Ten Thousand Birds
by Tim Birkhead, Jo Wimpenny & Bob Montgomerie
This book 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. Begins 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 1900's pioneering individuals such as Erwin Stresemann, Ernst Mayr, and Julian Huxley recognised 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.