Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior

Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior

Since May 2019, the former location of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell has been the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior based in Constance. The main focus of the scientific work at the institute is the investigation of collective animal behaviour and movements. The institute's scientists study such diverse animal groups as grasshoppers, fish, flying foxes, baboons and birds. State-of-the-art technologies help the researchers to investigate the behavior of animals in the wild or in the laboratory. With his project Icarus, Martin Wikelski investigates animal migrations around the globe. With the global system for animal observation, he can follow the movements of small animal species almost around the clock and anywhere on earth thanks to miniaturized measuring devices on the body of the animals and receiving antennas in space. His colleague Iain Couzin analyzes the complex movement patterns in swarms of animals using modern computer programs for image and movement recognition.


Am Obstberg 1
78315 Radolfzell / Konstanz
Phone: +49 7732 1501-0
Fax: +49 7732 1501-39

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):

IMPRS for Organismal Biology

In addition, there is the possibility of individual doctoral research. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

Department Collective Behavior


Department Ecology of Social Systems


Department Animal Migration and Immunoecology

Complex society discovered in birds

Large brains seem not be a requirement for complex societies

Hidden intelligence of collectives

Information processing in animal groups occurs not only in the brains of animals but also in their social network

Ups and downs in the bird world

Winners and losers among the birds at Lake Constance in pictures

Birds in serious decline at Lake Constance

Over the last 30 years, the region has lost 120,000 breeding pairs

The journeys of hoverflies

Many billions of hoverflies commute every year between Great Britain and the European mainland


Many animal species have made their homes in towns and cities. However, the conditions they encounter there are different than those under which they would live in a natural environment. Henrik Brumm, Jesko Partecke and Bart Kempenaers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen and Radolfzell are studying the effects of city living on our native songbirds. In the process, they have discovered some surprising behavioral changes.

Whether birds that crisscross the globe, whales that navigate the vastness of the oceans or wildebeast on the African savannas – the major animal migrations in our world present an incomparable spectacle. Yet in many cases, surprisingly little is known about either their exactdestinations or how they get there. At the Radolfzell observatory of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Martin Wikelski and his team use miniature transmitters to track a wide variety of species on their travels.

Recent decades have seen an accelerated extinction of wild plants and animals throughout the world. There is still a chance to stop it, at least in Germany. A simple model shows a way out of the bio - diversity crisis.

Doctoral positions (m/f/d) in our IMPRS for Organismal Biology

Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, Radolfzell / Konstanz December 05, 2019

The B10K genome project – a worldwide initiative to sequence the genomes of birds

2017 Kraus, Robert H. S.

Behavioural Biology Ecology Evolutionary Biology

Birds are among the most important animal groups in biological, medical and pharmaceutical sciences. Over the last few years, new technologies have made genome sequencing accessible to a broad user base. The international B10K project is an initiative to sequence the genomes of all bird species. Comparative studies on trait evolution on the genomic level will lead to a far-reaching understanding of biodiversity and connections towards translational research. The Max Planck scientists in Radolfzell participate in this project with comparative studies on the immune system evolution of birds.


Evolution right in our backyard

2012 Partecke, Jesko

Behavioural Biology Ecology Evolutionary Biology Physiology

It is well established that urban areas have been successfully colonized by animals. Less is known about the extent to which urbanization causes ecological and micro-evolutionary changes in animals thriving in urban areas. Studies at the MPIO in Radolfzell elucidate that city life causes changes in behavior and underlying physiological mechanisms and that micro-evolutionary effects may play an important role. Current studies using newest radiotelemetry and micrologger technique aim to discover the impact of artificial city light at night on the daily and seasonal organization of urban animals.


Thin billed prions: “miniature albatrosses” measure climate change in the Southern Ocean

2009 Quillfeldt, Petra; Masello, Juan Francisco

Behavioural Biology Climate Research Ecology

The Southern Ocean is strongly affected by global change. A long-term study of Thin-billed prions, a small seabird feeding on zooplankton in these vast ocean areas, was designed to further our understanding of the changes that currently take place in this ecosytem. Further, this study will look at adaptations that enable the birds to cope with changing conditions, such as flexible provisioning behaviour and physiological regulation of timing and investments in the breeding cycle.


When and where to? On the track of bird movements

2007 Fiedler, Wolfgang

Behavioural Biology Ecology

Individual marking and tracking of birds with inscripted rings at the bird's legs, radio transmitters or other methods is used for the study of the success of individual strategies, demographic benchmarks, the study of bird migration with all it's facetes and the role of birds as vectors for diseases, the long term monitoring of bird populations, the building of survival models, the study of the reaction of birds to climate change and finally the provision of basic data for species conservation.


Truth or dare: honesty of avian sexual signals

2005 Peters, Anne

Behavioural Biology Ecology

Trade-offs with immunity can theoretically enforce honesty on sexual signals through testosterone, that stimulates sexual traits but also suppresses immunity, and/or carotenoids, that can be used in ornaments or support immune functions. Recently, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology found evidence for such trade-offs in male mallards.

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