At the end of the 19th century, the Cooper Ornithological Club (COC) decided to change the name of its publication from the Bulletin of the Cooper Ornithological Club to the Condor. There is no doubt that the California-based organization of bird scientists and enthusiasts had the California condor in mind in renaming its journal.
How much in the journal Condor has been about the California condor? When the journal includes content relevant to its avian namesake, what is that content’s focus? This post is a preliminary look at these 2 questions.
My California condor bibliography includes 179 items dated 1900-1999 from the journal Condor. All of those items refer to the California condor in some way, including many passing mentions.
Those 179 items are a small fraction of the journal’s content during 1900-1999. For example, the table of contents of the January-February 1900 issue of the Condor lists 25 items. Six issues were published in 1900 so that corresponds to about 150 items in one year. The table of contents of the November 1999 issue lists 36 items. Four issues were published in 1999 so that corresponds to nearly the same 150 items in one year. Based on these data, a rough estimate is that about 1% of the Condor has anything to do with California condors.
Just to be clear: I am not suggesting that the Condor was supposed to have more content related to the California condor. Originally, the Condor was intended to be about the birds of the western USA. All I am doing here is looking at evidence of interest in the California condor during the 20th century.
So, when were those 179 items concerning the California condor published? Here are the data:
The The 1900s and 1930s were periods of intense interest in the California condor and this is clearly reflected in the data. The relatively small number of items from the 1970s-1990s, also decades of intense interest, is perhaps surprising. But I do not believe this is about a decline in concern for the California condor. Rather, it is about a broadening of the concerns of the COC and the purpose of its journal.
What are the 179 California condor items about? Nearly a one-third fall into 3 categories:
27 reports of COC meetings (1900s-1940s)
10 biographies and obituaries (1900s-1980s)
12 regional bird checklists (1900s-1950s)
In addition to the above, 23 items were focused on fossils and other forms of bird remains, including extinct species related to the California condor (1910s-1990s).
Only 59 of the 179 items have “condor” in the title. Of these 2 refer to the journal itself and 5 refer to the Andean condor.
Among the 59 items are 32 with “California condor” in the title, plus one with “Californian condor” and 3 with “California vulture” in their titles.
From its earliest years, articles in the Condor addressed major questions concerning the California condor’s survival. These include the threats posed by egg collectors (1906), pesticides (1931), shooting (1936), zoos (1953), and lead (1990); determining how many birds were in the wild (1985); where the birds were (1992) and were not living (1936); the possibility of breeding condors in captivity (1924); and the basic biology of the species itself (1987) and as compared to related species (1944). (Of course, such questions continue to be addressed in the Condor in the current century.)
Certainly, the most engaging items from the early years of the Condor are those describing encounters with California condors. Among my favorites is “Twenty condors dine together” (1936).
Without a doubt, by reporting substantive information about the California condor and by drawing attention to the species, the Condor (and COC) played an important role in preventing the extinction of the California condor.
There is much more about the Condor (and COC) in this blog. A good post to start with is Photos from a well-named journal 1900-1986.
The entire contents of the Condor for 1900-1999 may be viewed for free via the online Searchable Ornithological Research Archive.