Upcoming course

Basic Course in Ornithology
Start Date: 22 January 2024
Duration: 12 weeks
Platform: Online, on NPTEL
Charges: Free to attend; Rs 1000 to take the final exam


The course intends to introduce students to the scientific study of birds (ornithology). It covers basics of a range of topics like bird anatomy, physiology, taxonomy, behaviour, conservation. It is ideal for students pursuing their Bachelors and Masters degree in life sciences and for those who want to explore ornithology as a career option. It is also useful for birdwatchers and other enthusiasts from among the larger public who wish to learn about the formal discipline of ornithology.

The National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) is a collaboration between seven Indian Institutes of Technology together with the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. NPTEL offers over 2,000 online courses, which feed into the Government of India’s SWAYAM platform. Students in most colleges and universities in India can take NPTEL/SWAYAM courses for academic credit.

Topics covered:

  • Week 1: Introduction to Ornithology; Avian Diversity and Classification; Evolution and Speciation
  • Week 2: Anatomy and Morphology; Physiology; Coloration
  • Week 3: Life History; Foraging Behaviour; Mating and Breeding Behaviour
  • Week 4: Social Behaviour; Methods of Science and Posing Research Questions
  • Week 5: Vocal Behaviour: Mechanisms; Ecology & Evolution; Vocal Behaviour: Case Study
  • Week 6: Migration; Basics of Research Design
  • Week 7: Bird Populations: Concepts; Bird Communities: Concepts
  • Week 8: Mixed species flocks; Studying Bird Populations and Communities: Techniques
  • Week 9: Avian Disease; Introduction to data visualisation and analysis
  • Week 10: Biogeography; Macroecology; Macroecology: Case Study
  • Week 11: Avian Conservation: Concepts; Avian Conservation: Case Studies 1; Avian Conservation: Case Studies 2
  • Week 12: Citizen Science in Ornithology; Molecular Techniques in Ornithology; Molecular Techniques: Case Study

Anand Krishnan — Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), Bangalore
Manjari Jain — Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Kolkata
Mousumi Ghosh — Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF)
Rajah Jayapal — Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON)
Suhel Quader — Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF)
Umesh Srinivasan — Indian Institute of Science (IISc)
VV Robin — Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Tirupati
Course TA: Nafisa Pathaw(NCF)
Course coordinator: Devica Ranade — Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF)

Some Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs):

How can I register for the course? 
For registering, please follow this link: and click on “Join”. You will have the option to create an account if you don’t already have one on NPTEL. Or you can login with your existing Google, Facebook or Microsoft account.
Once you register, you will get an email from NPTEL and the registration is complete. The last date for registration is 29 Jan 2024.

I am unable to register – what do I do?
A small number of people have reported difficulties registering. If you face a problem, you can try the following options:

  • Wait for a few hours and try again
  • Try from a different browser
  • Try to sign up with your Google, Facebook or Microsoft account.

What is the schedule of the course?
Every week, there will be 2-3 hours of pre-recorded lectures by faculty, which you can view at your own convenience. In addition, there will be a 1-hour live interactive session with faculty. The day and time of the weekly interactive sessions will be announced soon. There will also be weekly assignments, which participants will have 10 days to complete.

Who can take this course?
The course is designed for Bachelors and Masters students in the life sciences, especially those who want to explore ornithological research as a career. But it will also be also useful for birdwatchers and other enthusiasts from among the larger public who wish to learn about the formal discipline of ornithology. It is not a course about birdwatching or bird identification.

I am a school student – can I still take the course?
Enrolment for the course is open to anyone regardless of age or educational background. It is up to you to decide whether you think it may be useful to you, or whether it is likely to be too advanced or too simple. You can also try out the course for a few weeks, and drop out if you aren’t finding it helpful. The course is likely to be offered every year, so you can always take it again later if you wish.

How do I get a certificate?
If you wish to receive a certificate from NPTEL, you will have to appear for an in-person final exam on 20 April 2024 during either the morning session (9am to 12 noon) OR the afternoon session (2pm to 5pm). The exam fees are Rs 1000, which you pay when you register for the exam. NPTEL will open exam registrations soon. Please note that you can register for the exam only after registering for the course.

What is the final exam? Where are the final exam centres located?
If you want a certificate from NPTEL on completion of the course, you must appear for a final exam on 20 April 2024. The exam will be held in person (not online) at 160+ centres across India. Here is a tentative list of exam centres. Please note that you can register for the exam only after registering for the course.The form for registering for the final examination and list of exam centres will be released by NPTEL around the end of December. Please keep a look out for an email from NPTEL.

Do we get books/notes etc to go with the lectures?
You will get pre-recorded lectures to view. In addition, the faculty will share titles of relevant books and papers to refer to, as well as links to online material for extra reading.

Past courses

  • Basic Course in Ornithology (2023)

Second edition of the Basic Course in Ornithology was conducted on the platform NPTEL from January – April 2023. The fully online course included 30+ hours of recorded lectures and 15+ hours of live interactive sessions with participants. The course was directed towards ecology students and teachers willing to learn more about birds academically. However, nature enthusiasts from different professions and age groups participated, learnt from and enjoyed the course. In all, 4115 participants from across the country registered and 395 participants appeared for the final exam.

Recorded lectures of the course can be seen here.

Faculty: Anand Krishnan (IISER, Bhopal), Manjari Jain (IISER, Mohali), Mousumi Ghosh (NCF), Rajah Jayapal (SACON), Suhel Quader (NCF), Umesh Srinivasan (IISc), VV Robin (IISER, Tirupati).
Guest faculty: Dr Sahas Barve, Dr Anusha Shankar, Dr Suresh Kumar, Dr Priti Bangal, Dr Farah Ishtiaq, Dr Mansi Mungee, Dr Ashwin Viswanathan.
Teaching assistant: Soniya Yambem; PMRF fellow: Chiti Arvind, Jobin Varughese
Course coordinator: Devica Ranade (NCF)

  • Basic Course in Ornithology (2022)

A “Basic Course in Ornithology” was conducted for the first time on NPTEL platform from January – April 2022.
A total of 5,045 participants registered for the course. The participants came from diverse backgrounds and it was a perfect mix of students and nature enthusiasts. This 12-week academic course included 30+ hours of lectures and a very engaging live interaction with faculty every week. The videos of lectures are available here.

Faculty included Anand Krishnan (IISER, Bhopal), Manjari Jain (IISER, Mohali), Mousumi Ghosh (NCF), Rajah Jayapal (SACON), Suhel Quader (NCF), Umesh Srinivasan (IISc), VV Robin (IISER, Tirupati). Teaching assistant was Jobin Varughese (IISER, Tirupati) and the course was coordinated by Devica Ranade (NCF).

  • Course in Basic Ornithology (2019)

To introduce Bachelors and Masters students to ornithology research, in 2019, a course in Basic Ornithology was organised at IISER Tirupati.
A total of 90 students participated in this intensive 3-day course, which was aimed at educating and encouraging students to pursue a career in ornithological research and conservation. A range of topics was covered during this course, including anatomy, evolution, ecology, behaviour, basics of study design and field and lab techniques.
Recordings of these lectures can be found here.

Faculty included Anand Krishnan (IISER, Bhopal),Ashwin Viswanathan (NCF), Manjari Jain (IISER, Mohali), Mousumi Ghosh (NCF), Rajah Jayapal (SACON), Suhel Quader (NCF), Umesh Srinivasan (IISc), VV Robin (IISER, Tirupati), with valuable inputs from Rajah Jayapal (SACON). The course was coordinated by Rohan Menzies (NCF).