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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, PhD-students and researchers 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

After completion of the course, students can:

  • reproduce and discuss the ethical and legal considerations that apply to experiments on birds in the laboratory or in the wild.

  • categorize and evaluate the levels of discomfort, stress and pain in experiments involving birds.

  • name, explain and discuss scientists’ responsibilities in the design and conduct of experiments and how this entails monitoring of the welfare and health of the animals throughout.

  • name and recognise factors that may directly or indirectly impact birds’ behaviour and welfare in the laboratory or during experiments.

  • name and compare procedures for analgesia, anesthesia and euthanasia and assess when to apply humane endpoints.

  • list and explain requirements for husbandry and handling of birds.

  • reproduce the basic characteristics of bird development, anatomy, sensory systems and physiology, list avian specific adaptations and explain how these features affect the results of an animal study.

  • name the commonly used bird species in animal experimentation and give examples of their use in behavioral, ecological and cognitive research.

  • explain experimental procedures.


13 February 2023 – 24 February 2023
13 February 2023: General introduction to animal experimentation.
This is a one-day program led by Prof. dr. ir. J.B. Prins with lectures and discussions, which requires preparation in advance (instructions will be provided on Brightspace. Participants already in the possession of an article 9 certificate can apply for exemption from this part of the course.

14-17 February 2023: species-specific bird course theory.
This is a 4-day program with lectures and practical assignments.

24 February 2023: exam.

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%
    -Minimum grade for the written examination is 5.6.

Inspection and feedback on the examination

To be published on BS together with final schedule.



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.