Bird Brainy

Wanting to develop an introductory class with wide appeal that would bring more students into the study of poultry science and the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, faculty members had a brainstorm. The result was POUL 1010 “Birds in Our Lives” — a survey of the care, health and breeding management of parrots, pigeons, game birds, falcons, chickens and other birds. Poultry science professor Adam Davis created and coordinates the 3-hour introductory class, but other faculty members help teach it.

Roger Wyatt raises homing pigeons and has good blood lines so he teaches one section, even taking students out for a homing pigeon race. And Mark Compton leads the section on birds of prey, including a falconry demonstration. Davis teaches about parrots and other pets. Poultry Science Department Head Mike Lacy leads a section on ornamental and commercial chickens. And Casey Ritz covers game birds and waterfowl, a natural for hunters.

The course, offered every fall, made its debut in 1999 with 37 students. It has been filled to capacity ever since then. More than half of the students come from outside the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and many are from the business, forestry and education colleges. They have come from virtually every college and every major, according to Davis.

The excitement of “Birds in Our Lives” has been infectious. “Quite a few students,” Davis said, “take 1010 and go on to (poultry science) 2020, an introductory course that’s heavy on biology.”

And the students are really drawn to the close interaction with the birds.

“Students really like the live-animal part,” Lacy said. “In so many classes,they’re looking at cells, molecular genetics, little bits and pieces of animal life. We’re fortunate enough to be able to show them the whole animal and how it all fits together.”