IF you provide written documentation (for example,an obituary documenting a death in your family). In cases where you have a legitimate excuse, there still will be no make-ups administered: your grade will be pro-rated on the basis of the points contained in the tests and assignments you did complete. NOTE that this method reduces the number of points you can afford to lose and still do well in the course. If you have a legitimate excuse to reschedule the final exam YOU MUST INFORM the Dean of Students Office BY APRIL 29TH in order to be allowed to take the exam at a time different than the rest of class. Emergencies that could not be foreseen that cause you to miss the final exam likewise need to be taken to the Dean of Students Office — only they can authorize a make-up exam. The final exam is the only point-bearing exercise for which a make-up is possible.
Attendance is not taken, and is not required; however, if you miss class you may miss in-class minute papers, quizzes or assignments (see below). SICK? Believe me when I say that we don’t want to see you in class! Please be responsible, and don’t spread germs by coming to class with a fever, or hacking and coughing. As noted above, there are no opportunities for making-up missed in-class tests or activities; as noted below, you can miss up to two tests and still achieve full credit. However, bear in mind that you may also miss information I give, discussions that arise over questions asked, examples given on the spur of the moment. You are responsible, on quizzes and tests, for what is said in class, as well as the materials in the reading. If you miss class, you are responsible for using the lecture materials provided above, and for getting any additional notes from lecture from a classmate: I will not re-lecture to you, one-on-one, at a later appointment. Arrive early to the next lecture, or stay a little late, and find out whether you missed an in-class minute paper, quiz or activity; do not ask me to meet with you outside of class to “tell you what you missed”.
These policies have been developed over years of teaching this and other courses, and are designed to ensure fair treatment of everyone by maximizing everyone’s opportunity to learn, eliminating discrepancies in testing and evaluation, and by eliminating differences in the amount of study time available to students. I am very willing to discuss my reasoning for these policies, but if you try to talk me into making an exception to them for you, you will fail, and probably make me grumpy to boot.

Tests/ In-class Assessments & Assignments


Tests: 100 points (twelve at 10 points each; lowest 2 dropped)

Ordinal Summary: 100 points (60 points by March 11; 40 points after)

Final exam: 60 points, May 6 (Covers material from Lectures 14-25)
These activities are designed to provide us with an assessment of your background preparation for class, to assess whether you understood what we just tried to teach you, and to enhance your understanding of the material. They will take multiple forms: MINUTE PAPERS: are short (it takes a minute!), UNGRADED (if you write something relevant, you’re good — there are no “right” answers) responses to questions we will pose in class. TESTS are GRADED, provide practice for the exams, assess your knowledge and understanding, and provide incentive to stay on top of the material. We recommend checking every Friday to see what’s in store for the following week. Snow days and other unforseen circumstances can change our plans; a class cancellation should prompt you to check the web page.

Other Required Class Activities

Biological Collections tour 5 points

Every student is expected to visit the EEB Biological Collections for a tour that will introduce you to the resources and opportunities in the collection. We will offer 4 different opportunities, on different days and times. You will need to sign in at the collection; at the end of the semester, everyone who has signed in, will have 5 points added to their grade. Tours will take about 45 minutes, they meet at the south end of the Biology/Physics building lobby on the hour. You are responsible for finding a day and time to attend from the options listed below; if your class schedule prohibits you from attending any of these, you are responsible for letting me know that you will need an alternate opportunity BEFORE THE LAST WEEK OF CLASS. If you have already toured the collections (e.g., in a previous class with me or another instructor), provide me with documentation to that effect, and I will just add the 5 points to your grade without you needing to tour the collections again.

Collection Tour Schedule: TBA
Twitter 30 points

Twitter is a social networking resource that allows users to communicate in short, frequent posts. Posts (“tweets”) are limited to 140 characters. I expect you to go to Twitter, sign up (a matter of giving an email address and picking a password and username), and, over the course of the semester, post observations of birds outside of class. Your posts should consist of any observation of birds you make that somehow relates to the content of the course. Each post should say: where you are; what you are seeing in the birdlife around you; and make the connection to the course content. For example: “Two sparrows are beating each other up outside the student union. Territoriality or dominance fight?” You are expected to post at least once per week. Posts are worth a maximum of three points each, you can earn up to 6 points from posts per week, and you can earn a total of 30 points in the course from Tweets. We must know your username in order to give you credit for Twitter posts: once your account is in place, then use “Find People” on Twitter to locate us (type in “Margaret Rubega” or “@ProfRubega” and “Eliza Grames” or “@elizagrames”) and then click on “Follow” to follow us. We will receive autumated messages informing us that you are following us, and will have a record of your user name. MAKE SURE THAT YOUR PRIVACY SETTINGS ALLOW ANYONE TO SEE YOU. (If you do not wish your personal account to be visible, establish a second account/username with “open” privacy settings for our class.) In addition, the “Twitter Handle” assignment sheet is due by our Wednesday class in the second week of classes. You MUST end every tweet with the string “#birdclass”; that is how we will be tracking tweets, and any post without the hashtag will NOT count toward your credit! We will all be able to see every tweet generated by the class by searching on #birdclass. We will be keeping track of posting and points during the semester by tracking the posts themselves. The beauty of Twitter is that it can be posted to virtually at any time, anywhere, from your cell phone. However, anyone with an internet connection can post from a computer, so if you don’t have a cell phone I salute you, but you still are responsible for the assignment!



Academic Rules/Conduct

All students should be aware of the guidelines on academic integrity contained in the Student Conduct Code. Click here to see the Conduct Code.

Course Guidelines Form

After you have read ALL of the above, print out and sign the Course Guidelines Form. Hand it in to Dr. Rubega no later than the end of the last lecture of the 2nd week of classes. Students who have not signed and handed in the form in will not accumulate points on ANY quiz, assignment or activity until we have the signed form.