Technical Assistant (m/f/d) | Behavioural work and chick rearing

Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Seewiesen

Type of Job

Young Researchers

Behavioral Sciences Microbiology & Ecology Neurosciences Physiology

Job Code: ORNI_W

Job offer from December 20, 2021

Technical Assistant (m/f/d) needed for behavioural work and chick rearing in a captive ruff population at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Seewiesen, Germany.

We are looking for a technical assistant who is interested in avian behaviour and breeding ecology, and wants to gain more bird handling experience. The assistant will support a PhD student and a postdoctoral researcher with their data collection for two research projects on mating behaviour and ontogeny conducted with a captive ruff population at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen.


Ruffs are sexually dimorphic lekking waders with behaviourally diverse male mating strategies making them a classic model organism for evolutionary and behavioural biologists alike. Ruff males have three Alternative Reproductive Tactics (ARTs), which differ in morphology and reproductive behaviour. Our lab tries to understand the evolutionary and behavioural mechanisms that operate to maintain these distinct ARTs. During the breeding season we will study the cooperative behaviour between male morphs during courtship and characterise the morphological and behavioural development of chicks during the first months of their lives.


All methods have been established and previously tested. From beginning of May until Mid-June the mate choice experiments take place. Details of the experiments have been pre-registered.

In brief, experiments will be run two times a day, every day for about 6 weeks. The first daily session will last from 5:30am to 10:00am and the second one from 6pm to 8pm. The research assistant will help catching and releasing birds for these experiments. The exact schedule will be determined in advance. The assistants will also help with some basic maintenance work and egg search in the aviary, although animal care is provided by professional care takers. Furthermore, the assistant will be involved with video coding of behavioural trials, which provides an excellent opportunity to obtain experiences in behaviour coding.

In early June, the first chicks start hatching. From this point on, help with the chick care will take an increasingly large part of the assistant’s work. Precocial ruff chicks are hand raised and regularly monitored to ensure that they learn to feed independently and stay hydrated. Additionally, we regularly weigh chicks’ weight and take morphometrical measures. Also, the assistant will help with a number of behavioural tests (e.g. fledging, precursors of courting behaviour, exploratory and risk taking behaviour) that will take place at regular intervals.

Acquired skills

The assistant will receive training in handling live birds, as well as artificial incubation, chick raising and behavioural testing. Furthermore, they will learn coding with a specific behavioural coding software (BORIS) and gain valuable insights into behavioural analysis of big data sets of complex behaviours.

Required skills

Candidates should be willing to work under variable/flexible schedules. Importantly, they should be meticulous in note taking and data recording. Previous experiences in capturing and handling birds are helpful but not required.

Job details

1st May until 31st July 2022. The position will be fully re-numerated according to TVÖD. Potentially, there is the possibility to follow up this work with a master thesis.


If you are interested or have questions, please contact: Veronika Rohr . When applying please include a short cover letter describing how you meet the position requirements and your CV/resume plus two references.

Deadline for applications is 23rd January 2022

Further information about our research group.

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