Ruby-throated Hummingbird
History of Ornithology

History of Ornithology

Peter Bircham


Today the RSPB has over one million members, reflecting the huge interest in birdwatching as a hobby. Over the years the growth in amateur birdwatchers has contributed enormously to our understanding of bird life, behaviour and populations.

But what did we know about birds a thousand years ago and how has our understanding developed? Which species did we recognise, and when did people begin to record their sightings?

Peter Bircham looks at the history of British ornithology from 1066 to the mid-1970s, exploring along the way the first bird book, the first British lists, the collectors, the first studies of migration, changes to the classification of species, the birth of the British Ornithologists' Union in 1858, to our current understanding of ornithology in Britain today. Peter has written an extremely authoritative and engrossing account, full of fascinating stories and extracts from poems and journals, which should appeal to the wider birding community as well as the New Naturalist audience.


Up to the Sixteenth Century

The First Bird Book

The First British List

The Willughby/Ray Ornithology and other Seventeenth Century Works

The Systema naturae: Dawn of a New Age

The First Ornithological Ecologists: White, Jenner and Blackwall

Early Studies of Migration: Legg, Jenner and others

A Dictionary and Two Histories

The Artists and their Avifaunas

Alfred Newton and the Founding of the British Ornithologist's Union.

Theories of Classification, the National Collection and the Catalogue of Birds.

The Twentieth Century: Winds of Change

Recording the Avifauna of Britain

Migration: the Scientific Studies Begin

Plumage, Cages, Eggs and Shooting: The History of Bird Protection.

Behavioural and Ecological Studies

After the War

Post-War Ornithological Research

The British List and Problems with Fraud

New Slants on Old Problems

Appendix: The British List

References and Further Reading

Index 320 pages.

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