Brazilian ornithology: History and current trends

Maria Alice S. Alves, José Maria Cardoso Da Silva, Erli Schneider Costa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The development of Brazilian ornithology can be divided into three phases: foreigner expeditions (1500 to mid-XIX century), the natural history museums (mid-XIX century to 1970s), and the modern phase (since 1970), when researchers associated to universities became the majority. The first phase was characterized by the presence of foreign naturalists (mostly Europeans) that collected a great number of specimens and information on the Brazilian avifauna. All these information was deposited in foreign museums. During the second phase, most of the scientific work was conducted in natural history museums, institutions created in the large and developed Brazilians cities with European institutions as models. The research focus was mostly on taxonomy and geographic distribution of species. The natural history museums lacked the tradition of investing in the formation of human resources and new generations of ornithologists. The third phase started in the 1970s, and was characterized by the dominance of research conducted within the ever-growing system of public and private universities. The initial focus in universities was research on species and community ecology. The shift from museums to universities allowed the development of many new research groups, allowing young Brazilian ornithologists to receive formal training in ornithology. Currently, new ornithologists are formed in several graduate programs in zoology, ecology, genetics, and general biology. A simple analysis of abstracts presented in the Brazilian Ornithological Congress (regularly uphold by the Brazilian Ornithological Society) indicated a clear trend towards quantitative rather than qualitative studies. In addition, the number of studies in ecology and behavior is high compared to other topics. One of the major challenges of current Brazilian ornithology is to integrate information collected by natural history museums, universities, research institutes, governmental and non-governmental organizations to expand the theoretical knowledge on birds, opening new venues of innovative research as well as developing new approaches for the conservation of the rich Brazilian avifauna.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)391-399
Number of pages9
JournalOrnitologia Neotropical
Issue numberSUPPL.
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Birds
  • Brazil
  • History
  • Museums
  • Ornithology
  • Universities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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