With more than 10,000 species that vary in size, use diverse habitats that extend across latitudes and altitudes, consume a wide variety of food items, differ in how they fly (or not), communicate, and reproduce, and have different life histories, birds exhibit remarkable variation in form (anatomy) and function (physiology). Our understanding of how natural selection has generated this variation as birds evolved and as different species adapted to their unique circumstances has grown considerably in recent years. In In a Class of Their Own: A Detailed Examination of Avian Forms and Functions, this variation is explained in great detail, beginning with an overview of avian evolution and continuing with information about the structure and function of the avian skeleton, muscles, and the various body systems. Other chapters focus on avian locomotion (including flight), migration, navigation, communication, energy balance and thermoregulation, and various aspects of avian reproduction, such as nests and nest building, clutch sizes, and parental care. In a Class of Their Own: A Detailed Examination of Avian Forms and Functions will be must reading for anyone, professional or non-professional, who need or want to learn more about birds.
Gary Ritchison is a Foundation Professor of Biology at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky, USA. The primary focus of his research has been and is avian behaviour and ecology, with a particular focus on avian parental care and vocal behaviour. He has published over 100 papers and presented the results of his work at numerous scientific meetings. He has also written three books for general audiences about the behaviour and ecology of birds.