Nonsense stories about the California condor were not uncommon in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Here’s one such story that was repeatedly published over the course of nearly 25 years.
Last month, California condors made the national news in a bizarre and erroneous way. Here’s a brief report.
Correctly spelling scientific names has never been easy. The words and their forms are unfamiliar to most people. Today’s word processors are no help; their spell checkers could hardly be expected to include the scientific names of even common species.
So misspelled scientific names are inevitable. These misspellings can be a problem for anyone doing computerized searches for a particular scientific name. But, for the most part, misspellings are a curiosity and a source of momentary delight for readers.
The California condor has been assigned a number of scientific names through the years. In this post, I note some examples of how those names have been misspelled (and do so with trepidation as I have and will surely continue to misspell names).
In this post I consider 3 articles published in the 1950s in magazines intended for men. The articles provide insights into how the California condor was (or was not) understood by one segment of the public at the middle of the 20th century.
A 1930 article in the Los Angeles Times presented
An interview with Dr. Vance Joseph Hoyt, author of last year’s best seller in animal stories ….
The feature-length silent film The Night Cry premiered in 1926. The star and hero of the movie was the famous dog Rin Tin Tin, who had top billing. The villain was a California condor, who received no acknowledgment by name or photograph in the movie’s credits or on the movie’s poster.
Last year, James K. Sheppard won an award for his 3-dimensional map of the space utilized by a single California condor. This remarkable map was made possible by data obtained from a global positioning system (GPS) device attached to the condor’s wing. Developing the map required complex analysis performed on a supercomputer, plus artistic talent.
Sheppard’s remarkable map, and all the winners of the BMC Ecology Image Competition 2015, can be seen here.
Maps such as Sheppard’s have become possible thanks to new technologies. In the past, information showing where a species of bird lives was often presented only in words.
For example, Roger Tory Peterson’s A Field Guide to Western Birds did not include range maps in the 1st (1941) or 2nd (1961) editions. The 3rd edition (1990) does include maps showing where bird species breed, winter, and are resident year-round. But there is no such map for the California condor. All condors were in captivity at this time. There is only a 1-sentence description of their former range. (The 1st 3 editions of Peterson’s guide were published by Houghton Mifflin.)
In recent years, range maps have become more common. Even the typical maps that show range in 2 dimensions can convey a great deal of valuable information about where birds live.
To demonstrate the variety of range maps and how they have changed through time, I present 10 maps for the California condor. These are in chronological order.