If you are interested in studying birds, then you need to know what Ornithology is all about. After all, this is what the study of birds is called. It is a branch of science, zoology in particular, that focuses on how these feathered creatures live and thrive in the environment.

What is Ornithology?

“Ornithology” comes from the ancient Greek terms “ornis” and “logos” that means birds and rationale, respectively. The study of birds has been practiced for a very long time. Our ancestors have always looked upon the observation of birds to determine certain things about the environment – like the weather. Not only that, birds have been a source of nourishment even for the Stone Age settlers.By studying birds, we are able to develop a lot of theories about evolution, ecology, and the overall behaviour of the environment. We now understand the differences between species and how they react based on instinct and towards their environment.

The early practice of ornithology focused on the description and distribution of bird species. After all, there are a lot of them! Would you believe that we are still discovering new species until today? By studying birds, a lot of insight has been made and theories are formed and tested because of these birds.

How to become an Ornithologist

So how do you become an ornithologist? First of all, you have to get a bachelor’s degree in biology. You can also get a degree in wildlife biology, ecology or zoology. You need a background in science and math as well. A lot of statistical data will be collected to identify new theories or prove old ones so you need to know how to use a statistical software. If you want to advance in this field, this is a must to help you analyse data.

Ornithologists write a lot of reports to document all the observations and data they have collected in the field. That means you will spend a lot of time in the lab as you would in the field. This is an indication that you need strong communication and technical writing skills too.More than your academic background, practical experience is the best way to progress in your career. Start by participating in bird watching clubs and workshops. Be an intern in bird parks or volunteer in organisations that work on wildlife and conservation. Obviously, you need a master’s degree to reach the higher positions – something that you can pursue as you build your practical experience. If you wish to teach, a Doctorate is usually necessary.

Job description of Ornithologists

The main job description of ornithologists will depend on your position. There are those that focus on field research to identify migration patterns, reproduction habits, and habitat requirements. Monitoring specific birds will require a lot of time in the field and probably months of living in their natural habitat. Once you have the data you need to take it back to the lab for further analysis and assessment. This will allow you to create projects and initiatives that will benefit the birds and most especially the environment they thrive in.

Sometimes, ornithology plays an integral role in parks. This is why ornithologists will probably find a career as a park ranger in a natural reserve. Creating and implementing policies and advocacies can sometimes be part of your responsibilities.

While you can be employed by private organisations, you will most likely find a career with federal or state agencies that focus on land and wildlife. Zoos and veterinary clinics can sometimes use the expertise of ornithologists.