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.

Regional

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

Millions of songbirds that breed across North America converge on a tiny region of Colombia called the Darién during their migration each year, as shown by research recently published in The Condor. This is what the researchers call a migratory Plenty of studies, especially in “birdy” places like shade-grown coffee farms, have shown that birds can provide an economically valuable service to farmers by eating pest insects. But what about in the huge swathes of farmland that cover much of the U.S.? To find out, the researchers behind a recent study in The Condor set up mesh “exclosures” over corn and soybean plants to see how keeping out birds but not insects would affect crops' success. They found that birds had a positive effect on corn crop yield, but a negative effect on soybean crop yield in the adjacent field. For the many farmers that use a corn-corn-soybean rotation schedule, this may suggest economic gain in the long run. Photos by Daryl Coldren and Megan Garfinkel. #ornithology #birds #wildlife #ecology #conservation #science #agriculture #midwestThe sunbirds are a group of nectar-eating songbirds from Africa and Asia that are a sort of Old World counterpart of hummingbirds. A recent paper in The Condor offered a new reason to prioritize sunbird conservation beyond just At Michigan State I teach two courses, Ecology and Tropical Biology. Each fall during the Tropical Biology course we have a “Tropical Thanksgiving.” Each group of students is assigned a plant family with a distribution primarily in the tropics, and students need to uncover a species in the plant family that humans eat. Then they bring in a dish prepared with that species, like pineapple upside down cake, brownies, or banana cream pie. Our Tropical Thanksgivings tend to be heavy on desserts! #ecology #tropicalecology #tropicalbiology #ethnobotany #botany #plantbiology #thanksgiving
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[Thanks, Catherine! If YOU are an AOS member and would like to be featured here for a week, please get in touch.]We have worked in Panama and Costa Rica in areas undergoing forest restoration. Birds play vital roles in restoration systems by consuming insects that can damage young trees. They also disperse seeds of plants and provide pollination services. Tropical birds are also just cool! Photo credits include Sean Williams. #ornithology #wildlife #science #birds #ecology #conservation #restoration #neotropicalbirds
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[Our thanks to Catherine Lindell, Editor-in-Chief of AOS journal The Condor: Ornithological Applications, who's taking over this account for the week!]We have investigated a number of tactics to deter pest birds in orchards. Inflatable tube-men appear effective in some contexts, if farmers move them around and use enough of them. We have had mixed results with drones; some models and some flight trajectories are likely to be more effective than others in deterring crop-eating birds. Photo credits include Shayna Wiefrich and Ben Hawes. #ornithology #birds #wildlife #science #agriculture #orchards #womeninstem
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[Our thanks to Catherine Lindell, Editor-in-Chief of AOS journal The Condor: Ornithological Applications, who's taking over this account for the week!]We recently investigated the roles American Kestrels can play in pest management in fruit-production systems. Working with famers in Michigan, we built and installed kestrel nest boxes in sweet cherry orchards. While kestrels nest in the boxes, they provision their young with arthropods, mammals, and birds that consume the cherries. Kestrels also reduce fruit-eating bird activity in the orchards with their presence. Photo credits include Amanda LaFay and Craig Sklarczyk. #ornithology #birds #wildlife #science #raptors #kestrels #orchards #ecology #womeninstem
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[Our thanks to Catherine Lindell, Editor-in-Chief of AOS journal The Condor: Ornithological Applications, who's taking over this account for the week!]
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