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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 cover different research areas using bird species, and will be followed by a detailed 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).


11-13 February 2020: Species-specific bird course theory
This is a 3-day program with lectures and practical assignments. Depending on the number of participants additional practical sessions may be organized in between 18- 20 February 2020.
14 February 2020: General introduction to animal experimentation. This is a one-day program with lectures and discussions, which requires preparation in advance (instructions will be provided on Blackboard). Participants already in the possession of an article 9 certificate can apply for exemption from this part of the course.
21 February 2020: Exam

Mode of instruction

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

Assessment method

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



Reading list

General introduction on animal experimentation: Central Authority for Scientific Procedures on Animals Directive 2010/63/EUon the protection of animals used for scientific purposes Directive 2010/63/EU, working documents Dutch Experiments on Animals Act Humane Endpoints Dutch Society for the Replacement of Animal Testing Stichting informatie dierproeven

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


Via Usis and via enrollment in Blackboard

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