Ten Thousand Birds provides a thoroughly engaging and authoritative history of modern ornithology, tracing how the study of birds has been shaped by a succession of visionary and often-controversial personalities, and by the unique social and scientific contexts in which these extraordinary individuals worked. This beautifully illustrated book opens in the middle of the nineteenth century when ornithology was a museum-based discipline focused almost exclusively on the anatomy, taxonomy, and classification of dead birds. It describes how in the early 1900s pioneering individuals such as Erwin Stresemann, Ernst Mayr, and Julian Huxley recognized the importance of studying live birds in the field, and how this shift thrust ornithology into the mainstream of the biological sciences. The book tells the stories of eccentrics like Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen, a pathological liar who stole specimens from museums and quite likely murdered his wife, and describes the breathtaking insights and discoveries of ambitious and influential figures such as David Lack, Niko Tinbergen, Robert MacArthur, and others who through their studies of birds transformed entire fields of biology.
Ten Thousand Birds brings this history vividly to life through the work and achievements of those who advanced the field. Drawing on a wealth of archival material and in-depth interviews, this fascinating book reveals how research on birds has contributed more to our understanding of animal biology than the study of just about any other group of organisms.
Tim Birkhead is professor of zoology at the University of Sheffield, where he teaches and conducts research on the behavioral ecology of birds with particular focus on reproduction. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of London and his books include The Wisdom of Birds and Bird Sense. Jo Wimpenny was a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Sheffield during the writing of this book. Bob Montgomerie is professor of biology at Queen’s University in Ontario, where he studies the evolution of plumage colors and sexual behavior in birds.
"A definitive, accessible and sumptuously illustrated primer of biological theory past and present. . . . An inspiring and formidable resource for the historian as well as the fledgling scientist."--Helen Macdonald, Times Literary Supplement
"Compulsively readable."--Ben Sheldon, Nature
"An excellent history of the study of birds in modern times."--Matt Merritt, Bird Watching
"'Hugely impressive' it truly is and it deserves the widest audience."--Bo Beolens, Fatbirder
"A riveting, entertaining, enlightening and frequently inspirational read. . . . I imagine that Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin is a book which will be bought by every professional or amateur ornithologist the world over. Almost certainly it will be on a wish list of many, many amateur and professional naturalists, whether their specialty is birds, bees, butterflies or other more esoteric disciplines."--Phil Slade, Another Bird Blog
"Lovingly well-researched and beautifully written. . . . Definitive, absorbing and highly recommended."--Adrian Barnett, New Scientist
"The authors have walked that fine line between superb research and scientific context, and making their work palpable for mere humans. This a book for the ornithologists obviously, but also for all scientists, for teachers, and even the adventurous. It's for biographers, editors, and writers. Serious readers will also probably enjoy this too."--Alan Speakman, eBirdseed.com
Table of Contents:
Chapter 1 Yesterday's Birds 1
Chapter 2 The Origin and Diversification of Species 43
Chapter 3 Birds on the Tree of Life 75
Chapter 4 Ebb and Flow 117
Chapter 5 Ecological Adaptations for Breeding 161
Chapter 6 Form and Function 201
Chapter 7 The Study of Instinct 245
Chapter 8 Behavior as Adaptation 287
Chapter 9 Selection in Relation to Sex 323
Chapter 10 Population Studies of Birds 355
Chapter 11 Tomorrow's Birds 389
Appendix 1: Some Histories of Ornithology 431
Appendix 2: Five Hundred Ornithologists 434
Image Credits 519
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L. Barnett illus.
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