Timeline of ornithology

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Egyptian marshland hunting scene 1422–1411 BC

The following is a timeline of ornithology events:

Until 1700[edit]

"Oriental Birds" Adriaen Coorte, 1683
Johann Reinhold Forster and Georg Forster in Tahiti, by John Francis Rigaud (1742–1810), 1780
  • 1500–800 BC – The Vedas mention the habit of brood parasitism in the Asian koel (Eudynamys scolopacea).[1]
  • 4th century BC – Aristotle mentions over 170 sorts of birds in his work on animals. He recognises eight principal groups.
  • 3rd century BC – The Erya, a Chinese encyclopedia comprising glosses on passages in ancient texts, notably the Book of Songs, features 79 entries in its chapter "Describing Birds"
  • 1st century AD – Pliny the Elder's Historia Naturalis Book X is devoted to birds. Three groups based on characteristics of feet
  • 2nd century AD – Aelian mentions a number of birds in his work on animals. Birds are listed alphabetically
  • 1037 Death of Abu ‘Ali al-Husayn ibn Abd Allah ibn Sina (known as Avicenna in Latin) author of Abbreviatio de animalibus, a homage to Aristotle
  • 1220 – Books on birds and other animals by Aristotle and Avicenna translated into Latin for the first time by Michael Scot
  • 1250 – Death of Frederick II von Hohenstaufen, Holy Roman Emperor, and author of de Arte Venandi cum Avibus ("concerning the art of hunting with birds") that describes the first manipulative experiments in ornithology and the methods of falconry
  • 1478 – De Avibus by Albertus Magnus is printed, which mentions many bird names for the first time
  • 1485 – First dated copy of Ortus sanitatis by Johannes de Cuba
  • 1544 – William Turner prints a commentary on the birds mentioned by Aristotle and Pliny
  • 1555 – Conrad Gessner's Historic Animalium qui est de Auium natura and Pierre Belon's (Bellonius) Histoire de la nature des Oyseaux. Belon lists birds according to a definite system
  • 1573 – Volcher Coiter publishes his first treatise on bird anatomy
  • 1591 – Joris Hoefnagel starts to work for Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor and produces for him 90 oil-base paintings, of which one is of the dodo.
  • 1596 – The Compendium of Chinese Materia Medica by Li Shizhen includes a total of 77 species of bird.
  • 1600 – Beginning of the publication of the works of Ulisse Aldrovandi on birds.
  • 1603 – Caspar Schwenckfeld publishes the first regional fauna of Europe: Therio-tropheum Silesiae.
  • 1605 – Clusius publishes Exoticorum libri decem ("Ten books of exotics") in which he describes many new exotic species.
  • 1609 – The illustrated Sancai Tuhui, a Chinese encyclopedia by Wang Qi & Wang Siyi, lists a total of 113 species of bird.
  • 1638 – Georg Marcgraf begins a voyage to Brazil where he studies the fauna and flora.
  • 1652 – Leopoldina founded in the Holy Roman Empire. It is the oldest continuously existing learned society in the world.
  • 1655 – Ole Worm collects a famous cabinet of curiosities whose illustrated inventory appears in 1655, Museum Wormianum. This collection comprises many birds but the techniques of conservation are not successful and they are quickly destroyed by insects.
  • 1657 – Publication of Historiae naturalis de avibus by John Jonston.
  • 1667 – Christopher Merrett publishes the first fauna of Great Britain, followed two years later by that of Walter Charleton.
  • 1676 – Publication of Francis Willughby's Ornithologia by his collaborator John Ray. This is considered the beginning of scientific ornithology in Europe, revolutionizing ornithological taxonomy by organizing species according to their physical characteristics
  • 1681 – The last dodo dies on the island of Mauritius

18th century[edit]

James Cook's second voyage of exploration in the Pacific. The Resolution and Adventure with fishing craft in Matavai Bay, Tahiti.

19th century[edit]

  • 1800–1804 – "Le Geographe" and "Le Naturaliste" leave France for the Pacific Ocean under the overall command of Nicolas Baudin. The naturalists on board made a collection of over 100,000 zoological specimens. Many bird species will be described by Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot and published in Nouveau dictionnaire d'histoire naturelle (1816–1819).
  • 1800–1817 – Johann Conrad Susemihl publishes a 22-part survey of the birds of Germany, Teutsche Ornithologie oder Naturgeschichte aller Vögel Teutschlands in naturgetreuen Abbildungen und Beschreibungen.
Plate by Johann Conrad Susemihl from the natural history series "Allgemeine Naturgeschichte für alle Stände" by Lorenz Oken (1779–1851)
Zenaida dove Birds of America John James Audubon, 1827–1838
"Psittacara patagonica Patagonian Parrakeet-Maccaw" in Illustrations of the Family of the Psittacidae, or Parrots, by Edward Lear, 1832


