No dates are currently scheduled.

Teacher: Ian Fraser

Understanding birds will explore all aspects of birds – origins, ongoing evolution, structure, behaviour, ecology and conservation issues – with an emphasis on Australian and local species. No prior knowledge required. Includes two field trips to identify and discuss local species.

Course outline

Topics covered include

1 - The Definition of a Bird; bird ancestors and evolution

  • Definition
  • Ancestors
  • Evolution of the Australian Avifanua

2 - Bird–watching Techniques and Tools

  • Field Guides
  • Reference Books and Tapes
  • Binoculars
  • Telescopes
  • Techniques

3 - Basic Adaptations

  • Understanding flight
  • Maximum Size – mechanics
  • Minimum Size – temperature control
  • Feathers
  • Skeleton and Musculature
  • Wing Shape
  • Respiration and Circulation
  • Digestive Tract and Feeding; Excretion
  • Reproduction, Nests and Eggs (to 78/2)
  • Senses and Vocalisations
  • Swimming
  • The Flightless Option

4 - Australian Bioregions and Habitats

  • Bioregions
  • Habitats

5 - Bird Ecology and Behaviour

  • Community and Population Ecology
  • Migration and Nomadism
  • Territory
  • Flocks
  • Colony
  • Reproductive Strategies
  • Courtship
  • Feeding Strategies
  • Climate Change and Birds

6 - Brief Introduction to Taxonomy 

7 - The Australian Bird Fauna – an outline

  •  Considers all the Australian bird families in order, with mention of, and some detail about, all local species.

Course dates

7 Tuesday evenings: 22 October - 3 December

2 Field trips: 8am - 11am, Saturday 30 November & 7 December

Who should enrol

This course is open to anyone who would like to discover more about birds.


Ian Fraser is a naturalist, author, conservationist, ABC broadcaster and adult educator who has lived in the ACT since 1980. He ran natural history tours all over Australia for 34 years, and has been accompanying groups to South America since 2007. Ian chaired an ACT government environmental advisory committee for 10 years, and served on it for 20 before that. He was the ‘voice of natural history’ on local ABC radio for over 20 years, and has written nine books on local and wider natural history themes, including two guides to Namadgi National Park and two local wildflower guides. His latest, Birds in Their Habitats; journeys with a naturalist, was published by CSIRO in 2018. Two previous CSIRO titles were awarded Whitley Certificates by the NSW Royal Zoological Society. His blog, Ian Fraser Talking Naturally, has accumulated well over 400,000 readers since 2012. He has run training courses in natural history for Tidbinbilla volunteers since 2008, and has taught various courses at the ANU’s Centre for Continuing Education since 1998. In 2001 he was awarded the Australia Plants Award, and in 2006 the Australian Natural History Medallion, both for work in conservation and education; in 2018 he was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for ‘services to conservation and the environment’.