The History of British Birds

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The History of British Birds reviews our knowledge of avifaunal history over the last 15,000 years, setting it in its wider historical and European context. The authors, one an ornithologist the other an archaeologist, integrate a wealth of archaeological data to illuminate and enliven the story, indicating the extent to which climatic, agricultural, and social changes have affected the avifauna. They discuss its present balance, as well as predicting possible future changes.

It is a popular misconception that bird bones are rarely preserved (compared with mammals), and cannot be reliably identified when they are found. The book explores both these contentions, armed with a database of 9,000 records of birds that have been identified on archaeological sites. Most are in England, but sites else-where in Great Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Isles are included.

Britain's most numerous bird is also the most widespread in the archaeological record, but some of the more charismatic species also have a rich historical pedigree. For example, we can say quite a lot about the history of the Crane, Red Kite, White-tailed Eagle, and Great Auk. The history of many introduced domestic species can also be illuminated. Even so, there remain uncertainties, posed by difficulties of dating or identification, the vagaries of the archaeological record, or the ecological specialities of the birds themselves. These issues are highlighted, thus posing research questions for others to answer.

This authoritative reference work will be of particular relevance to students and researchers in the fields of archaeology and avian biology, as well as a broader audience of general ornithologists and natural historians.

And the Commonest British bird, then and now? Buy the book and read on...

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Alden and Albarella undertook a very ambitious project in writing this book, which is nothing less than a comprehensive history of the avifauna of the British Isles from the Mesozoic to the present. This volume is a remarkable effort and can be strongly recommended to anyone interested in the faunal history of the British Isles or the Western Palearctic in general."—Auk

"Highly recommended. This specialized work will be a valuable resource for advanced students interested in avian population biology, ornithology, anthropology, paleontology, and especially avian zooarchaeology."—Choice

"The History of British Birds is a fine piece of scholarship by leading experts on the prehistory and preliterate past of Britain's avifauna. A rare insight into how bird populations might have stood before the pervasive influence of humankind."—Birding

"Far and away the most comprehensive set of records to date. A fascinating book."—British Trust for Orinthology News

"The volume scores highly for both the depth and breadth of the information included: the often 'obscure and scattered' (p. 1) authors' words, but from personal experience I would strongly concur documentation available from archeological investigations has been seemingly exhaustively assembled, and an array of ancillary information from sources such as place names carefully integrated with it." — Quarterly Review of Biology

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199581160
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 1/18/2010
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.60 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Derek Yalden retired from Manchester University after 40 years of teaching vertebrate zoology in September 2005. His is the author/co-author of over 200 scientific publications. He has worked on birds and mammals in the Peak District, including long-term population studies of Common Sandpipers and Golden Plovers, and on the mammals of Ethiopia, with two species - Leptopelis yaldeni (tree-frog) and Desmomys yaldeni (rat) - named in his honour. His interest in history of the British fauna dates back to undergraduate lectures on Pleistocene mammals, summarized in reviews, papers and The History of British Mammals (1999). Derek is currently the President of the Mammal Society, and was Editor of their publication Mammal Review for 22 years.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 The bird in the hand... 3

Identifying bird bones 3

What to identify? 3

Problems of identification 10

Problems of dating 17

Sources of bones 21

Conclusions 23

2 The early history of birds in Britain and Europe 25

Archaeopteryx 25

Cretaceous birds 25

Cretaceous-Tretiary transition 29

Tertiary birds 31

Pleistocene birds 33

The Last Glaciation 37

Continental Europe 39

Conclusions 47

3 Coming in from the cold 49

Late Glacial birds 50

Younger Dryas 55

Mesolithic birds 56

Reconctructing the Mesolithic bird fauna 60

Birds of open country 68

Conclusions 70

4 Farmland and fenland 73

Neolithic birds 73

Bronze Age 78

Fenland 79

Conclusions 92

5 Veni, Vidi, Vici 95

Iron Age Britian 95

Early domestication 97

Domestic Fowl 97

Domestic geese 102

Domestic Duck 104

Domestic Dove 105

Other Roman introductions 106

Wild birds in Roman Britain 108

Conclusions 113

6 Monks, monarchs, and mysteries 115

Birds in placenames 115

Archeological Saxon birds 130

Norman birds - castles, feasts, and falconry 134

Falconry in archaelogy 135

Cranes, Ernes, Brewes, and other Mediaeval birds 139

Birds in early literature and art 149

Conclusions 151

7 From Elizabeth to Victoria 153

Assembling a list of British birds 153

Birds lost and gained 159

Great Bustard 163

Great Auk 167

Capercaillie 170

Raptors 170

Conclusions 174

8 Now and hereafter 175

Birds in the twentieth century 175

Changing attitudes 176

The balance of the bird fauna now 180

The bird fauna in the future 188

The future of predators 197

Appendix 203

References 231

Index 257

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