Do you like to travel? Do you find birds fascinating and want to learn more about them when you see them? If you answered yes, you have an ornithologist’s mindset!

Ornithology is the scientific term for bird-watching and research. Birds are being studied for their bio-learning, habitat, and evolution. Ornithology has a long history and has helped to develop many key concepts in evolution, including species definition, behaviour and the process of speciation, ecological niches, biodiversity conservation, instinct, phylogeography, and island biogeography.

Do you aspire to be an Ornithologist or are you just exploring the field? In either case, you’ve arrived at the right place! This blog discusses the career as an ornithologist, the necessary skills, colleges and courses, salary, and other requirements for becoming an Ornithologist. To become an Ornithologist, follow the blog’s detailed guide.

What does an Ornithologist do?

Ornithologists study bird behaviour in depth in order to develop solutions to conserve and protect birds from extinction. The nature of an ornithologist’s job can also vary depending on the type of role they pursue, as ornithologists typically have many career path options. They could work as legislative advocates, wildlife biologists, land managers, researchers, or environmental educators.

An ornithologist’s typical job responsibilities include:

  • Conducting field research to investigate migration patterns, habitat requirements, and reproduction methods or rates
  • Monitoring and determining the population and health of various bird species
  • Observing the movements of birds by catching and branding them
  • Data collection and analysis on bird populations
  • Performing wildlife impact assessments on construction projects
  • Creating policies and launching advocacy campaigns to keep birds safe and protected

Job Roles of an Ornithologist

An ornithologist has no specific job role. They can choose to work for various profiles. Some of the job roles available to them are described below:

  • Bird biologist: Bird biologists are scientists who study the behaviour and importance of birds in the environment. They comprehend the mechanism that governs the functioning of biological processes in a species of the bird kingdom. They are linked to fundamental research into bird behaviour. They use the results to test and validate information.
  • Ecologists: Ecologists investigate the relationship between birds and the environment. They comprehend how the species interact with biodiversity and coexists with other species. Most ecologists raise awareness about the effects of environmental changes on bird species, such as shelter, food, and breeding.
  • Nature Educator: A nature educator aims to educate the public about nature, environmental issues, and the importance of all species on Earth, including birds. They go to schools, nature reserves, NGOs, and workplaces to raise awareness about environmental issues, sustainable living, and ways to protect various species on the planet.
  • Bird Geneticist: A Geneticist studies the genetic characteristics of birds using tests and experiments. They study the composition of bird genetic material to better understand species evolution. They also conduct experiments to identify bird diseases.
  • Bird Conservationist: A Bird Conservationist is someone who works to protect and preserve bird species. They work on the ground as conservationists, preserving birds and collecting them for research. They play an essential role in preserving the built environment and wildlife habitat.

Career path of an Ornithologist

Although there are many paths to starting your career as an Ornithologist, here are the ideal ones.

  • Path 1: Select science stream after 10th ➜ Complete B.Sc Zoology Hons. after 12th ➜ Become an Ornithologist
  • Path 2: Select science stream after 10th ➜ Complete B.Sc Zoology Hons. after 12th ➜ Pursue an M.Sc Ornithology and Conservation Biology ➜ Become an Ornithologist
  • Path 3: Select science stream after 10th ➜ Complete B.Sc Zoology Hons. after 12th ➜ Pursue an M.Sc Ornithology and Conservation Biology ➜ Get a PhD in PhD Ornithology and Natural History ➜ Become an Ornithologist

Join a local bird-watching club. Joining a bird-watching club while still in school or after 10th is one way to get your feet wet in ornithology. These clubs can be found in most towns and would be delighted to welcome a new bird enthusiast!

Students must have completed a 10+2 level of education in physics, chemistry, and biology with an aggregate of 50% or equivalent marks from a recognised board before enrolling in a B.Sc Zoology Hons. programme.

Following that, students can pursue a Master’s degree in Ornithology, followed by a PhD.

Check out the ‘How to Become an Ornithologist?‘ blog for a step-by-step guide to becoming an Ornithologist!

Salary in different stages of a career as an Ornithologist

  • The annual average ornithologist salary in India is ₹8,36,670.
  • They also receive an average bonus of ₹14,976.
  • An entry-level ornithologist (1-3 years of experience) earns an annual average salary of ₹6,16,241.
  • A senior-level ornithologist (8+ years of experience) earns an annual average salary of ₹10,43,202.

Skills Required to become an Ornithologist

  • Interest in the natural world: An ornithologist must have a strong interest in birds, their habitats, characteristics, and nature. To understand and thoroughly research birds, one must have a natural interest in birds.
  • Research skills: Ornithologists must conduct research on various bird species and conduct experiments on them in order to reach certain conclusions, which is impossible without strong research skills.
  • Scientific abilities, particularly in biology and chemistry: An individual should be knowledgeable in biology and chemistry, which are the primary subjects studied by ornithologists.
  • Problem-solving skills: Ornithologists must be able to deal with difficult or unexpected situations while working in the field or outdoors.
  • Communication skills: Communication skills are essential; one must know how to communicate with others and explain things in a way that others can understand. When communicating, use simple language.
  • Critical evaluation skills: Observation, analysis, interpretation, reflection, evaluation, inference, explanation, problem solving, and decision making are all examples of critical evaluation skills.
  • Patience: A person should be able to react appropriately in difficult situations. There will be times when the research will be stretched for longer than expected.
  • Attention to detail: An ornithologist must pay attention to even the smallest details when conducting research because they can lead to significant differences.

Is Ornithology a good career option?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for ornithologists will grow at a rate of 4% over the next ten years, which is about the same as the average for all jobs.

