|Homepage of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology|
Brief Portrait of the Institute
Birds may be the most attractive species in the world - no other group attracts so many devotees and amateur scientists.
As day active animals, birds are everywhere - and not only on the pavements or in our gardens, but indeed even in Antarctica
or in the middle of the Sahara. For researchers, birds are ideal objects of study for a whole range of fundamental biological questions:
birds are distributed throughout the world; they are abundant in species and rich in adaptation. They share their habitats with humans
more so than any other animal group, which means they act as important biological indicators.
Birdsong has many similarities to human language. It is therefore an interesting model system for study in that it has strongly been shaped
by learning processes. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology not only study the neural basis for learning abilities and
memory both in the motor and sensory areas, they are also trying to discover what role hormones play in the gender-specific differentiation of
the brain area. As a rule, the "vocal control system" is more developed in the forebrain of singing male birds than in the
In addition, Max Planck scientists investigate the various strategies birds use when choosing a partner and in sending out sexual signals.
Next to song, such signals include morphological properties such as body size, colour of plumage, colour of beaks etc. The scientists want
to find out why external characteristics as well as behavioural traits differ from individual to individual, and what mechanisms ensure that
variety is maintained to such a great extent. Since the maintenance of such traits is associated with individual costs, the former should be
translated into an advantage in evolutionary terms for its owner. One fascinating question is therefore what the advantage of
individual uniqueness could be.
Flyer of the Institute
Directors at the Institute
Prof. Dr. Manfred Gahr
Department of Behavioural Neurobiology
Prof. Dr. Bart Kempenaers
Department of Behavioural Ecology and Evolutionary Genetics
Prof. Dr. Martin Wikelski
Department of Migration and Immuno-ecology
Click here for latest informations:
Chair of Ornithology - Prof. Wikelski