Beyond Birding - Field Projects for Inquisitive Birders

By Thomas C. Grubb, Jr. , Department of Zoology, Ohio State University

The Boxwood Press; Pacific Grove; 1986

(Used with Permission)

Birds in the Classroom
The Bird Groups
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Chapter One - Ornithology as a Science

Chapter Two - Analytical Ornithology

Chapter Seven - When Do Great Blue Herons Give Up?

Chapter Fifteen - What Determines Individual Distance?

Chapter Twenty Three - What To do When You Know this Book

Appendix 2 - The Spearman Rank Correlation Test


Chapter Twenty Three - What To Do When You Know This Book


Let's suppose you are now familiar with this book. You have tried several projects and have worked out two or three statistical analysis. Applications of the scientific method to field ornithology is no longer a mystery. In addition to your interest in the kinds and numbers of birds, you may now be asking yourself new kinds of questions, such as why does an Acorn Woodpecker help its parents raise its younger siblings instead of producing offspring of its own? Why might a female Red-winged Blackbird share a male with another female rather than find a mate for herself? How much food per trip should a Mountain Bluebird carry to nestlings?

Where do questions like these come from? Sometimes, they are inspired by bits of knowledge gathered from the actual watching of birds. As you survey a flock of wintering gulls or chance upon a breeding colony of Bank Swallows, try to assume a how-why frame of mind. To ask the questions about getting food, avoiding predators, and raising young that we have been dealing with in the preceding chapters.

The second major source of information leading to new questions is the published record. The Auk, Condor, Wilson Bulletin, and Journal of Field Ornithology are the four major journals of ornithological research published in North America. They are the sources of most of the articles in this book's Further reading sections. You might consider giving one or more of these journals a trial run. For subscription information to the first three, write to Ornithological Societies of North America, P.O. Box 21618, Columbus, Ohio 43221.

Once a question is in hand, the search for answers often requires a hypothesis. There are no formal rules or procedures to follow in constructing these explanations. No one can teach you how to construct them. However, the recipe for every hypothesis in field ornithology contains ingredients from personal experience, or both. Hypotheses share the realm of creativity with poetry, symphonies, and sculpture. The great contributions to science have been new hypotheses, new creative answers to questions. Generating new explantions for what we find in nature, unlocking secrets, is the most exciting part of science.