Welcome to Ornithology AEC 501

Our goal for this course is to build a foundation of knowledge that will stimulate you to keep learning about birds for the rest of your life. Our approach will focus primarily on the behavior and ecology of birds, and the development of field skills.

Sightings - Extra Credit

Earn extra credit by adding species to the class list or answering the "Question of the Week."

Field Labs

Friday morning labs will focus on developing identification skills and understanding modern bird sampling methods.

Coastal Field Trip

We will visit the Outer Banks the weekend of January 16-17. Expect to see over 100 species on Pea, Bodie, Hatteras, and Ocracoke Islands, and Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge.

Course Instructor and Teaching Assistants

Course News

News & Notes for Ornithology AEC 501 Spring 2016

4/18/2016 Prescribed Burns at Lake Jordan

From April Boggs.

4/13/2016 The US Fish and Wildlife Service's Condor Nest Cam Is Now Online!

4/7/2016 A Plan to Change a Beloved Duck Stamp Is Ruffling Feathers

The Fish and Wildlife Service wants to allow many birds to be depicted on the annual license stamps, changing a long tradition of depicting only birds that are hunted.

4/1/2016 Learn more about the Institute for Bird Populations and the MAPS program

3/24/2016 New bird identification tools; Merlin, BirdsEye, Merlin Photo ID

Sorry Colleen, still no dichotomous keys!

David Allen Sibley is Coming!

From Kari Wouk:

I am very excited to share that field guide author, David Allen Sibley, will be returning to the Museum on April 5th. In partnership with Quail Ridge Books, Sibley will give a presentation in the WRAL 3D Theater at 7pm, “The Art of Identification.” The program is free and we anticipate large crowds, so I recommend arriving early to secure a seat! Sibley has a newly revised book out, “Sibley Birds East,” that you can purchase through the Quail Ridge website to guarantee a place in the book signing line after the presentation. Purchase of the book does not guarantee a seat in the WRAL 3D Theater for the presentation. We will have overflow seating in the Daily Planet Theater and the Environmental Conference Center. Doors open at 5pm and we will have programming on the floor until the presentation begins at 7pm. (Submitted by Khai Button)

3/23/2016 Proud Parents Mr. President and The First Lady!

Help monitor bird mortality at windows

This past fall, a few students began a project monitoring bird-window collisions on campus.  This effort feeds into a larger project which encompasses several college campuses across the country and has received a substantial amount of press in the past year, particularly at Duke.  Window collisions are estimated to be one of the primary causes of direct mortality on birds, and is thought to disproportionately affect migrants, many of which are of conservation concern. We hope to continue, and even expand this effort, but we need your help!  During the peak of migration in both the spring and fall, we conduct daily surveys of six buildings on campus for a period of 3 weeks.  One survey of one building will only take around 15 minutes, but when we did all of the surveys ourselves it was quite time consuming.  All that is involved is a walk around the building, looking for dead birds.  If any are found, they are collected and some data about what/when are recorded.  Piece of cake! If you'd like to help us, we'd love to get you some plastic bags and some data sheets!  No experience required!  The spring survey period starts on the 31st, so contact Lucas (lucasrbobay@gmail.com) as soon as you can and he can organize when and which building/s you might be able to help with.  

3/22/2016 Parrots are a lot more than a pretty bird!

Out of the cage, they speak their own language, make tools, and wreak havoc on plants and researchers’ efforts alike.

3/21/2016 Winter Bird Feeding

Submitted by Madi McDiarmid

3/20/2016 Roboraptors!

Erick Greene and his team employ "roboraptors"—taxidermied hawks and owls with robotic moving parts— to learn about how birds communicate with alarm calls when a predator is nearby.(Submitted by Amanda Heh)

3/18/2016 Junk Food-Loving Birds Diss Migration, Live on Landfill

Are white storks addicted to junk food? Impacts of landfill use on the movement and behaviour of resident white storks (Ciconia ciconia) from a partially migratory population (Submitted by Lina Aita)

3/17/2016 Fine Feathered Fiends: ‘Dinosaurs Among Us’ at the American Museum of Natural History

Yutyrannus huali is part of the new exhibition “Dinosaurs Among Us,” at the American Museum of Natural History. (Submitted by Byron Smith)

3/15/2016 Oystercatcher article makes top cited list!

A former student of the Simons Lab, Tracy Borneman, recently published an article in The Condor assessing the effect of human activity on American Oystercatcher heart rate. We're happy that other scientists are finding it as exciting as we did!

3/7/2016 How Can Vultures Eat Rotten Roadkill and Survive?

3/2/2016 Check out these birding Flash Cards

Submitted by Ana Rivera-Burgos


I had a request to post the guidelines we have suggested in designing your lab projects. It sounds as though they are all coming along well so far! Please let us know if you have any questions.

2/29/2016 How Does a Cowbird Learn To Be a Cowbird?

New research explains how these brood parasites—who are raised by other species—still manage to become cowbirds. (submitted by Ana Rivera-Burgos)

2/25/2016 Field Technician Job at North Carolina Audubon

2/22/2016 News!

