Week 3 – eCornell Course – “Courtship and Rivalry in Birds”

We have recently enrolled in an eCornell course called “Courtship and Rivalry in Birds“. This is a 5-week course and here is a recap of the third module/week of this course. [View Week 1] [View Week 2]

Week three focused on the “Whats and Whys of Conflict” and showcased examples of conflict among Red-winged Blackbirds. This week provided some insight into how to ask questions on bird behavior, how different approaches can reach different answers (depending on your field of study and how you want to go about finding the answer), and overall how to better expand on a simple question of why a bird does a certain thing.

Module 3 was definitely more advanced than the previous two and can be a bit overwhelming. Even as a self-proclaimed Birdfreak, a lot of the scientific wording and complexity of biology is difficult to comprehend immediately. It is important to realize that the modules and the course itself do not need to be fully mastered all at once. This course is heavy in knowledge but should provide a helpful trigger into further learning, especially through the multitude of resources available through Cornell and other places.

This week also included a “game of life” where you took on the role of both a male and female Red-winged Blackbird and had to make choices on when to migrate and what to do when you migrated. (Note that this isn’t actually a video game with animated birds.) The goal was to understand how different strategies can drastically effect individual birds breeding success (or lack of).

The module concluded with a discussion which provided all the students to interact and discuss what they learned. The discussion was directed by the instructor but overall the various insights of everyone makes for a pretty interesting learning experience about bird behavior.

Look for our recap of week 4 coming soon. Another session of the course begins January 6, 2010.

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