Course CodeBEN102
Fee CodeS1
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Learn to understand and manage birds in the garden

Birds can bring a whole new dimension to a garden. 

  • Ducks, swans or other water birds are favourites for garden ponds.
  • Parrots and pigeons are often kept in aviaries. 
  • Poultry may be kept to roam the garden, eating pests such as snails and slugs; and feeding the plants with their manure. 

Some develop gardens to attract wild birds, planting plants they feed from, or which provide shelter or places to nest. By introducing water to a garden (eg. a pond or bird bath) you can attract birds too.

Others introduce domesticated (or semi domesticated) birds to their garden; keeping them there perhaps in an aviary, or perhaps clipping their wings (to prevent flying) and fencing them in.

For many of us, a big part of enjoying a garden is to observe the birds and other wildlife coming and going; and perhaps other birds as they go about their life making the garden their home.

Through this course you will learn to identify different types of birds, and to understand the physical and behavioural characteristics that differentiates one from the next.

Lesson Structure

There are 9 lessons in this course:

  1. Classification and Introduction to Bird watching.
    • Nature and scope of ornithology (over 9,000 species)
    • Place of Birds in Nature
    • Bird Classification (Aves, Ratitae, Carinate)
    • Use of common names and scientific names
    • Fossil or Extinct Birds
    • Classes and Sub Classes
    • Comparing characteristics of different Super orders
    • Comparing characteristics of all major bird Families
    • Resources for further information
    • Bird Watching equipment
  2. The Biology of Birds.
    • Anatomical features
    • Skeleton
    • Feathers
    • Feather Colour
    • Wings
    • Wing Types (elliptical, high speed, long soaring, high lift)
    • Legs and Feet
    • Beaks and Bills
    • Internal Structure
    • Respiration
    • Excretion
    • Digestion
    • Circulation
    • Senses
    • Avian Behaviours (Flight, Diving, Reproduction, Courtship, Bonding, Territoriality, Nesting)
    • Formation of Eggs and Hatching
    • Feeding
    • Vocalisations
    • Migration
    • Habitats
  3. Common and Widespread Land Birds.
    • Eagles and Relatives; Carthatidae (New World vultures, condors)
    • Pandionidae (osprey)
    • Accipitridae (hawks, eagles, kites)
    • Sagittariidae (secretary bird)
    • Falconidae (falcons, caracaras)
    • Crows and their Relatives
    • Butcher birds, Currawongs and related birds
    • Pigeons (structure, feeding, breeding, types)
    • Doves
    • The Dodo
    • Cuckoos
    • Pest and Introduced Birds (for man countries); Indian Mynah, Sparrow, Thrush, Starling, etc
  4. Giant Birds and Long Legged Birds
    • Ratitites; Ostrich, Emu, Moa, Rhea, Cassowary, Kiwi, South American Tinamous, extinct giant Elephant bird and Dodo
    • Herons, Storks and relatives
  5. Seabirds and Water birds.
    • Anseriformes; ducks, geese, swans etc
    • Gruiformes; cranes, coots, mud hens, rails
    • Charadriiformes; sandpipers, snipes, curlews, plovers, dotterels, etc
    • Gaviiformes; divers
    • Gulls, Skuas, Auks, Puffins, Terns
    • Tube Nosed Birds
    • Albatrosses
    • Petrels, Storm Petrels and Diving Petrels
    • Pelicans and Relatives
    • Gannets
    • Cormorants
    • Boobies, Frigate Birds, Tropic Birds
    • Penguins
  6. Hunters -Birds of Prey, Owls, and Kingfishers.
    • Eagles
    • Eagle species
    • Hawks
    • Kites
    • Osprey
    • Falcons
    • Vultures
    • Owls
    • Breeding behaviours of birds of prey
    • Kingfishers
  7. Passeriformes.
    • Scope of "songbirds" or "perching birds".
    • Features common to Passeriformes
    • Varieties of Passeriformes (Primitive and Advanced)
    • Muscicapidae; thrush
    • Robins
    • Flycatchers, Larks, Pippits, Wingtails
    • Swallows and Martins; physical characteristics, breeding and nesting
    • Fringilllidae; finches
  8. Other Birds.
    • Parrots; structure, feeding, breeding, species
    • Honeyeaters, Swifts
    • Galliformes; chicken.
    • Other Orders
  9. Attracting, Feeding and Keeping Birds.
    • How plants benefit birds
    • Plants that attract birds
    • Feeding Birds
    • Bird Care; parasites, catching and handling, caring for a sick bird
    • Common Ailments

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

Passeriformes or Song Birds

These birds bring movement to enrich any landscape. Even someone who isn't much interested in bird watching can often become distracted by the singing of an unseen bird in the bushes. When you understand these birds, you are able to add features to a garden that attract and protect them; and in doing so you can bring often important benefits to the garden. Birds help control insects and other pests, for example.

These birds are either perching or land birds, with four toes, three facing forward and one backwards, which allows them to grip and perch. The order Passeriformes includes Flycatchers, Peewees, Jays, Swallows, Nightingales, Wrens, Mockingbirds, Robins, Bluebirds, Pipits, Magpies, Sparrows, Warblers, Blackbirds, Orioles, Finches, Grosbeaks, Tanagers, Lyrebirds, Larks, Wagtails and Thrushes and other species often known as "songbirds" or "perching birds". A large proportion of all bird species belong to this order, many of which are songbirds, and many land birds are members of this order. 

They are perhaps the most successful group of birds alive today. The success of Passeriformes is largely due to their ability to adapt to a wide variety of habitats and diets. Despite this adaptability, none of them like water.


  • All have well developed voice boxes which enable these birds to produce a bewildering variety of songs and calls;
  • They have a unique foot structure consisting of four toes, each arising from an ankle at the end of the leg. The hind toe is larger than the others and opposes the other three. These toes are not webbed, and have a very strong grip;
  • The young are blind and featherless when they hatch, but after a few days a layer of soft down develops, which is then replaced by true feathers;
  • Young are fed a diet of insects by the parents, even if the parents are eating something different;
  • Breeding patterns are generally similar across the group. They create complex structures. Some build large nests. Some give as much attention to nest appearance (aesthetics) as to the function and security of the nest.



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