The staff of Ornithology Department includes seven people (six researchers and one collection curator)
The major research directions include a study of birds of the Palearctic (mostly in Russia and adjacent territories), their systematics, phylogeny, biogeography, ecology, bioenergetics, ethology, comparative morphology and paleontology. Much attention is paid to protection of birds and conservation of rare species.
The mechanisms of seasonal cyclic recurrence in birds are studied. A theory for migration state and its regulation was developed. Methods of mass analysis of live birds were presented. These methods became the basis of long-term computer-aided monitoring over large spaces. Principles of bioenergetics similarity lying at the basis of vertebrate animal energetics were revealed. Energetics model of individual and species and also a method of calculation of energy budgets of wild animals were suggested.
A number of works is dedicated to faunal studies, systematics and speciation, geographic variation, distribution and life history and also to elucidation of relationship and evolution of Palearctic gulls and passerine birds, rare and little known species among them.
A study is performed of ecology of populations and demography of birds, particularly age-sex structure of populations, productivity of reproduction, mortality and life duration, impact of natural and anthropogenic factors on population dynamics.
In 1990 the Department resumed the study of fossil birds. More than 20 new taxa have been described. Keys for the identification passerine birds by characters of bone structure were compiled. Electronic catalogues of osteological and paleontological scientific collections have been compiled.
“Atlas der Verbreitung der Palaearktischer Vogel” (18 issues) containing information on more than 200 species of birds was published in Germany by ornithologists of the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Zoological Museum of the Humboldt University (1960-1992).
The collection of the Department is among the three largest ornithological collections in Europe comprising approximately 170,000 skins of 4,240 bird species; 2,700 skeletons of 1,080 species; 750 specimens belonging to 850 species fixed in alcohol, many nests and eggs.