Thornton Burgess was an author of stories for children, a radio broadcaster, and a naturalist. This post is concerned with the latter 2 and, of course, the California condor.
According to the New York Times’ obituary for Thornton Burgess (6 June 1965), he began his Radio Nature League in 1925. This regular series of radio broadcasts were supplemented by a newspaper column. For this post, I draw on these newspaper columns, as published in the Washington Post.
All of the columns begin by reminding readers of the Radio Nature League’s radio programs, or “meetings”:
Meetings every Wednesday night through Station WBZ at 7:30 Eastern Standard Time
The column for 16 May 1926 continues:
Recently the newspaper heralded the laying of an egg valued at $750 at the zoological park at Washington, D.C., and the producer of this high-priced basis for an omelet was a California condor, of which three are in captivity there. To one who reads between the lines grim tragedy appears. The value of that egg is the evidence of how near to passing is the largest of North American birds of the air.
Obviously, Burgess was not one to pull punches. He continues:
The pity of it is that man is responsible, directly and without excuse, for the passing of the California condor …
Oh, the pity of it! The senselessness of it!
On 8 August 1926, Burgess includes a paragraph about the ears of birds, noting that:
In the vulture and the condor, birds with featherless heads, this ear opening may plainly be seen.
The condor content in the 16 October 1927 column is a photo of a young California condor.
Burgess answers a reader’s question on 8 April 1928:
“Does the condor still exist on this continent?” asks William Atwood.
Yes, the California condor still exists, but in decreasing numbers…. Being a vulture, and feeding on dead animals, it has fallen a victim to poisoned baits put out by ranchmen for the destruction of coyotes and wolves.
The theme of the 2 September 1928 column is the world’s biggest animals:
The California condor and the condor of the Andes take the palm among land birds of the air.
Burgess goes on to contrast the condors and hummingbirds.
At least 4 of the Radio Nature League newspaper columns noted above include a photo of a California condor (the 5th column may also have a photo but I cannot tell from the Washington Post copy available to me).
The obituary for Thornton Burgess reports that he was lauded by the New York Zoological Society for his valuable educational work. While I have not listened to his radio broadcasts, the supporting newspaper columns certainly indicate that Burgess was providing solid information about the California condor to a large audience. Thornton Burgess is another individual who deserves thanks for his efforts on behalf of the condor.