"Global Avian Diversity" (BIOL 7800)

Spring 2013


J. V. Remsen, Jr.

SCHEDULE: once/week for 1.5 hours; Mondays 7-8:30 PM.


TEXT: None required. However, the "Birds of the World" Appendix in Gill's Ornithology text is helpful, albeit outdated. Even more outdated but still useful is O. L. Austin's little Families of Birds (Golden Science Guide, Golden Press, 1971).

GOAL: To teach students (1) to identify to Family any (well, almost any) bird in the world, and (2) to have an understanding of the approximate species richness in each family.

OVERVIEW: The LSU Museum of Natural Science is one of the few university-based bird collections in the world in which every bird Family is represented. This course allows students to take advantage of that resource to gain an appreciation of bird diversity and expertise in identification (to Family).

GRADE: The entire grade will come from one final exam: a "lab practical" that consists of identification of 60 study skins to Family and knowing the approximate number of species in each of those families. With several generations of bird graduate students having taken the course, competition is high for placement in the "all-time standings" on final exam.

FINAL EXAM: TBA. I can only set this exam up once (it takes several hours), so no late/early finals allowed. Typically, the exam consists of about 60 specimens, for which you have to provide the correct family and approximate number of species. I also usually have bonus identifications and also give bonus points for genus and species names for any specimens as long as the genus isn't the type genus for the family (e.g., Tyto won't get you any points for Tytonidae if a species from that genus is used on the exam).

MECHANICS: Remsen will meet with class once/week to go through specimens in the collection to point out key identification features for all the Families until we get through all of them. Students will be allowed access to the entire collection to work on their identification skills for the final exam.



Useful links:

Don Roberson's "Bird Families of the World"

Handbook of the Birds of the World’s “Internet Bird Collection”:


Mango Verde World Bird Guide