More research labs and conservation organisations will need ornithologists to study human interaction with wildlife to keep birds safe and prevent any negative impacts on their health and habitats as human and animal populations grow. Some government agencies may face budget constraints that limit their ability to hire as many ornithologists as they require.

According to compensation data, an Ornithologist’s salary potential will increase by 42% over the next five years.

Types of industries hiring Ornithologists

There are numerous sectors for those interested in ornithology, and there is no requirement to take a single path in this field. The following are the sectors where an ornithologist can find work:

  • As Ecologists
  • Zoos
  • Academics
  • Forest departments
  • Research
  • Birding Industry
  • Environmental ConsultingSanctuaries 
  • Tour Leading
  • NGO’s
  • Wildlife centres
  • Policy

Courses to upskill as an Ornithologist

The courses listed below cover the fundamentals of topics such as bird anatomy, physiology, taxonomy, behaviour, and conservation. It is ideal for students pursuing Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in life sciences, as well as those interested in pursuing ornithology as a career. It is also beneficial to birdwatchers and other enthusiasts in the general public who want to improve their understanding and appreciation of birds.

  • Basic Course in Ornithology
  • Ornithology: Comprehensive Bird Biology

Qualifications to become an Ornithologist

  • Bachelor’s degree in a related field required: To become an ornithologist, you must first complete a bachelor’s degree programme in zoology.
  • Master’s degree and PhD: You can pursue a master’s degree if you want to advance in your field and study more complex data sets, conduct high-level wildlife experiments, or teach others about wildlife behaviour. You can also pursue a PhD after that. Higher-level positions typically require a master’s degree. Most university and research positions require a doctorate.
  • Gain practical experience in a laboratory: Another way to gain hands-on experience studying and caring for birds is to look for internship opportunities where you can learn how to operate in a laboratory. You can help current ornithologists by shadowing them while they perform their duties. This will give you a better understanding of what it’s like to work in that field.

Degrees in India

UG course: The BSc (Hons.) in Zoology is a three-year undergraduate degree programme that studies animals and their parts. The study and investigation of animal life is the focus of this course, with students delving into the cell and molecular structure of various types of animals. This degree can assist students interested in studying animal biology by teaching them about animal life and development, as well as genetic structure and composition.

PG course:

M.Sc Ornithology and Conservation2 years

Degrees Abroad

  • UG degree: To become an ornithologist, you must first complete a bachelor’s degree programme in zoology, ecology, biology, or wildlife biology. These programmes cover topics such as mathematics, statistics, physiology, wildlife management, and animal anatomy. All of these classes should teach you more about studying and caring for various types of wildlife, including birds.
  • PG courses and PhD: A Master’s degree in Master of Science in Biology or Wildlife Biology is sometimes required. A Bachelor of Science degree differs from a Master of Science degree in that, in addition to graduate-level course work, the student completes a research project and presents it verbally and in writing to a committee of professors. This experience provides the student with advanced training in the field of ornithology that is not available through coursework. A PhD is required for ornithologists who want to work in research or academia.
  • Entrance exams: Students must take important international entrance exams such as the SAT, MCAT, LSAT, GMAT, GRE, IELTS, and TOEFL. Clearing these exams is required for admission to universities and colleges in various countries around the world. Clever Harvey’s step-by-step guide to the SAT entrance exam will provide you with all of the necessary information for the SAT exam. Check it out for yourself!

References for an Ornithologist

Here’s a list of some of the best books on birds and ornithology:

  • Flights of Fancy by Richard Dawkins
  • Celebrating Birds by Natalia Rojas and Ana Maria Martinez
  • Florida Scrub-Jay by Mark Jerome Walters
  • The Art of Birds by Jim Miller
  • The Puffin Plan by Stephen W. Kress and Derrick Z. Jackson
  • Birds of Paradise and Bowerbirds by Phil Gregory and Richard Allen
  • Birds of Central America by Andrew Vallely and Dale Dyer
  • Birds of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh
  • Rare Birds of North America
  • Ten Thousand Birds
  • Latin for Bird Lovers
  • Waterfowl of North America, Europe, and Asia
  •  Beaks, Bones, and Birdsongs
  • Birds of the Horn of Africa

An ornithologist must be enthusiastic about birds and nature. Just like the legendary ‘Birdman of India,’ who popularised ornithology in India by helping people understand the importance of birds in our ecosystem. Dr. Salim Ali’s love of birds was so well-known that a cartoon strip once depicted a flock of Siberian cranes flying over the Bharatpur sanctuary, with the leader saying, ‘Come, let’s fly a little low; if we are lucky we may be able to spot Salim Ali!!’ I hope you can do your best for the birds and nature, as Salim Ali did! Best wishes as you pursue a career as an ornithologist!


How do you become an ornithologist?

Ans: The candidate must have a bachelor’s degree in Biology/Zoology/Animal Science, etc. Those who want to work as a researcher or scientist must have a PhD.

What is the salary of ornithologist in India?

Ans: In India, the average annual salary for an ornithologist is ₹8,36,670.

Would you like to be an ornithologist why why not?

Ans: Looking at the results and learning new things will be very interesting, and there will never be a dull moment! To gain a better understanding of what they are working on, ornithologists may need to conduct field research. This could be done to track migration routes, reproduction rates, or habitat requirements.

What is the field of study of an ornithologist?

Ans: Ornithology is a branch of zoology that studies birds. Some ornithologists study birds in order to learn how to protect the environment.

Do ornithologists make good money?

Ans: Yes, an annual average salary for a senior-level ornithologist (8+ years of experience) is ₹10,43,202.

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