Science of Birds – Ornithology

theme_research_egretOrnithology is the science of birds and as such has many practitioners with advanced degrees, numerous universities that offer those degrees, and many organizations and journals that serve to disseminate the information in the field. There are very few universities that offer degrees in ornithology, though. See Careers in Ornithology for detailed information. There are many ornithologists working in the public and private sector, in the field, in museums, and in the lab. If you want to find out more about what professional ornithologists do, some resources are listed below.

Ornithological Journals and Journals of Interest to Ornithologists

Research in Ornithology

Literature and Bibliographies and General Resources
Also see the Ornithological Web Library for a comprehensive list.
Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology
Current Ornithology contents
International Ornithological Congress
Ornithological Bibliographies
Ornithological Collection Catalogs
ORA : Searchable Ornithological Research Archive

Museums (bird collections)
See BirdNet for extensive list of Museums and Ornithological Collections.

Am. Mus. of Natural History Ornithology Dept.
British Museum of Natural History
Chicago Field Museum
Delaware Museum of Natural History
Florida Museum of Natural History
Mich. Museum of Zoology-Bird Division
Museum of Vert. Zool., Berkeley
National Museums of Kenya-Ornithology
National Museum of Natural History/Smithsonian
Pierce Brodkorb Ornithology Collection West. Museum of Vertebrate Zoology
University of Michigan

Weisbaden Museum
A List of Museums that Feature Bird Exhibits


North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory, England. birds research center
North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory, England

There are a number of facilities whose focus is the study of birds.

Research Programs and Observatories
Ornithology Research Links

Referring to the Phylogenetic Tree of the State Birds of the U.S. at the top of the page: The roster of official U.S. state birds is composed of 27 species, belonging to 8 orders. The majority (16) are Passeriformes, everything from the American robin to Oklahoma’s scissor-tailed flycatcher, and I’ve placed these at the top of the tree.

The middle of the tree is occupied by 5 additional orders. Each is represented by a single species, and positioned to reflect increasing phylogenetic distance from the Passeriformes: Piciformes (Alabama’s Northern flicker), Charadriiformes (Utah’s California gull), Gaviiformes (Minnesota’s common loon), Pelecaniformes (Louisiana’s brown pelican), and Cuculiformes (New Mexico’s greater roadrunner).

Six additional state birds are Galliformes. These include two varieties of the domestic chicken, the Delaware Blue Hen and the Rhode Island Red, together with one pheasant, one grouse, one ptarmigan, and one quail. The sole Anseriformes, the Hawaii nene, a goose, is an evolutionary cousin of the Galliformes, and with them comprises a clade at the bottom of the tree.

To build this tree, I relied upon divergence time estimates from Time The tree’s root is positioned 98 million years in the past (i.e., the mid-Cretaceous), and branch lengths are proportional to time.

One of the great joys of this tree is that it brings together geographically distant regions in unexpected ways. For example, the ruffed grouse of Pennsylvania and the willow ptarmigan of Alaska are evolutionary cousins. So are the state birds of South Carolina and Arizona. Look carefully, and perhaps you’ll discover some intriguing juxtapositions of your own – Rachel Rodman

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