Max Planck Institute for Ornithology

Research publications

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Research publications 2017

Migration pays off for songbirds

November 21, 2017

Blackbirds that spend the winter in the south are more likely to survive the cold season than their conspecifics in central Europe [more]


Icarus lifts off

October 17, 2017

The Icarus on-board computer, the first component of the global animal observatory system, has gone into space [more]


Bats anticipate optimal weather conditions

September 20, 2017

For the common noctule, wind speed, wind direction and air pressure trigger its set off for its summer territories [more]


Glass fronts can be acoustic illusions for bats

September 07, 2017

Bats fail to detect smooth, vertical surfaces when they are in a rush [more]


Mutation speeds up sperm of zebra finches

July 17, 2017

Gene inversion gives reproductive advantage to zebra finches [more]


Reptile vocalization is surprisingly flexible

May 30, 2017

Phenotypic plasticity of gecko calls reveals the complex communication of lizards [more]


Speed Dating: Promiscuous pectoral sandpipers sample breeding sites along thousands of kilometres

January 09, 2017

The birds have a huge breeding range across the Arctic [more]

Research publications 2016

Snoozing between the skies and Earth

October 14, 2016

A team of scientists headed by Niels Rattenborg from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen has demonstrated, for the first time that birds can fly in sleep mode [more]


Lack of opportunities promotes brood care

October 11, 2016

Female white-browed coucals have to suffice with a single mate [more]


Singing in the flight lane

September 08, 2016

Birds adjust their singing activity around airport noise [more]


The great tit, Parus major, does better in the countryside

August 31, 2016

Birds in urban settings have fewer and smaller offspring than their rural counterparts [more]


First evidence of sleep in flight

August 03, 2016

Birds engage in all types of sleep in flight, but in remarkably small amounts [more]


Great apes communicate cooperatively

May 23, 2016

Gestural communication in bonobos and chimpanzees shows turn-taking and clearly distinguishable communication styles [more]


Competition favours shy tits

March 10, 2016

Explorative great tits have fewer chances to survive in high population densities [more]


Mother-infant communication in chimpanzees

February 25, 2016

Initiation of joint travel in mother-infant dyads is communicated via gestures and vocalisations [more]


No silent night

January 04, 2016

Bats adapt their echolocation calls to noise


Research publications 2015

Lost the beat

December 29, 2015

Mice suffer from a decrease in biological fitness if their internal clock is mixed up [more]


Are females glamorous because males are?

November 04, 2015

Explaining variation in plumage colour of male and female birds [more]


In cordon bleus, song develops independently of sex differences in the brain

November 03, 2015

Singing developes independent from gender differences in the brain [more]


Harmonic pillow talk

October 06, 2015

Zebra finches change their call communication pattern in groups according to their reproductive status [more]


Could a special immune system help protect bats from Ebola?

September 15, 2015

Bats frequently come into contact with infectious diseases, but surprisingly rarely suffer from them [more]


Free mate choice enhances fitness: Zebra finch offspring benefit from love marriages

September 15, 2015

Zebra finches allowed to breed with their preferred partner achieved a 37 percent higher reproductive success compared to pairs that were forced to mate [more]


Song learning in a time lapse

August 26, 2015

Late-hatched canaries learn their songs as well as early-hatched birds [more]


Bold crickets have a shorter life

April 23, 2015

Differences in personality influence survival in field crickets [more]


Artificial night lighting causes birds to sing earlier

March 17, 2015

Light pollution influences the seasonal start of bird vocalisations [more]


Progeny of old parents have fewer offspring

March 09, 2015

Long-term study in house sparrows shows a transgenerational age effect [more]


Mapping of the canary genome

February 04, 2015

Hormone sensitive gene regulation in seasonal singing birds [more]

Research publications 2014

Pair bonding reinforced in the brain

October 28, 2014

Zebra finches use their specialised song system for simple communication [more]


Risky metabolism

September 29, 2014

Risk-taking behaviour depends on metabolic rate and temperature in great tits [more]


Bats use the evening sky’s polarization pattern for orientation

July 22, 2014

Max Planck scientists discover new sensory capability in a mammal [more]


Predators predict longevity of birds

April 29, 2014

Max Planck scientists discover the secret for a long life in birds [more]


Plumes in the sleeping avian brain

March 05, 2014

Brain activity during slow-wave-sleep differs between mammals and birds [more]

Research publications 2013

Hands off – please

November 26, 2013

Friendly information signs reduce vandalism on scientific equipment [more]


Super song learners

October 23, 2013

Researchers uncover a mechanism for improving song learning in juvenile zebra finches [more]


I’m singing in the rainforest

October 16, 2013

Researchers find striking similarities between bird song and human music [more]


Like father, not like son

October 02, 2013

Brain and song structure in zebra finches are strongly influenced by the environment [more]


Baby owls sleep like baby humans

August 02, 2013

Owlets spend more time in REM sleep than adult owls [more]


Fraternal singing in zebra finches

June 12, 2013

Young zebra finches are able to learn their fathers’ song via their brothers [more]


Power struggles are best kept out of the public eye

April 05, 2013

Audiences influence future status of quails following fights between rivals [more]


The evolutionary consequences of infidelity

April 02, 2013

Can extra-pair relationships give rise to sexual dimorphism? [more]


Clamorous city blackbirds

January 11, 2013

Birds can sing louder at higher frequencies and thereby make themselves heard in traffic noise [more]