Upcoming lecture about Duck Stamps, The Art and Science of the Duck Stamp, by Ms Suzanne Fellows, National Coordinator of the Federal Duck Stamp Program,US Fish and Wildlife Service, 21 March at 7:00 in 2203 SAS Hall (submitted by Colleen Grant).

Turkeys Running Amok! Decades after the New Jersey reintroduced wild turkeys, recent encounters have alarmed some human residents of the state.

Our own Jennifer Landin and her husband Michael Landin publish fascinating blogs on biology and birds and culture.

2/16/2016 Wisdom - A 65-year-old Laysan Albatross has hatched a chick!

Submitted by Kristen Lewey.

2/11/2016 Mesmerizing Migration - new eBird migration map published

2/10/2016 Directions to finding Woodcock on Wednesday, February 17 at 5:30PM

2/10/2016 News

MS Opportunities at UNCW, WRC needs Coastal Waterbird Technicians, Banding Class in West Virginia, Eagles trained to take out Drones (Thanks Madi!), don't miss the Great Backyard Bird Count.

2/4/2016 How Can Vultures Eat Rotten Roadkill and Survive?

Submitted by Coleen Grant.

1/28/2016 Updates to Lab Syllabus and Lab Project

We have updated the Lab Syllabus due to the cancellation of classes last Friday. Tomorrow, 29 January, we will spend the entire period with John Gerwin and Brian O'Shea learning about the bird collection at the NC Museum. Meet at the vans at 7:45. Our lab with Dr. Roland Kays to learn about recent advances in Animal Trackinghas been rescheduled for Friday, 4 March. We have also updated the Lab Project page to reflect the objectives of the 2016 project.

1/21/2016 Yangchen and Movebank

We'll meet at the NC Museum with Dr. Roland Kays next Friday, 29 January, to learn about recent advances in Animal Tracking. Learn more about Tracking Bald Eagles and recent developments in Movebank. Looks like we drove right past Yangchen on our way to the coast last weekend.


There were a few mistakes on the results I originally posted from last Friday's lab. These have now been corrected, but please make sure you update your data and analysis accordingly. Please, play close attention to the data on lines 6 and 64 in the Excel spreadsheet, as the data in these cells have been changed.


Lucas compiled a checklist of birds seen on the Coastal Trip. Let us know if we missed anything. Send Shilo your photos from the trip and we'll post them on the Photos page.


The class data for the Double-Sampling Detectability Lab is now available. Your write-up for this lab is due this Friday, January 22, along with your Occupancy Lab exercise.

1/15/2016 Coastal Bird Lists

Here is a CHECKLIST of Outer Banks birds and a SUMMARY of species seen in 2014. See you all in the morning.


A key to the in-lab occupancy exercise is available HERE. There will be a homework help session on Wednesday, January 20, 10:00AM - Noon in DCL. Use the in-lab exercise as a template for the homework and come with any additional questions on Wednesday.

1/13/2016 Lab Project Teams

Colleen Grant Megan King Frankie Fann
Ana Rivera--Burgos Amber Bledsoe Sarah Denoble
Kathryn Nilsson Mary Osborn Franco Gigliotti
Lina Aita Kristen Lewey Madi McDiarmid
Emily Bruff April Boggs Lanette Phillips
Khai Button Jens Kosch Lucas Bobay



The OCCUPANCY EXERCISE and accompanying Flycatcher DATA from last Friday's sampling lab are now available. The exercise (5 points) is due on Friday 22 January.


The "Sightings" and "Question of the Week" pages are now open. Contribute early and often!


We have updated the MULTIPLE OBSERVER handout for Friday's lab.

1/6/2016 Warning from the Birding Community to the Terrorists in Oregon: We're Watching You.

Submitted by Coleen Grant.

1/6/2016 Materials for Sampling Lab on Friday 8 January

We will meet in 282 David Clark from 08:00 - 11:00 on Friday 8 January to discuss avian sampling. Links to materials are provided below. Bring a laptop to lab and install the statistical software R before class. R for Windows or Mac is available HERE. Be sure to open R on your laptop to verify your installation before class. Nathan Hostetter will give an introduction to avian SAMPLING AND EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN and give and example of OCCUPANCY SAMPLING and an analysis in R using SAMPLE DATA for Blue Grosbeak. Shilo Felton will give an introduction to MULTIPLE OBSERVER sampling, illustrate an example of DOUBLE OBSERVER sampling in R, and describe the field lab on double observer sampling that we'll conduct on Friday 15 January.

1/1/2016 Welcome to Ornithology 2016

The first day of class is Wednesday 6 January 2016. We meet in Room 102 David Clark Labs from 8:30 - 9:45 AM. The text for this class is Ornithology, Third Edition, by Frank Gill. It is available in the NCSU bookstore. You will also need a pair of binoculars and a waterproof field notebook. Contact Dr. Simons if you have questions.