Birds of prey, raptors, vultures, or ???

Scientists are classifiers. Scientists identify species and then group species into genera, genera into families, and so on. Both scientific and common names are assigned to these various categories.

But classifications change over time and, even at a single point in time, not all scientists agree about how to classify species.

Here are 3 quick looks at changes in and controversies over the classification of the California condor. These examples all concern common names. The sources considered span 3 centuries.

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The beginning of Baird’s catalogs of birds

Spencer Fullerton Baird (1823-1887) was a distinguished zoologist, educator, and scientific administrator. He served as Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution from 1878 until his death.

Baird’s last major publication was A History of North American Birds, 3 volumes that were co-authored with Thomas Brewer and Robert Ridgway. The entry for the California condor is in the last volume and includes this illustration by Edwin L. Sheppard of a condor chick:
01 BBR 1974 - chick
“BBR”, as this book is sometimes known (the initials of the authors’ last names), was published in 1874. It is the end of a string of comprehensive works about birds by Baird. In this post I present what appears to be the beginning of that string.

Continue reading “The beginning of Baird’s catalogs of birds”