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harpyThe history of ornithology is a rich one, populated by interesting characters, adventure, intrigue and discoveries that guided the development of many aspects of biology. Some have argued that the study of birds has contributed as much to the development of biology as has research on virtually any other group of animals or plants, especially with respect to behaviour, ecology, speciation, sexual selection, physiology and systematics.

This site is designed as a guide to that rich history in a readily accessible format—a portal for access to biographies, books, papers and archives where you can explore that history for yourself. The Epilogue in Erwin Stresemann’s (1975) Ornithology: From Aristotle to the Present (Harvard Univ Press) was written by Ernst Mayr with the title “Materials for a History of American Ornithology”. This website is designed to be a modern version of that, but with a worldwide scope.

This website and blog is produced by the AOS HISTORY committee. It is very much a work in progress and we welcome your suggestions for content (via the Contact tab, above). Changes to the site will be highlighted on the blog, which will also have regular postings about topics of interest in the history of ornithology.


IMAGE: Harpy from Ulisse Aldrovandi’s (1642) Monstrorum Historia.  In Greek and Roman mythology the Harpy was a half bird-half human wind spirit.  (SOURCE: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)