Yellow-headed fan-tailed warbler Cisticola exilis tytleri from The Fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. 2nd edition, 1924
  • 1922 – Foundation of the International Council for Bird Preservation (now BirdLife International)
  • 1922 – Publication of John Charles Phillips's A Natural History of the Ducks, which provides maps of the known breeding and wintering distributions of ducks throughout the world
  • 1922 William Rowan tests the effect of photoperiodism on the size of gonads in birds
  • 1925 – Perrine Millais Moncrieff publishes a field guide New Zealand Birds and How to Identify Them.
  • 1927 – Frédéric Courtois publishes Les oiseaux du musée de Zi-Kia-Wei
  • 1928 – Ernst Mayr leads the first of three expeditions to New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, during which he discovers many new species
  • 1929 – Conte Arrigoni degli Oddi publishes Ornitologia Italiana.
  • 1929 – Friedrich von Lucanus publishes Zugvögel und Vogelzug (Migratory birds and bird migration)
  • 1930 – Alexander Wetmore publishes his Systematic Classification
  • 1931 – Ernst Schüz and Hugo Weigold publish Atlas des Vogelzuges, the first atlas of bird migration


  • 1950 – Rocket nets developed by the Wildfowl Trust for catching geese
  • 1950 – Willi Hennig publishes Grundzüge einer Theorie der phylogenetischen Systematik (Basic outline of a theory of phylogenetic systematics). This work, at first obscure and controversial, founds cladistics and is mainstream by 1980.
  • 1951–1954 – The six volume Birds of the Soviet Union by GP Dementev and NA Gladkov published
  • 1953 – Niko Tinbergen publishes The Herring Gull's World
  • 1953 – Ornithologist Olivier Messiaen composes the orchestral work Réveil des oiseaux—based on birdsong in the Jura Mountains.
  • 1954 – Protection of Birds Act 1954 in the UK prohibits the collection of birds' eggs
  • 1954 – The Heinz Sielmann film Zimmerleute des Waldes[5] (Carpenters of the forest) shown on UK television with the title Woodpecker. It was a huge success.
  • 1954 – First edition of Avian Physiology published by Paul D. Sturkie. The work related mainly to domestic birds and especially poultry, but later editions of the work, now titled Sturkie's Avian Physiology include studies of wild birds.
  • 1954 – Arthur Cain refers to the "circular overlaps" of Mayr (1942) as ring species in Animal species and evolution'
  • 1954 – Richard Meinertzhagen publishes Birds of Arabia based on the work of George Latimer Bates
  • 1956 – First use of mist nets (invented in Japan) in the UK to trap birds
  • 1957 – Frances and Frederick Hamerstrom publish Guide to Prairie Chicken Management. The ecological scatter pattern approach has broad significance in bird habitat conservation
  • 1957 – G. Evelyn Hutchinson develops the niche concept
  • 1959 – Charles Vaurie publishes The Birds of the Palearctic Fauna: a Systematic Reference
  • 1959 – Humphrey-Parkes terminology for the description of plumage introduced
  • 1960 – Max Schönwetter dies. His monumental Handbuch der Oologie is taken over by Wilhelm Meise
  • 1961 – Nature photographer Sakae Tamura publishes Tamagawa no tori, (Birds of River Tama, Tokyo)
  • 1961 – Eric Hosking publishes Bird Photography as a Hobby, popularising bird photography.
  • 1961 – William Homan Thorpe publishes Bird-Song. The biology of vocal communication and expression in birds pioneering the use of sound spectrography in bird studies.
  • 1962 – Rachel Carson publishes Silent Spring, describing the ecological dangers of pesticides.
  • 1963 (−1968) David Armitage Bannerman begins publication of The Birds of the Atlantic Islands
  • 1964 – The relationship between birds and dinosaurs is re-examined in what becomes known as the dinosaur renaissance
  • 1967 – Publication of Radar Ornithology by Eric Eastwood
  • 1967 – Edward O. Wilson and Robert H. MacArthur publish The Theory of Island Biogeography
  • 1967 – Birds of prey aviary opens at Zoo de La Flèche
  • 1968–1972 – First national breeding bird atlas project conducted in Britain and Ireland
  • 1969 – Robert T. Paine first uses the term keystone species
  • 1970 – The Atlas of Breeding Birds of the West Midlands by Lord and Munns, based on field work by members of the West Midland Bird Club, published by Collins, is the first to use systematic grid-based method for gathering of information.
  • 1970 – Derek Ratcliffe discovers changes attributable to pesticides in egg breakage frequency and eggshell thickness in some British birds and publishes a paper so titled in the Journal of Applied Ecology
  • 1971–1973 – Hans-Wilhelm Koepcke combines many biological concepts in Die Lebensformen: Grundlagen zu einer universell gültigen biologischen Theorie in English, Life Forms: The basis for a universally valid biological theory. Birds, and Peruvian or South American birds especially figure prominently.
  • 1972–75 – Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia (1967–1972) is translated into English.
  • 1973 – International Crane Foundation founded
  • 1975 – Ramsar Convention (The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat) comes into force.
  • 1975 – Rara aves Elizabeth V. Kozlova publishes The birds of zonal steppes and deserts of Central Asia
  • 1975 – Victor Hasselblad tests the Hasselblad AB 2000 camera at Nidingen, the only place in Sweden where the black-legged kittiwake nests.
  • 1976 – Publication of national bird atlases for Great Britain and Ireland, France and Denmark
  • 1977 – EURING Data Bank (EDB) was established as a central repository for European ringing recovery records.
Bird studies become part of educational programmes in European countries from the 1980s onwards. Here scouts in Spain are being instructed in bird ringing.

