Article ID: CBB001421082

Plumed Wonders and Ornithological Passions (2014)


Birds have been investigated in Western science more than any other group of vertebrates. This is partly for practical reasons, such as the relatively manageable numbers of avian species and their vast potential for experimental work. Just as important, however, is the hold that they have had over numerous generations of naturalists, demonstrated by the myriad published accounts of birds, their biology and of those who have studied them (Birkhead et al., 2014, p. 425). The dramatic visual signals that birds use in competition for mates are the same colourful plumes and displays that draw the human eye, and the finely-tuned complexity of their feather-light forms and behavioural traits have made birds a enduring passion for numerous people. Any account of the ornithological developments over the past 500 years cannot escape the role of the aesthetic pleasure that birds provide in motivating these investigations. This is self evident in Drawn from paradise, a portrayal of how the birds of paradise have been studied and depicted since the arrival of the first bird of paradise trade skins in Europe in 1522. It also an undercurrent in Ten thousand birds, the study of the development of major ornithological ideas from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day, in which very human obsessions and passions play just as great a role as intellectual genius and the hard graft of experimental work. These two books speak to different audiences and portray both birds and ornithology in very different ways, but share the sense of the enduring human infatuation with bird life.

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Authors & Contributors
Fischer, Dan
Allen, Francis H.
Thoreau, Henry David
Hay, John
Wilson, Robert M.
Seitz, J.
Archives of Natural History
Environmental History
Scientia Canadensis: Journal of the History of Canadian Science, Technology, and Medicine
British Journal for the History of Science
University of Texas Press
University of Arizona Press
University of California Press
Princeton University Press
University of Pennsylvania
Animal behavior
Natural history
Coues, Elliott
Thoreau, Henry David
Peterson, Roger Tory
Callister, Henry
Brooks, Allan Cyril
Pennant, Thomas
United States
New England (U.S.)
Maryland (U.S.)
New Zealand
20th century
19th century
18th century
20th century, early
Early modern
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)

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