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Bird species in animal experimentation



Daily coordinator for questions and administrative issues: G.C. van der Velden MSc


The study of biology aims to understand life in all its forms and functions. Research on the whole organism level - be it of the fundamental or applied kind- involves study of living organisms. These should at all times be treated and handled with outmost concern and respect. For experimental animals both Dutch and EU legislation have set up strict procedures for reviewing and licensing experiments and to monitor animals’ welfare throughout. An important feature of this legislation is to ensure that no animal research is conducted without previous review and approval of the research and welfare monitoring plan. This course provides basic knowledge on the use and care of birds as laboratory animals for MSc-students and is obligatory before starting an internship that involves handling or experimental use of bird species. The course covers legal and ethical frameworks for the use of laboratory animals and scientists’ responsibilities in the design, and conduct of experiments and with special emphasis on the monitoring of the welfare and health of the animals.
The program will broadly cover different research areas involving bird species, and in depth review of the use of zebra finches for neurobiological and behavioural research. In a series of lectures, the course participants will be introduced to bird development, anatomy and physiology, the immune system, recognition of discomfort, stress and pain, disease symptoms and health monitoring, anesthesia/euthanasia methods, genetic modification, behavioral research and experiments with birds in the wild. The course will also entail an introduction to zebra finch facility management and husbandry.

Learning goals

Learning Objectives:
Knowing and understanding of the legal, ethical and biological facts and principles that need to be considered for humane use and care of laboratory animals and research involving animals. Students will have gained awareness of factors that direct or indirectly may impact birds’ behaviour and welfare in the laboratory or during experiments. After completion of the course, students will possess basic knowledge of the developmental, anatomical, physiological and behavioral characteristics, genetic modification, and research applications of bird species and will have been familiarised with the monitoring tools to recognize symptoms of fear, pain, discomfort and disease in birds. Knowledge of methods of handling and procedures on birds and requirements for husbandry.

Final Qualifications:
Under strict supervision of licensed personnel, the student is allowed to perform basic procedures on laboratory or wild bird species. The course includes all aspects of a species-specific module (a certificate will be provided).


8 February 2021 – 19 February 2021

Week 1: Species-specific bird course theory (3 days of lectures and practical assignments, depending on the number of participants additional practical sessions may be organized also in the 2nd week of the course)

13 February 2020: General introduction to animal experimentation (1 day program with lectures and discussions, which requires preparation in advance via instructions on Brightspace). NB Participants possessing an art. 9 certificate can apply for exemption from this part of the course.

Week 2: selfstudy course materials and examination on 19 February 2021

Mode of instruction

The course consists of a lecture program and practical assignments in the bird facility
The general introduction part also contains an ethical review session.

Assessment method

Written examination
Attendance to all lectures and practicals is compulsory in order to receive the certificate.

The final grade consists of the following partical grades:

  • Examination 100%

Inspection and feedback on the examination

Date: 16th March 14.30 feedback session and inspection of exams



Reading list

General introduction on animal experimentation:

Species-specific bird course: A general reading list and lecture specific literature will be announced via Brightspace.


Via Usis

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for more information on how to apply.