Comparing interest

This post offers another look at the question of how much interest there is in the California condor as compared to other species of birds.

For this look, my evidence of the level of interest is the appearance of species in articles published in the journal Condor. This scientific publication first appeared in 1900, describing itself then as an “exponent of Californian ornithology”:

From several lists of popular or distinctive birds of California, I identified species to compare to the California condor. There is nothing formal about my choice of comparison species. But I did try to include a variety of kinds of birds (and some personal favorites).

So that I could search for the scientific names of birds in the Condor, I made sure that each of my comparison species had the same scientific name throughout the 20th century. To be certain of this, I checked these names in the 2nd/1895 and 7th/1998 editions of the check-lists produced by the American Ornithologists’ Union.

For example, the July-August 1910 issue of the Condor included this article about Calypte anna:

In fact, the scientific name of one species of interest changed in 1901. That was the year that the current scientific name for the California condor was recognized: Gymnogyps californianus. To account for this name change, I started my comparison in 1910, allowing time for the new scientific name to be adopted. I continued the comparison through 1999.

The JSTOR library database allowed me to search the full text of the Condor for scientific names, decade by decade.

What did I find?

Of the 20 species that I examined, the Northern mockingbird Mimus polyglottos was the species of greatest interest. This species’ name appeared in 193 articles in the Condor during 1910-1999.

The California condor Gymnogyps californianus appeared in 51 articles, placing this species 16th among the 20 species that I considered.

This figure shows key results, decade by decade:

The red line above represents the Northern mockingbird, the black line represents the California condor, and the green line indicates the results for the average of the 19 comparison species (excluding the California condor).

As the figure shows, the California condor made more appearances during the 1930s than another other decade.

The results below, for all years combined, show that the species of greater interest than the California condor include a variety of different kinds of birds:

In conclusion, the California condor is far from the most frequently-appearing species in the journal Condor, at least based on scientific names.

Two previous posts have considered humans’ interest in the California condor from other perspectives. These are:

The contents of that well-named journal: 1900-1999

Are some bird species worth more than others?