February 10, 2012

Elizabeth V. Kozlova

37 years ago today, the famous Russian ornithologist Elizabeth V. Kozlova died. She is well known for her outstanding work in researching Mongolia’s bird fauna. To pay tribute to her an obituary written by by A. I. Ivanov, published in the British Ornithologists’ Union’s scientific journal, Ibis (1976, vol. 118, issue 1, p.127) is repeated here.


Madame E. V. Kozlova, a corresponding member of the British Ornithologists’ Union, died in Leningrad on 10 February 1975. She was born in a physician’s family on 19 August 1892 in the little town of Krasnoe Selo, near Petersburg (now a part of Leningrad). Kozlova started her ornithological activity as an amateur during a visit to Tian Shan in 1913, and again in the southern Ukraine in 1918–19. Later, in 1923, her husband P. K. Kozlov, the well-known explorer of Central Asia, organized the Mongolian expedition of the Russian Geographical Society, and Madame Kozlova participated in that expedition as a professional ornithologist. She stayed in Mongolia from 1923 until 1926, and was able to study birds in different parts of the country: in the forests of the Western Kentei mountains, the steppes of Central Mongolia, and the Gobi desert in the depression of the Orog-Nur Lake and near the northern-slopes of the Gobian Altai. Rich collections and observations brought from Mongolia provided Kozlova with excellent material for a monograph, Birds of Southwestern Transbaicalia, Northern Mongolia and Central Gobi. The work was rewarded with a Silver medal of the Russian Geographical Society. In 1929 and 1930 Kozlova visited Mongolia again, and studied birds in the unexplored high mountainous parts of Khangai and in the taiga region of Eastern Kentei. A condensed survey of her studies in Mongolia was published in the Ibis, and is well known to British ornithologists.

E. V. Kozlova 1923 in Mongolia,
left: in the mountains, right: in front of a yurt.
from: Piechocki, R. 1983. Abriß zur Erforschungsgeschichte der
Avifauna mongolica. Erforsch. biol. Ress. MVR 3: 5–31.

From her Mongolian expeditions until the last years of her life, Kozlova worked in the Department of Birds of the Zoological Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R. In the winter of 1934–35 and in 1937, together with the ornithologist A. Ya. Tugarinov, she visited the wintering quarters of birds on the southwestern shores of the Caspian Sea. Two books published on the results of these trips are of great interest and value, since the study was done before the level of the Caspian Sea was much lowered and the environment changed to a high degree.

During World War I1 the Zoological Institute was transferred from Leningrad to Dushambe in Tadzhikistan. It was a rather hard time. Nevertheless Kozlova successfully studied the biology of Phacianus colchicus bianchii as well as the biology of some mountain birds. The physical effort, however, was great and after coming back to Leningrad in 1945 Kozlova was forced to refuse to participate in further expeditions.

There were two main trends in Kozlova’s activity in the post-war time. She was closely involved with the preparation of the Fauna of the U.S.S.R., and published monographs on the Gaviiformes, Procellariiformes, Alcidae and Charadriidae of the U.S.S.R. The excellent monograph on Charadriidae, published in two volumes in 1961 and 1962, is a fine synthesis of data obtained by methods of comparative and functional morphology and by ecological observations.

Simultaneously, she pursued studies on the genesis of the avifauna of Central Asia. She started with Tibet, as the recognized centre of origin of numerous high mountain birds. Although not very large, the work Avifauna of Tibet, its relative ties and history, published by Kozlova in 1952, is very important because of the methods used in it for the study of the origin of complexes united in a fauna. The same methods were used by Kozlova in her last work, completed not long before her death, Birds of the zonal steppes and deserts of Mongolia (in press*). Such was the contribution of Madame Kozlova to our knowledge of birds.


* published: Birds of the steppe and desert zones of Central Asia. Leningrad: Trudy Zool. Inst. Akad. Nauk SSSR 59, in Russian.

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