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The History of British Birds

By: Derek W Yalden (Author), Umberto Albarella (Author)

263 pages, Figs, tabs

Oxford University Press

Paperback | Nov 2009 | #180932 | ISBN-13: 9780199581160
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £37.99 $46/€43 approx
Hardback | Nov 2008 | #174989 | ISBN-13: 9780199217519
Availability: Usually dispatched within 2-3 weeks Details
NHBS Price: £84.99 $104/€96 approx

About this book

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 History of British Birds 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 elsewhere 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 volume looks set to become the best modern reference for anyone wishing to know about the rich history of the British avifauna [...] It is both readable and engaging."

"This book is well furnished with tables and distribution maps [...] i did learn much from it."
Scottish Birds

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

"The book is well produced and [...] should form part of any serious ornithologist's library."
– British Ornithologists' Union

"[...] this volume looks set to become the best modern reference for anyone wishing to know about the rich history of the British avifauna [...] it is both readable and engaging"
Birdwatch Magazine



1. The Bird in the Hand.
2. The Early History of Birds in Britain and Europe
3. Coming in from the Cold
4. Farmland and Fenland
5. Veni, Vidi, Vici
6. Monks, Monarchs and Mysteries
7. From Elizabeth to Victoria
8. Now and Hereafter

Appendix - An annotated historical list of British birds

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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, summarised 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.

Umberto Albarella is based in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Sheffield. He specialises in the study of animal bones (zooarchaeology), but his research is wide-ranging and strongly oriented towards the integration of different aspects of archaeology.

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