Ornithology

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Ornithology (from Greek: ὄρνις, ὄρνιθος, ornis, ornithos, "bird"; and λόγος, logos, "knowledge") is a branch of zoology that concerns the study of birds. Several aspects of ornithology differ from related disciplines, due partly to the high visibility and the aesthetic appeal of birds.[1] Most marked among these is the extent of studies undertaken by amateurs working within the parameters of strict scientific methodology.

The science of ornithology has a long history and studies on birds have helped develop several key concepts in evolution, behaviour and ecology such as the definition of species, the process of speciation, instinct, learning, ecological niches, guilds, island biogeography, phylogeography and conservation.[2] While early ornithology was principally concerned with descriptions and distributions of species, ornithologists today seek answers to very specific questions, often using birds as models to test hypotheses or predictions based on theories. Most modern biological theories apply across taxonomic groups and the number of professional scientists who identify themselves as "ornithologists" has therefore declined.[3] A wide range of tools and techniques are used in ornithology and innovations are constantly made.[4]

Contents

History

The history of ornithology largely reflects the trends in the history of biology. Trends include the move from mere descriptions to the identification of patterns and then towards elucidating the processes that produce the patterns.

Early knowledge and study

Humans must have observed birds from the earliest times, and stone age drawings are among the oldest indications of an interest in birds.[5] Birds were perhaps important as a food source, and bones of as many as 80 species have been found in excavations of early Stone Age settlements.[6][7][8]

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