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Ornithologists are specialized zoologists who study the behaviour, ecology, physiology and classification of birds. They are also involved in the conservation of different bird species.

The nature of the work of ornithologists depends on the type of organization of employment:

Museums: ornithologists collect and display bird collections and give educational talks on birds, answer inquiries about birds, and identify birds donated to the museum. For the collection of birds, ornithologists work in close collaboration with conservation organizations and they need to be familiar with specific legislation applicable to the fauna and flora of the area in which they are working.

Nature conservation organizations: they carry out research on rare and economically important bird species. Birds are captured and then weighed, measured and marked. Aspects such as the density and fluctuation of bird populations are studied. They advise farmers on the needs and management of birds on their farms and are involved in controlling the export and import of birds. They also make an effort to encourage a sense of conservation in the community.

Universities: they give lectures and conduct research.

Ornithologists should not only be zoologists, but also need to know a good deal about Entomology, Botany and Ecology.

Satisfying Aspects
- discovering new species may be exciting
- saving endangered birds

Demanding aspects
- working long hours
- travelling a great deal
- working in adverse weather conditions

A ornithologist should:
- love nature especially birds;
- have an inquiring mind;
- be self-motivated;
- be willing to work for long periods in remote areas conducting research;
- have an aptitude for figures (for data processing).

School Subjects
National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course

Each institution will have its own minimum entry requirements.

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Sciences
Recommended Subjects: Life Sciences

Degree: BSc degree with Zoology as major subject and Botany or Entomology as second major. Geology, Mathematics and Statistics are recommended.

Post-graduate study: Honours degree in Zoology; Wildlife Management or Conservation Biology - NMMU, UNISA.

Postgraduate research is encouraged by the Percy Fitzpatrick Institute of African Ornithology (University of Cape Town), which specializes in the ecology and behaviour of African birds.

- Museums
- Universities
- National and Provincial Parks boards
- Zoological gardens
- Department of Agriculture

Funds are limited in this field, so employment opportunities are not plentiful.

Percy Fitzpatrick Institute for African Ornithology
University of Cape Town
Rondebosch, 7701
Tel: (021) 650-3297
Fax: (021) 650-3295

The Secretary
The Zoological Society of SA
Department of Zoology
University of KwaZulu-Natal
P/Bag X01
Scottsville, 3209
Tel: (033) 260-5127 Fax: (033) 260-5105