Seeking specimens and information

Publications concerning the California condor have sometimes been about seeking, rather than conveying, information. This post includes some examples that reveal more of the human-California condor saga. They are presented in chronological order.

To begin, here is the full text of 3 classified advertisements from The Oölogist. From the June-September 1887 issue:

Wanted. An Egg of Californian Condor. I offer in exchange a 32 Cal. Revolver, used but little, good as new. VAN LEWIS. Potsdam, New York.

From the July 1902 issue:

WANTED–Good cash offer for egg of California Condor. For exchange, sets and skins of many varieties. Many common varieties wanted in series. All answered. DONALD A. COHEN, Alameda, Cal.

(I realize that the above is not seeking an egg, but is seeking someone to buy an egg. Was this meant to be clever “marketing”?)

From the March 1906 issue:

WANTED.–California Condor’s, Swallow-tailed and Mississippi Kites’, Little Brown Cranes’, Albatrosses, Hawks’, Owls’ and Warblers’ eggs in first class sets with data for cash or will exchange extra fine sets with bonus. $150.00 in sets form my Oological collection for a Condor’s egg. DOCTOR M.T. CLECKLEY, 457 Green St., Augusta, Ga.

Next is a news item from The Osprey of May 1900:


The March 1905 issue of The Condor devotes 1/4 of a page to an item headlined “Notes on the California Vulture Wanted” and credited to W. L. Chambers. Here are excerpts:

For a year or more I have been very successful in gathering notes for my monograph on the California vulture. Many of you have received letters from me and I wish to thank you again for the many valuable notes the answers contained. I am going to push the work now and wish that all who can would give me information in regard to the width of the extended wings and weight of the specimens in the meat with the sex and age of same, also any other notes that are of interest….

I will be glad to correspond with anyone on this subject, so do not hesitate to write me as I wish to make the monograph as complete as possible.

Chambers subsequently published 3 articles that concern the California condor but I have not found his planned monograph.

This news item appears in the Science News-Letter for 12 March 1932 under the title “Scientist Seeks Museum Specimens of Extinct Birds”:

Where are the mounted museum specimens of extinct or near-extinct species of birds? Who has a passenger pigeon, a great auk, a heath hen? Burlingham Schurr, curator of the museum of zoology at Amherst College, wants to know. He is broadcasting an appeal to all naturalists and museum curators to report briefly on the specimens they have of these birds or their eggs, as well as the Eskimo curlew, California vulture, Carolina paroquet, ivory-billed woodpecker and any other birds noteworthy for rarity, giving place and date of collection when these are known. it is Mr. Schurr’s intention to publish a list, making the whereabouts of these rare specimens known for the benefit of all ornithologists.

The August 1934 issue of News from the Bird-Banders includes this short note:


I do not know how much information Harry Harris received in response to this request. But it’s clear from his article “The Annals of Gymnogyps to 1900”, which appeared in the January 1941 issue of The Condor, that Harris eventually acquired – and shared – a great deal of valuable information about the California condor.

The Times of London for 11 August 1963 includes a large classified advertisement titled “Film of Rare Wild Life Wanted”. The text begins:

Producers of educational films require 16 mm, or 35 mm, colour film of any of the subjects below, preferably in natural habitat.

The 3 dozen or so desired subjects include the blue whale, pygmy hippopotamus, Pine Barrens tree frog, giant Fijian wood-boring beetle, and California condor.

Finally, “Sightings of California Condor” was the title of an item in the July 1966  issue of Western Bird Bander. This brief note included:

Fred C. Sibley, director of [a study of the California condor by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service], requests that anyone sighting a Condor let him know where it was seen and from what vantage-point the sighting was made.

The change in kinds of requests through time indicated by the above items reveals a welcome trend. Advertisements by private collectors seeking egg specimens gave way to requests for information (in various forms) from scientists, authors, and educational film makers.