Lab Info / zoo project

Zoo Assignment

Your Zoo project is based on an observational study of one or more bird species using "focal animal sampling." The project is worth 25 extra credit points and is due one week after the trip to the North Carolina Zoo. Prepare the write-up in scientific paper format with an abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, and literature cited sections. Maximum length is 5 pages (including tables and figures, but excluding raw data sheets).

Base your study on behavioral observations collected over about a two hour period. After choosing your study subject, spend about half an hour defining your objectives and the behaviors you want to measure. Possible comparisons include terrestrial vs. aquatic birds, large vs. small birds, or raptors vs. nectivores. You are free to team up with a partner if you wish. You might, for example, decide to compare the activity budgets of two species in the alcid exhibit. Behaviors you might measure would include: swimming under water, swimming on the surface, preening, feeding, resting, sleeping, walking, vocalizing, etc. Collect your data so that you can compare the frequencies of different behaviors. By picking one or several focal animals and recording their behavior every 30 or 60 seconds for an hour or more you will begin to generate the data necessary to make these comparisons.


  1. An old but useful Handout on Methods of Observational Research in a Zoo Setting.
  2. Examples of project write-ups from previous classes.
  3. A sample Data Sheet for recording behavioral observations.
  4. A recent Study that used scan sampling to quantify Coot behavior.
  5. The North Carolina Zoo
  7. North Carolina Zoo Species List