Ancient Bird Language and the Students who Learn it

A new field course offered via the Department of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation

In summer of 2017, an avian ecologist at University of Florida teamed up with a certified Texas wildlife tracker and CEO of Naturalist Ventures to teach “Ancient Bird Language for Modern Naturalists” (full syllabus). Here we present a brief course description, followed by three blogs written by some of the students in the class expressing experiences they had in the course: graduate student Alexa and undergraduates Brian, and Kimberly.


Birds bring people together and are among the most observable of organisms. In this class a PhD avian ecologist and a professional wildlife tracker will offer a 1 week intensive field course in essential wildlife observational and research skills that will 1) sharpen student’s use of their full range of sensory abilities to obtain 2) accurate observational data on species ID and behaviors. Students will learn to 3) interpret their observations correctly through a unique series of collaborative exercises based on 4) ancient peoples’ use of bird language (vocal and behavioral cues) about animals’ locations, activities, and identities. Basically, we teach students to utilize both animal signs (mainly bird language) and other peoples’ senses to magnify the scope, detail, and accuracy of observational learning to many times what one person can obtain. By the end of the course, students will be able to understand and embody (on a rudimentary level) what it would be like to face the myriad of life-threatening challenges that song birds face daily, and how this is reflected in bird vocal and movement behavior. Using the natural logic of the scientific method, students also engage in 5) discussion of how the practice and application of nature immersion skills like bird language sits may influence citizen science, youth education, and reduction of nature deficits in the everyday lives of people.


Lee Burton: Bird Language Leaders Instructor; Level III certified wildlife tracker; Texas Master Naturalist; Instructor, Earth Native Wilderness School —

Katie Sieving: Professor, Avian Ecologist, Dept. Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida —

The course was taught from 1-5 May, 2017 at Ordway-Swisher Biological Station



Mind over Chatter – Brian R. Stokes

Common Nighthawks finding love in a pine savanna – Alexa Mainella

I heard it from a Little Birdy – Kimberly Magee


Posted: August 17, 2017

Category: Conservation, Natural Resources, UF/IFAS, UF/IFAS Teaching, Wildlife
Tags: Avian, Birds, Conservation, WEC Department, Wildlife Conservation

Subscribe For More Great Content

IFAS Blogs Categories