One of the leading international institutions for ornithology has been located in Möggingen, Germany at Lake Constance since 1946.
In 1901, the German Society for Ornithology, led by Johannes Thienemann, founded an ornithological station in former Eastern Prussia (now Rybatschi, Russia). Mr Thienemann was a pioneer in the use of bird banding in order to study bird migration. This institute was incorporated into the Kaiser Wilhelm Society in 1924. During World War II, the ornithological station in Rossitten was threatened with closure and all of its documents were lost.
This led Baron Nikolaus von Bodman, himself an ornithologist, to offer the scientists a new facility in his castle at Lake Constance, one of the European inland areas with the highest abundance of birds. As early as 1949, the ornithological station was incorporated by the Max Planck Society, and in 1959 it was added to the Max Planck Institute for Behavioural Physiology as a research station. It expanded in 1962 with a building across from the castle on the Obstberg.
The further development of the institute since 2008 has made it necessary to replace the old laboratory and office on the Obstberg with a bigger, more modern building, which was completed in 2011.
Today the institute in Radolfzell is one of four departments of the Max-Planck-Institute for Ornithology— two departments are located in Seewiesen, near Starnberg in Bavaria and the forth department is located at the University of Konstanz.
In 2008, Prof. Martin Wikelski succeeded Prof. Peter Berthold as director of the Department of Migration and Immuno-ecology of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell. Prof. Iain Couzin joined the institute in 2014 as director of the Department of Collective Behaviour and . Both are simultaneously Professors at the University of Konstanz. The scientists have the advantageous position of being able to cooperate closely with one of Germany’s Excellence-Initiative Universities and with the Max-Planck-Society, one of the leading research organizations in Germany, with more than 80 institutes that have a diverse range of research specializations. The growing group will soon be moving into the Centre for Visual Computing of Collectives on the University campus where the visualization and analysis of collective animal behaviour at unprecedented scale and detail will be possible.