Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Biodiversity of Birds
Academic Year
Semester 2
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Workshop 2 x 2 Hour Workshops
Field Trip 2 x 1 Hour Field Trips
Lecture 33 x 1 Hour Lectures


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Bird survey report.  35%
Semester Assessment Practical test.  5%
Semester Exam 3 Hours   60%
Supplementary Assessment Students must take elements of assessment equivalent to those that led to failure of the module.  40%
Supplementary Exam 3 Hours   Students must take elements of assessment equivalent to those that led to failure of the module.  60%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Critically discuss the latest evidence on the evolutionary origins of avian biology.

2. Demonstrate familiarity with the major orders of the Palaearctic avifauna.

3. Discuss the avian diversity of the zoogeographical regions of the world.

4. Demonstrate knowledge and surveying skills for assessment of the avian diversity of UK localities.

Brief description

The theme of the module is avian biodiversity, which will be addressed through explorations of the evolution, phylogenetics, global distribution and conservation of birds. As the most visible and popular members of our wild fauna, birds dominate public debates and scientific studies on conservation in the UK. Ten per cent of recent papers in the Journal of Applied Ecology are devoted to the effects of agriculture on birds, while the UK'r largest conservation charity is the RSPB. This module has a focus on employability via engagement with conservation organisations and teaching of relevant field skills.


Biodiversity needs to be appreciated in an evolutionary context, and the module will first review the progress and controversies of the last thirty years about the origins of birds. Evidence for and against birds as a lineage of theropod dinosaurs will be discussed, along with theories of how avian characters, such as flight, feathers, endothermy, and parental care, might have been derived from a Mesozoic ancestry. The orders of living birds will be systematically reviewed within recent phylogenetic frameworks based on molecular, morphological and behavioural characters, which some studies have correlated with palaeogeographical events. Descriptions of all the major avian orders will briefly deal with physiological and behavioural characteristics as well as habitat preferences. The latest systematics findings will be reviewed. For an appreciation of global avian biodiversity, lectures will outline the avifaunas of the major zoogeographical regions. Bird surveys by UK conservation organisations will be discussed at workshops contributed by staff of such organisations as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, or the Countryside Council for Wales. Practicals will focus on bird identification and survey skills, while field work will include local reserves. Practical assessments will involve local bird surveys by student teams and tests of identification skills.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number The ornithological surveys will generate quantitative data whose analysis can involve calculation and statistical testing of metrics such as biodiversity indices. These will be assessed.
Communication Students will be required to display scientific communication skills in their survey reports, which will be assessed.
Improving own Learning and Performance Students will need the ability to devise and monitor time management, learning and performance skills throughout the module, by attending lectures and seminars. Online learning objects for formative feedback have been created using software provided via the AU Learning & Teaching Enhancement Fund. There will be summative assessment of the skills learnt using the online objects.
Information Technology Use of information technology will be required in researching and presenting information in the survey reports, which will be assessed.
Personal Development and Career planning By involving conservation organisations the module is designed to be directly relevant to many careers. Basic skills needed for certain countryside careers are taught, and will be assessed.
Problem solving Student teams will plan their own ornithological field surveys, which will be assessed.
Research skills Student teams will plan and conduct their own ornithological field surveys, which will be assessed.
Subject Specific Skills Bird identification skills are survey methods, with knowledge of their use by UK conservation organisations, are taught and assessed.
Team work Student teams will plan and conduct their own ornithological field surveys, which will be assessed.


This module is at CQFW Level 6