Bird Biodiversity and Population Monitoring Methods


About the course

This part-time tutored online course offers detailed training in passive and non-passive bird surveying techniques. The course aims to create a rich workshop experience, encouraging direct student and tutor interaction and discussion.

You will receive highly practical expert training, helping you to

  • develop skills for indirect counts of traces and nests, group-based counts of colonies, flocks and roosts
  • learn how to conduct transect and aerial surveys
  • develop skills in mist-netting, cannon-netting, walk-in (cage) traps, active (spring-loaded) traps and entanglement (noose) traps and tagging
  • explore new technologies such as acoustic sensors and wireless sensor networks, PIT tags and the use of stable isotope analysis
  • refine bird survey design and data collection skills
  • understand how to record accurate, unbiased and representative samples in order to reach a conclusion

Who the course is for

Professional ecological consultants, environmental managers and rangers, research and postgraduate students, and volunteers.  The techniques covered are universal, and we use international case studies and examples.

Flexible online learning

Students typically study on this course alongside their work.

You can take this online course from anywhere in the world with a good internet connection.  You can log on at any time of the day and access our specially designed course materials, e-learning resources and tutor-led discussion forums. You will have access to the Bodleian Libraries’ online resources, which include an excellent range of e-books and e-journals, enabling you to conduct your research and reading in your own time.

Chartered status

The course can help you to apply for Chartered Status (such as Chartered Environmentalist and Chartered Ecologist), and to meet relevant professional competency thresholds. Further information can be found in our Chartered status and essential skills guide.

Programme details

Topics covered

  • Introduction to birds and bird surveys: Advantages and disadvantages of working with birds; what are birds and how do we identify them?; Importance of knowing the behaviour, ecology and physiology of birds; sources of existing data
  • Bird surveys - first principles: Why survey?: Question-driven surveys; context of the survey – am I recording what I aim to record?; preliminary thoughts on survey design; setting up your data collection method – data sheets and what to collect
  • Passive survey techniques 1: Introduction to observation-based techniques; indirect counts – traces and nests; group-based counts – colonies, flocks, roosts; point counts; area searches; territory mapping
  • Passive survey techniques 2: Transects: Distance sampling; aerial surveys; counting migrants
  • Non-passive survey techniques 1: Introduction; playback
  • Non-passive survey techniques 2: Catching birds; Mist netting; Cannon netting and hand capture; Nooses and traps
  • Non-passive survey techniques 3: Recording morphological data; tagging birds
  • New technologies: Acoustic sensors and wireless sensor networks; Passive Integrated Transponders (PIT tags); stable isotope analysis
  • Bird survey design and considerations: Sampling strategies; confounding factors
  • Reporting your results: Analytical tools; writing up your findings

Teaching methods

Your course tutor will guide you through a series of key topics via reading materials, online activities, and discussion forums. Discussion forums are the primary space where students are able to interact with one another and their tutor to discuss questions, solve problems and share ideas just as they would expect to do in a face-to-face classroom setting.

Level and demands

The course is designed for Master’s-level students, and you are likely to be studying alongside students on our Postgraduate Certificate in Ecological Survey Techniques.

You can expect

  • to engage with and contribute to the course around ten to 15 hours per week (depending on whether it is taken for credit or not)
  • your course tutor will engage online for no less than six hours per week (usually distributed across each week and will focus on particular topics and activities)
  • topics to be covered following a suggested calendar of activity (so that activities, discussion and reading are completed within the course week duration, and at an even pace)
  • the course can be taken with or without Masters-level credit. Credit enables students to demonstrate their academic achievement and can count towards further postgraduate study


You can choose to study for academic credit or simply for the learning experience.

Accredited study

Students taking the course for credit submit an assignment of up to 2000 words or equivalent. The assignment consists of an oral presentation of up to 20 minutes and accompanying slides which are submitted by the specified date. 

We offer Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) points for the course. By contributing to all the forums and successfully completing the assessment you will obtain 10 CATS-equivalent points (FHEQ level 7) which may count towards a Masters-level qualification. You will also receive a University of Oxford Certificate of Attendance.

For information on CATS points and credit transfer, including conversion to US academic credits and European academic credits (ECTS), please visit our CATS Points FAQ page.

Non-accredited study

Students taking the course not for credit do not submit an assignment.

By actively participating in at least one online course forum post per week, to the satisfaction of the course tutor, and successfully completing the course, you will receive a University of Oxford Certificate of Attendance.

Certificate of Attendance

You may receive a Certificate of Attendance whether you opt for accredited or non-accredited study (provided that you have met the requirements stated above).


Description Costs
Accredited study £1170.00
Non-accredited study £740.00
Student Rate £520.00


Application/registration processing will close 6 weeks before the start of the course. Please contact with any related questions.

Apply to take the course not for academic credit

If you do not wish to take this course for academic credit you will need to register using the ‘Book now’ button under course details.

Apply to take the course for academic credit

If you are applying to take this course for academic credit you will need to click on the link below and complete the online application form and include a copy of your CV as an attachment.

You will also need to complete the reference section of the application form, and input the email address of your referee. Upon successfully submitting the application an email will be sent to your referee asking them to provide a reference in support your application for the course.

Please only complete this form if you wish to take the course for academic credit.

Online application form

Selection criteria

All candidates will need to:

  1. Hold a minimum qualification equivalent to a first Honours Degree (BA, BSc, etc). Non-graduates may be considered if they are able to demonstrate considerable experience in a relevant field. If in doubt, please email;
  2. Offer some first-hand knowledge and/or experience of field work or conservation issues;
  3. Satisfy the minimum required English language criteria set by the University, being either a native English speaker, or able to offer test results as specified. Applicants with borderline scores may be accepted on condition that they attend a language course and gain an acceptable score;
  4. Demonstrate an ability to be able to commit the necessary time to study;
  5. Have good access to a computer and a fast/reliable internet connection;
  6. Demonstrate an ability to work alongside fellow students and tutors as part of an online community and independently.

Apply to take the course at the discounted student rate (non-accredited study)

If you are applying to take this course at the discounted student rate, you will need to click on the link below and complete the online application form and include evidence that you are a current student. This could be either your student ID card (with the name of the institution and end date) or a letter or reference from your institution. Please note that the student rate is for non-accredited study only.

Please only complete this form if you wish to take the course at the discounted student rate.

Please contact with any related questions.

Online application form

IT requirements

This course is delivered online and uses the Department’s online assignment submission system (for the course assignment). In order to meet course requirements, students will need access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.