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Check this site frequently for important information about our course, including assignments, and announcements.


Please see the Announcements page of our course Blackboard site for more important information:

Posted September 26, 2016


The 2016 Ornithology Class will begin on Thursday September 8, 2016. The first class includes my first lecture and all sorts of important information. So if you plan to take this course I strongly encourage you to attend this first class. In addition to coverint the first chapter of the textbook, we will discuss the course outline (download the 2016 course outline here).

The mandatory Saturday field trip will take place on Saturday October 1, 2016 from 6am to 5pm. All students in this class must take this field trip.  Please clear your schedule for that day. If you have a conflict with that day, and you can't move your conflict, I recommend that you register in a different course; this field trip is a centrepeice for this course, and it takes the place of all of the labs in October.

TUESDAY LABS ARE FULL: The Tuesday Lab section is full. I know that the Tuesday lab section is especially desired because of between the Monday and Wednesday afternoon labs and other classes. But I can't sign in beyond the capacity of the room or the capacity of our Graduate Teaching Assistants.  If you are in the difficult situation of having to choose between Ornithology and another class because only the Tuesday lab section works with your schedule, I regret that I have no good solution for you. If you find that you must drop Ornithology (or another class) because of this time conflict, please write to Department Head Dennis Higgs to explain the situation. Then we can hopefully ensure this doesn't happen to other students in the future. I apologize for this situation, which is beyond my control.

Posted August 23, 2016... Updated September 4, 2016


There are many great field guides to the birds of North America. All students in this course must have a field guide starting with the first lab! Which one you use is up to you. Note: If you already own a field guide to the birds of North America or eastern North America, you do not need to purchase one of these books. Simply bring your book to the first lab and the GA's and I will assess if it is appropriate.


1. The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America. There is a new, second edition called "Sibley BIrds East" and it is great, retailing for $22 at Amazon, and a similar price at the campus bookstore. This book covers only birds of eastern North America. The plates are the same excellent plates as in "The Sibley Guide to Birds" (see below) but it is much smaller and fits in your pocket. Price is typically around $22. This is the book I use when I am birdwatching in Ontario. I recommend this book!

2. The Sibley Guide to Birds (2nd Edition). This book covers all birds in North America -- and it was recently updated (2014). The plates are amazing and depict each bird in several different plumages and poses. The only downside to this book, if there is one, is that it is larger than the average field guide and doesn't fit in your pocket. Price is typically $25 on Amazon.ca. This would be a good choice if you also travel to the west coast of North America sometimes.

3. National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America. This book covers all birds in North America and is relatively small. The plates are very good. Price is typically $30. They have a version for just eastern North America too, for approximately $25.

4. The Peterson Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America. This is the classic bird field guide and is still favoured by many ornithologists and birders.  It is a pocket sized book, like books 1 and 3 above, and the plates are very good. Price is typically $25.

There are many good bird guides for mobile devices. However, these are not appropriate for this class because we will be mobile-device-free during our outdoor expeditions.

Posted  August 2016


Binoculars are relatively inexpensive and they will provide you with a lifetime of enjoyment. For less than a price of the average university textbook, you can purcahse equipment that will make you happy for decades! Binoculars will be an important tool for this course during our birding trips, including walking trips to the Detroit River, our lab trips to Objiway Prairie Conservation Preserve, and our weekend trip to Holiday Beach and Point Pelee. Note that you are not required to purchase binoculars for this course, but it is highly recommended.

Special note:

I will make a special announcement about a binocular deal during class on the first day of classes!

Where to buy binoculars:

There are many places to buy binoculars (see a brief list below). The best prices on binocluars can often be found online. Eagle Optics is a very reputable company which sells both their own brand of binoculars (which come with a completely amazing lifetime warranty) as well as most other brands of binoculars.

Before you buy, many people think it is a good idea to try out several different pairs and find out which pair "feels" the best in your hands. We have one of Canada's best retailers for binoculars, Pelee Wings Nature Store, within easy driving distance en route to Point Pelee. To get their best prices, ask to speak to the owner, Michael, and tell him that you are a student of ornithology at the University of Windsor.

What to look for in binocluars:

When browsing for binoculars you will see two numbers, for example 7x42 or 8X50. The first number refers to the magnification power of the binoculars: A pair of 7x42 binoculars will magnify images 7 times and a pair of 8x50 binoculars will magnify images 8 times. The second number is the width of the objective lens: a larger lens will let in more light and make birds easier to see. You can learn all about binoculars at Cornell University's "All About Birds" website.

Avoid binoculars with less than 7 times magnification or more than 10 times magnification. The most common choice may be 8 times magnification, but 7 times or 9 times or 10 times magnification are also appropriate.

Avoid "auto-focus" binoculars.  It is important for you to be able to focus the binoculars using a focus knob. So called "auto-focus" binoculars provide you with very little control over your ability to see things.

Note that the least expensive binoculars (sometimes called "pocket binoculars"), which can often be purchased for as little as $30 or $40, are a waste of your money. They will be frustrating when you are learining to watch birds, and the won't last long.  For a little bit more money, you can buy "compact binoculars" which may cost between $50 and $100, which will likely last you for longer, although they won't likely survive getting wet.  For just a little bit more money (if you are willing to spend $100) you can purchase waterproof binoculars, which could last you a lifetime. The great thing about waterproof binoculars is that yo don't have to worry if it rains on them, and they will allow you to go birdwatching anywhere in the world, including the steamy tropics.

Possible places to shop for binoculars:
Pelee Wings Nature Store
Eagle Optics Canada
Eagle Optics USA
B&H Photo Video
Local camera stores and nature stores

Updated September 2015

All content copyright D. J. Mennill