M.INC.ECOL.631: Animal Behaviour

Learning outcome

This course prepares students for advanced study of the behaviour of animals. The course provides an understanding of the role that behaviour plays in the life histories and evolution of birds. On completion of this course you should understand how to measure behaviour, the evolution of behaviour, communication, learning aversions, and its origin and present functions, and implications of optimality models. Students should have a strong interest in animal behaviour (including human behaviour), the scientific method and field work.


  • Behavioural methodology
  • Optimality
  • Levels of analysis
  • Bird vocalisations
  • Learning aversion
  • Behaviour and conservation
  • Comparative approaches
  • Communication


  • Exam: Written summary of a recent research paper
  • Examination requirements: Required tasks for exams: Take home exam and preparation of written summary of a current research paper. After attending this course, the students are able to critically discuss current research on: breedingstrategies and helping behaviour, handicap principle of communication, optimality theory, learning aversions, vocalisations of birds, the comparative approach to behaviour, the methodological and logistical requirements of behavioural fieldwork, the use of applied behaviour, in addition they will obtain experience in: communicating ideas on behaviour, observing behaviours, using relevant tools for recording and analysing behaviour.

Further details

  • Admission requirements: None
  • Recommended previous knowledge: None
  • Language: English
  • Person responsible for module: Adrian Paterson
  • Course frequency: Each winter semester
  • Duration: One semester
  • Number of repeat examinations permitted: Twice
  • Recommended Semester: First to third semester
  • Maximum number of students: 10