Research publications 2012

Testosterone regulates solo song of tropical birds

October 31, 2012

Experiment in females uncovers male hormonal mechanism [more]


Cuckolded males sing louder

August 23, 2012

Rock sparrows indicate their age and their reproductive success with their songs and react to infidelity with a higher song volume [more]


You snooze, you lose

August 09, 2012

Less sleep leads to more offspring in male pectoral sandpipers [more]


Caught in the act: Bats use the sound of copulating flies as a cue for foraging

July 23, 2012

Noisy wing movements during mating make flies an easy prey [more]


Thieving rodents as saviours of tropical trees

July 18, 2012

Agoutis disperse tree seeds in the rain forest of Latin America [more]

Research publications 2011

"Look at that!" Ravens use gestures, too

November 29, 2011

Ravens gesture with their beaks to point out objects to each other


Elaborate plumage due to testosterone?

October 19, 2011

In female barred buttonquails high testosterone levels correlate with elaborate plumage and good body condition [more]


Ostriches sleep like platypuses

August 24, 2011

Sleep studies in ostriches uncover the evolution of REM sleep [more]


"Casanova gene" in female songbirds

June 15, 2011

Female zebra finches inherit "infidelity gene" from their fathers [more]


Birdsong independent of brain size

June 11, 2011

Sex difference in the brain varies according to social status [more]


Biodiversity must be restored

May 18, 2011

The global extinction of species is rapidly accelerating. We still have a chance to stop it. But time is of the essence. A simple strategy based on the biotope network model at Lake Constance shows a way out of the biodiversity crisis.


Deep sleep in birds

January 12, 2011

Brain regions sleep more deeply when used more - also in birds [more]

Research publications 2010

Bats have both a magnete and a sun compass

December 15, 2010

On their foraging trips at night bats navigate with the earth's magnetic field and the sunset [more]


Ears tuned to water

November 02, 2010

For a bat’s echolocation system, all smooth horizontal surfaces are water - even when they look, smell and feel differently [more]


Patterns and maintenance of biodiversity

October 18, 2010

Biodiversity is essential for ecosystems to function well and to provide services that are critical for human health, yet it is threatened globally, largely by anthropogenic activity. [more]


No two eggs are the same

October 07, 2010

Arctic migratory birds use different strategies to allocate resources for the upcoming breeding season [more]


Light is the friend of lovers

September 16, 2010

Artificial night lighting affects songbird behaviour and reproduction [more]


Status symbols of House Sparrows

June 04, 2010

High testosterone in house sparrows darkens their bill. [more]


The singing of zebra finches

June 01, 2010

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen measure the electrical signals employed by the neurons of the brain to control singing [more]


Keeping an ear out for kin

May 18, 2010

Communication across species boundaries by echolocation calls in bats [more]


Cuckoo chicks in Zebra finches

April 22, 2010

Eggs from other females can be found in every fifth nest [more]


Long-distance journeys are out of fashion

April 20, 2010

Global warming is causing evolutionary changes in bird migration [more]


After the next sunset, please turn right

March 29, 2010

Bats navigate with the help of the sun [more]


Chubby birds get there faster

February 17, 2010

Heavy migratory birds take shorter breaks and reach their breeding grounds faster [more]


Great tits: birds with character

February 09, 2010

Gene variation is the reason that some great tit populations are more curious than others [more]


Fathers are no role models

January 12, 2010

Female zebra finches do not only differ in the way they chose their mate but also in their preference for a partner [more]

Research publications 2009

Great Tits eat bats in times of need

September 25, 2009

During harsh winters, Great Tits extend their menu options to include bats [more]


A bad performance is better than no performance at all

May 27, 2009

Canaries that hear poor songs as juveniles nevertheless sing rather normal songs as adults [more]


Housing shortage alters reproductive behaviour in blue tits

March 05, 2009

Max Planck researchers manipulate the density of nest boxes and investigate the impact on breeding performance [more]

Research publications 2008

Females compensate for unattractive partners

November 10, 2008

Female zebra finches invest a lot of energy in the quality of their eggs - especially if the male has deficiencies [more]


Do birds have a good sense of smell?

July 16, 2008

Birds don’t just see and hear well, their sense of smell is also highly developed [more]


Wanted: a reason to divorce

April 23, 2008

Marriage crises in blue tits are probably caused by other females [more]


"Power napping" in pigeons

March 03, 2008

Pigeons prevented from taking naps in the afternoon sleep more intensely at night [more]

Research publications 2007

"Personality-Gene" makes songbirds curious

May 02, 2007

Max-Planck scientists find evidence for an association between gene variants and exploratory behaviour in great tits [more]

Research publications 2006

Too mellow for our predatory world

December 18, 2006

Scientists examine flexibility in flight behaviour in marine iguanas on the Galápagos Islands [more]


"Stress and the city": urban birds keep cool

September 01, 2006

Ornithologists demonstrate that urban birds are more resistant to acute stress than forest dwelling birds [more]

Research publications 2003

Unfaithful songbirds increase offspring fitness

October 15, 2003

Max Planck scientists show that female promiscuity can reduce the negative consequences of inbreeding in socially monogamous birds. [more]


Bats scan the rainforest with UV-eyes

October 10, 2003

German and Guatemalan researchers discover new mechanisms for ultraviolet vision in mammals [more]

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