Re: Aristotle (384-322 BC) A big lister

To: Trevor Quested <>
Subject: Re: Aristotle (384-322 BC) A big lister
From: Brian Fleming <>
Date: Sun, 15 Nov 1998 21:29:10 +1100
Trevor Quested wrote:
> I have started reading a North American book called "Watching Birds.
> An introduction to Ornithology" by Roger F. Pasquier.  In chapter two,
> "How and Why Birds are Studied", I quote:
> "To our knowledge, Aristotle (384-322 BC) was the first person to look
> at birds scientifically, describing what he considered to be 170
> varieties and discussing their physiology, reproduction, and ecology.
> Aristotle was the first to make systematic classification of birds
> based on observation and dissection, he divided birds into eight
> groups."
> I thought I should check my 1986 Greek list and found I had seen only
> 135 species in 10 days using Zeiss binoculars, a field guide and an
> Ornitholidays booklet on where to see birds in Greece by Michael
> Sheppard.  I wonder how far he travelled, where and what the list of
> birds he described and what were the eight groups?
> Trevor
> Trevor  & Annie Quested
> Sydney,  Australia
> Phone   +61 2 9955 6266
> Fax  + 61 2  9959 4005
It is of course possible that Aristotle listed some he hadn't actually
seen but had heard about from others, such as the Crocodile Bird (now
believed to have been Egyptian Plover) described by Herodotus, who
actually went to Egypt. I don't think Aristotle went further from Greece
than Macedon - but in his time there had been almost no interference
with habitat in Northern Europe, and there was a much smaller human
population. Two millennia later there's been deforestation, river
diversions, drainage of wetlands and now pollution..  He is known to
have done 'hands-on' collecting of marine invertebrates so doubtless
noticed migratory birds as well. 
  Does anyone know where his writings on Natural History can be found in
English translation? - actually I believe that what survives is more the
notes taken by students from his lectures, rather than a literary text
as we'd understand it.
  Historical ornithology is a fascinating study. Wish I could read Latin
or Ancient Greek. ANTHEA FLEMING

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