Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. Copyright: Willy Generotzky

Max Planck Institute for Ornithology

The Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (MPIO) is located in Seewiesen close to Munich and was founded in 2004. The institute has two departments and several independent research groups that investigate different ornithological topics by using an interdisciplinary approach. The MPIO has around 150 employees and maintains close cooperation with a number of international institutions with shared research interests.

Department of Behavioural Neurobiology

The research of the department of Behavioural Neurobiology focuses on the sexual differentiation of the brain, seeking to understand the mechanisms responsible for the development of sex-specific behaviours and sensory processing. In this context, we study the endocrine, molecular, and neurobiological mechanisms of innate and learned vocalizations of various bird species in a natural setting. Songbirds display a large variety of gender-specific singing behaviour, making them ideal models for studies investigating sex differences in behaviour. The director of this department is Prof. Dr. Manfred Gahr.

Department of Behavioural Ecology and Evolutionary Genetics

Who is the perfect partner and how do individuals find him or her? This question becomes relevant to every individual at some point in their lives, and is also the key to understanding many aspects of animal behaviour. The research of the department of Behavioural Ecology and Evolutionary Genetics focuses on the evolution of mate choice, parental care, and promiscuity in birds. We study why individuals differ in their mating behaviour and how this affects their reproductive success and survival. The director of this department is Prof. Dr. Bart Kempenaers.

Research groups

The promotion of young scientists is a top priority at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. Highly skilled young researchers are given the opportunity to conduct their own research as heads of Max Planck Research groups. These appointments span a limited number of years and are funded by the Max Planck Society or external sources.


The International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS) for Organismal Biology” was established in 2009 and offers selected students from Germany and abroad the opportunity to work on their Ph.D. projects in a structured program that provides excellent research conditions. Interdisciplinary lectures and courses in organismal biology are provided in close collaboration with the Department of Biology at the Excellence University of Konstanz and the Max Planck Institut of Animal Behaviour in Radolfzell and Konstanz.

Wind Tunnel and MaxCine Center

A special feature of the institute in Seewiesen is the wind tunnel, where researchers have the opportunity to observe many hitherto inaccessible phenomena. The wind tunnel was especially made to study physical and physiological problems related to birds as it allows researchers to actively observe them in the flying section. To date, the main focus laid on questions of metabolism (heart rates, wing beat frequencies, water balance, fat metabolism, etc). The tunnel has, however, the potential to widen the field of interest to cover a lot of other activities. Natural flight conditions can be simulated in the tunnel by varying wind speeds, air pressure and temperatures, and via projections of landscape and sky.

Former institute part in Radolfzell now Max Planck Institute of Animal Behaviour

In May 2019, the location of the MPIO at the Lake of Constance became an own institute with the former MPIO department of Collective Behaviour, run by Prof. Dr. Iain Couzin at the University of Konstanz and the department of Migration and Immuno-Ecology, run by Prof. Dr. Martin Wikelski in Radolfzell. Also the former MPIO research group of Dr. Lucy Aplin located in Radolfzell is now part of the new institute. (

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