"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.
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