historical photo of a group of ornithologists

People who study birds have made fundamental contributions to our understanding of almost every biological phenomenon, as well as contributing to our basic knowledge of the biology of hundreds of bird species.

On this page we provide links to a wide variety of information about many of these women and men who have studied birds, from personal autobiographies and learned biographies to memorial tributes and, occasionally, stories of adventure in field and laboratory.

A few prominent ornithologists have been the subject of books chronicling their lives and work, mainly by biographers but sometimes by the ornithologists themselves. These are listed here in alphabetical order by the last name of the ornithologist rather than the book’s author.


Nowak E (2005). Wissenschaftler in turbulenten Zeiten. Erinnerungen an Ornithologen, Naturschützer und andere Naturkundler. Stock und Stein: Schwerin. Personal memories and biographical details of around fifty mid–20th century European ornithologists active during the Second World War and the subsequent twenty–five years.

Neumann J, et al. (2010). Lebensbilder sächsischer Ornithologen. Mitt. Ver. Sächs. Ornithol. [Mitteilungen des Vereins Sächsischer Ornithologen] 10, Sonderheft 3. Hohenstein–Ernstthal.] Detailed biographies of all known ornithologists in Saxony, Germany.

Charles Darwin

Beer GD (1974) Charles Darwin; Thomas Henry Huxley: autobiographies. Oxford University Press, London.

Browne J (1995) Charles Darwin, Voyaging. Pimlico, London.

Peter and Rosemary Grant

Weiner J (1994) The Beak of the Finch. Alfred Knopf, New York.

David Lack

Anderson T (2013) The Life of David Lack: Father of Evolutionary Ecology. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Konrad Lorenz

Greenstein E (2010) The Goose Man: The Story of Konrad Lorenz. Clarion Books

Nisbett A (1997) Konrad Lorenz. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Burkhardt R (2005) Patterns of Behavior: Konrad Lorenz, Niko Tinbergen, and the Founding of Ethology. University Of Chicago Press, Chicago

Ernst Mayr

Haffer J (1997) “We Must Lead the Way on New Paths”: The Work and Correspondence of Hartert, Stresemann and Ernst Mayr–International Ornithologists. Ludwigsburg, Germany: Jochen Hölzinger.

Haffer J (2008) Ornithology, Evolution, and Philosophy: The Life and Science of Ernst Mayr, 1904-2005. Springer-Verlag, Berlin

Margaret Morse Nice

Nice MM (1979) Research is a Passion With Me. Consolidated Amethyst Publications, Toronto.

Richard Meinertzhagen

Garfield B (2007) The Meinertzhagen Mystery: The Life and Legend of a Colossal Fraud. Potomac Books Inc, Washington, DC.

Roger Tory Peterson

Carlson D (2012) Roger Tory Peterson: A Biography. University of Texas Press, Austin, TX.

Rosenthal E (2010) Birdwatcher: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson. Lyons Press, Guilford, CT.

Niko Tinbergen

Kruuk H (2003) Niko’s Nature: The Life of Niko Tinbergen and His Science of Animal Behaviour. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Burkhardt R (2005) Patterns of Behavior: Konrad Lorenz, Niko Tinbergen, and the Founding of Ethology. University Of Chicago Press

David Wingate

Gehrman E (2012) Rare Birds: The Extraordinary Tale of the Bermuda Petrel and the Man Who Brought It Back from Extinction. Beacon Press, Boston, MA.

    From the field

    Do you want to help shape the future of AOS? Consider running for a spot on the AOS Council! Here's what current Elective Councilor Lauryn Benedict has to say about her experience so far. Nominations are due November 29, and you can find more details at the link in our profile!Climate change means spring is arriving earlier in the Arctic, but not all Arctic-breeding geese are affected the same way — some (such as the Barnacle Goose pictured here) successfully produce more offspring in years with earlier springs, but some produce fewer. New research published in The Auk suggests that this is because timing of spring has different effects on two different stages of the breeding cycle: the pre-laying, laying, and nesting phase, and the hatchling, fledgling, and juvenile phase. When snow melts earlier, more geese initiate a nest, their clutch size is larger, and the chance that the eggs will hatch increases. However, the second stage (hatchling, fledgling, and juvenile) is negatively affected by earlier springs, because food quality is already declining by the time the eggs hatch, creating a trophic mismatch. Photo by Michiel Boom. #ornithology #science #nature #wildlife #birds #geese #conservation #ecology #climatechange #arcticDo you want to help shape the future of AOS? Consider running for a spot on the AOS Council! Here's what current President-Elect Tom Sherry has to say about his experience so far. Nominations are due November 29!Thanks for letting me take over the AOS Instagram for a week! I hope I’ve given a good glimpse into my research and experiences. For all of the undergraduate ornithologists out there, I encourage you to strive for new horizons in your research! I plan on beginning a Master’s or PhD program in the fall of 2020 to continue my studies in ornithology. My future research interests include studying the genomic, behavioral, spatial, and morphological effects of hybridization and the formation of hybrid zones. #ornithology #science #wildlife #biology #birds #dogsofinstagram #womeninstem
[Thanks, Angelica! If YOU are an AOS member and would like to be featured here for a week, please get in touch.]As a lover of the outdoors, I find myself looking for new experiences wherever I can. In the summer of 2018, I took part in a study-abroad intensive led by Dr. McRae and Dr. Kyle Summers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. I engaged in daily and nightly hikes through Pipeline Road and Barro Colorado Island and conversed with the resident scientists about their current studies and long-term research goals on Barro Colorado Island. My experiences in the rainforest encouraged me to pursue work in wildlife biology and conservation. #science #conservation #biology #wildlife #ecology #panama #womeninstem #ornithology
[Our thanks to AOS member Angelica Reed (@angelicanreed), who's taking over this account for the week!]I began conducting field research in 2017. Since then, I’ve developed valuable skills and knowledge needed for working safely and effectively in the field, both with others and on my own. I’ve found that I’m never quite finished learning from the people and birds that I work with! Both photos belong to Dr. Susan B. McRae. #ornithology #birds #science #wildlife #bluebirds #womeninstem
[Our thanks to AOS member Angelica Reed (@angelicanreed), who's taking over this account for the week!]As an undergraduate research assistant, I conduct routine nest checks of bluebird boxes. I enjoy watching the parents build nests through my binoculars! My thesis work investigates factors that affect nest size variation in a specific population of Eastern Bluebirds. I’ve found that the weights of the nests they build are positively correlated to mean daily maximum temperatures within boxes during the incubation period. I gave a poster presentation of my senior thesis work at the 2019 conference in Anchorage last summer! #AOSMember #ornithology #science #birds #wildlife #bluebirds #womeninstem
[Our thanks to AOS member Angelica Reed (@angelicanreed), who's taking over this account for the week!]
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