21st century[edit]

An unnamed Oviraptor and its nest in Senckenberg Museum
  • 2000 – Harold Lisle Gibbs, Michael D. Sorenson, Karen Marchetti, Nick Davies, M. de L. Brooke and Hiroshi Nakamura provide genetic evidence for female host-specific races of the common cuckoo
  • 2002 – Peter Bennett and Ian Owens publish Evolutionary Ecology of Birds: Life Histories, Mating systems, and Extinction
  • 2003 – Michael D. Sorenson, Elen Oneal, Jaime García-Moreno and David P. Mindell discuss the enigmatic hoatzin without reaching a conclusion in a paper entitled "More Taxa, More Characters: The Hoatzin Problem Is Still Unresolved."
  • 2004 – Thomas J.Hopp and Mark J. discover oviraptorosaur specimens in a nesting position similar to that of modern birds. The arms of these specimens are positioned in such a way that they could perfectly cover their eggs if they had small wings and a substantial covering of feathers.
  • 2004 – Proposal to identify bird species through DNA sequence by Hebert PDN et al.[10] using method termed as DNA barcoding.
  • 2004 – Sandy Podulka, Ronald W. Rohrbaugh, Jr., and Rick Bonney edit second edition of Handbook of Bird Biology.
  • 2005 – Sightings of ivory-billed woodpecker, previously believed extinct.
  • 2005 – Douglas Warrick and his research associates publish Aerodynamics of the hovering hummingbird in Nature.
  • 2005 – Pamela C. Rasmussen and John C. Anderton publish Birds of South Asia. The Ripley Guide
  • 2011 – Longrich and Olson detail wing modifications in the extinct Jamaican flightless ibis and speculate that the wings were used as weapons

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ali, S (1979). Bird study in India: Its history and its importance. Indian Council for Cultural Relations, New Delhi. 
  2. ^ Birds of the Lewis And Clark Expedition
  3. ^ von Helmholtz, Hermann (1873). Uber ein Theorem, geometrisch Ohnliche Bewegungen flussiger Korper betreffend, nebst Anwendung auf das Problem, Luftballons zu lenken. Monatsbericht d. K. Akad. Wissenschaft, Berlin. The law is that the weight of a flying animal is proportional to the cube of its linear dimension and the wing area is proportional to the square of the animals linear dimension, in soaring birds.
  4. ^ Spencer, R. 1985. Marking. In: Campbell. B. & Lack, E. 1985. A dictionary of birds. British Ornithologists' Union. London, pp. 338–341.
  5. ^ Zimmerleute des Waldes on IMDb
  6. ^ Avibase
  7. ^ Hou L, Zhou Z, Martin L, Feduccia A (1995), "A beaked bird from the Jurassic of China", Nature 277:616–618
  8. ^ Chamberlain CP, Blum JD, Holmes RT, Feng X, Sherry TW, Graves GR (1997), "The use of isotope tracers for identifyingpopulations of migratory birds", Oecologia 109:132–141
  9. ^ Piersma T, Gill RE (1998), "Guts don't fly: small digestive organs in obese bar-tailed godwits", Auk 115:196–203
  10. ^ PLoS Biol 2(10): e312


  • Boubier, Maurice. (1925) L’Évolution de l’ornithologie. Nouvelle collection scientifique, Paris.
  • Chansigaud, Valerie. (2010) The History of Ornithology New Holland. ISBN 978-1-84773-433-4 (First published in France in 2007 as Histoire de l'ornithologie)
  • Farber, P. L. (1977) The development of taxidermy and the history of ornithology. Isis 68: 550–566.
  • Gebhardt, Ludwig (2006) Die Ornithologen Mitteleuropas. Aula-Verlag, Wiebelsheim.
  • Haffer J. (2001) Ornithological research traditions in central Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries. Journal of Ornithology 142: 27–93
  • Robin, Libby. (2001) The Flight of the Emu: a hundred years of Australian ornithology 1901–2001. Carlton, Vic. Melbourne University Press.
  • Stresemann, Erwin. (1975) Ornithology: From Aristotle to the Present Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-64485-4 Translation of Erwin Stresemann Entwicklung der Ornithologie 1951.
  • Neotropical Ornithology, Then and Now Digital version of Francois Vuilleumier's History of South American ornithology published in The Auk
  • Roselaar Inventory of Major European Bird Collections

External links[edit]