Aristotle (384-322 BC) wrote the first scientific (systematic) list of birds, containing 170 species; 74 of which we actually know which he was talking about, so good were his descriptions.
Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD) was a naturalist and army officer who wrote "Historia Naturalis," an encyclopedia of natural sciences.
Many encyclopedias came out after the invention of the printing press in 1448.
In 1492 Columbus knew he was successful at finding land, when he recorded "many small landbirds....jays, ducks, and a pelican." Generally the Spanish where more interested in pillaging than they were in science, and the English were too busy surviving, although both noted birds occasionally in their journals. It was mostly the English who began sending specimens of North American birds back to the Old World. Basically European Science wasn't ready to systematically deal with the wealth of material about to descend on it.