Sunday, October 12, 2008

Birds in my Backyard

Saturday, October 11, 2008 was a very exciting day in my backyard. We had a Lewis's Woodpecker stop by our woodpecker style suet feeder. After eating, it found a nice spot in the tree where it stayed for about the next three hours napping and occasionally checking for bugs in the tree bark. After the Lewis's Woodpecker was finished eating, we saw a Flicker on the suet feeder, but it had a red triangle on the back of it's head/neck. I went crazy looking through all of my Colorado bird books and couldn't find it. So, when I came into work today, Sunday, October
12th, I grabbed a Kaufman's Field Guide and found out it was "Yellow-shafted" Flicker. We really enjoyed watching our "new" Flicker and it's mate for several hours.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

How Swainson's Hawks Got Their Name

Swainson’s Hawks were named after William Swainson, who lived from 1789 to 1855. An English writer, artist and naturalist, he seemed to be followed by misfortune everywhere. On a collection trip to Brazil in 1816 to 1817 he ran into a national revolution. Despite great and effort and achievements, he always had trouble making ends meet and funding his studies. He received much criticism for speaking out for the Quinary System, a method of classifying all living things, while everyone else used the more popular Linnaean System we still use today. In an attempt to start his life over, he moved to New Zealand and lost his entire collection on the way. He lives on today with nine birds named after him, including the Swainson’s Hawk, the Swainson’s Thrush, and the Swainson’s Warbler. The warbler was named by John James Audubon, the hawk by Charles-Lucien Bonaparte.

Bonaparte, who lived from 1803-1857, was a nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte. One of the foremost ornithologists of his time, he is mostly forgotten to history because of more famous contemporaries such as John James Audubon. He spent eight years studying North American birds and published American Ornithology. After returning to Europe he continued to study birds, but also got more involved in politics, including the independence of Italy.

Two famous ornithologists were behind the name of Swainson’s Hawks. If you discovered a new bird, what would you name it?