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Dr. Coleman's Ornithology Class. UT Tyler

Response to Food Availability

o Track ephemeral food resources
o Responding to annual variations
o Concentrating in local habitats
o Switching food types

Functional response

Ex. They eat more food.

Three types of functional response

Linear, hyperbolic, sigmoidal

Numerical response

Change in population size

Influence of food on spacing patterns

Food is rarely randomly seperated, territory size is larger with low food density, and smaller with high food density.


is useful, and has low risk. Doesn't try anything new or adventurous.


is flexible, but risky. Try's new things, more adventurous. Popular in stable, predictable environments.

Capturing/Handling Food

Basic, tool use, and culture (learned behaviors).


excessive ingestion of food that is typically seen in birds right before migration. Foraging rates can double!

Cached food

stored food, some birds have communal granaries that they store food for their community.

Optimal foraging theory

Energy profit is equal to the difference of the energy gained from the energy cost, dividied by foraging time. Remember the Great Tit example with the conveyor belt,

Bird brains

Account for 2-9% of body mass, and highly misunderstood aspect of birds because they are really intelligent.


form of learning in birds, name says it. Advanced form of learning.

Species with variable food resources...

Species that tend to have variable food sources, are thoguht to be more intelligent as they have learned to utilize more food sources. Intelligence roots in necessity.

Avian nervous system

- Obtain information
- Analyze and repsonse
- Store information
- Coordinate motor impulses


Controls complex behaviors, instincts, and sensory information.


Switching station between Fore/Hind-brain


Includes the cerebellum and medulla, which will integrate muscular control and coordination.


area of the brain where intelligence is developed.

Hippocampal complex

plays most in memory, study on its relationship between brain evolution and social behavior.


these form in birds during certain seasons, but may disintegrate in the upcoming season


formation of new neurons to replace old ones and reallocate brain space appropriately to seasonal efforts.

Three stages of sleep

1) slow-wave sleep (SWF), 2) intermediate sleep, and 3) rapid eye movement sleep (REM).

Cornea and lens

Change curvature while focusing

Cramptons muscles

contractions cause change in the curvature of the cornea and thus amount of refractive light.


contains light receptors that aid in vision


large, black pigmented, pleated and vascularized structure attached to the retina near the optic nerve.


Black and white vision


Color vision

Central fovea

Concave depression which are sites for visual sharpness.
o Raptors can have 6-8 temporal fovea
o Shorebirds have ribbon like strip fovea (horizon)

Flattened eyes

common in Passerines, adapted for quick scanning of large expanses

Globose eyes

common in hawks and raptors, magnifies image, length and width of eye are about equal, which enlarges retinal image.

Tubular eyes

common in owls, adapted for low light levels, long optical axis and huge cornea and pupil serve to increase light gathering ability.

Bird eye lids

Nictating membrane

Visual acuity

ability to discriminate two points as being two points or, in other words, the ability of an observer to resolve fine spatial details. Most birds can resolve up to 100hz.

External ear

Tympanic membrane

Middle ear

columella (stapes)

Inner ear

Round window
Inner ear


where sound is converted into nervous impulses that travel to the brain

Hearing range

1-5 kHz, pretty characteristic of most vertebrates.

Binaural hearing

locate positions of sounds by integrating differences in timing and intensity in left and right hear. Common in owls.


Tactile reception
Equilibrium (balance)
Barometric pressure

HERBST corpuscles

pressure sensitive corpuscles that are onion like layers of which allows for elastic reception and transfer of rapid pressure changes. Abundant in the bill tips of sand pipers and sipes, also woodpeckers. Also located at feather follicles.


The sense of where muscles, feathers, and limbs are in space.


chemical reception like smell. birds have very poor smell. Vulture have enlarged olfactory bulbs, Tube-nose birds have well-developed tubular nostrils that can pick up fish oil and dimethyl sulfide. Honey dues can smell honey.

Whistled songs

Pure or nearly pure sound waves - higher the pitch the higher the frequency of wave oscillation

Harmonic songs

comprised of several frequencies that are multiples of each other, different octaves.

Short notes

good for contact calls

Long high notes

good for alarm calls

low frequency songs

good for long distance and high interference habitats

high frequency songs

good for open habitat with low interference.


formed at the junction of the two bronchi/trachea. Air vibrates the tympaniform membrane

Syringeal muscles

control the details of the syrinz action during song production. Most non passerines have two muscles, while Passerines can have up to 6-8.

Song purpose

Signal potential rivals that a sit is occupied/defended
Advertise to unmated females

Subtle differences

Differences in pitch, syntax, and timing help bird differentiate each other.

Three hypotheses for song repertoire

Sexual selection
Thwart neightbors ability to track movement
Prevent declining interest

Four periods of song development

Critical learning period -> Silent period -> Subsong period -> Song crystallization

Cryptic coloration

inconspicuous coloration that blends in with the background

Disruptive coloration

breaks up the shape and destroys the outline of an object, hindering detection


Pigment is darker dorsall, and is thought to have an adaptive effect of reduciing conspicuous shadow cast on the ventral region

Reverse Countershading

there is darker pigment ventrally opposed to lighter pigment dorsally

Delayed plumage

different plumages as young than as adults. Dull plumage gives the appearance that the bird is in its first year or youth.

Three hypotheses for Rituals

To increase efficiency of communication
To increase clarity of intent
Graded displays

Agnostic behavior

odd behavior where birds foster either hostility or cooperation. Intereactions between partners often start this way.

Sexual dimorphism

the differences between males and females in regards to size and plumage

Annual cycles

birds face seasons of stress and opportunity that correspond to predictable calendar changes in day lenght, climage, and resources.
Cover -> Spring break up and bonding -> Nesting and brooding -> Brooding and late nesting -> fall shuffle.

Bird energy goes to what?



having a periodicity of 1 year, used to regulate timing of molt, breeding, and migration.


The duration of an organism daily exposure to light.

prebasic molt

complete molt

prealternative molt

incomplete molt


argued that predatory birds selectively search for particular cryptic insects.

Russ Greenberg

documented that some birds are reluctant to try new situations when foraging; whereas others are not reluctant.

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