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1 July 2013 100 Years Ago in The American Ornithologists' Union
Kimberly G. Smith
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There were 107 General Notes published in The Auk during 1913, 81 of which dealt with new distributional information. Reports were made from 28 states, three provinces, and Cuba. As usual, Massachusetts had the most notes (15), followed by South Carolina (8), New Jersey (5), and Michigan and Colorado (4 each).

The most interesting note was by George Bird Grinnell concerning a specimen of the White-headed Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna viduata) that had been shot by the former Governor of New Jersey, John W. Griggs, in October of 1912 in the Hackensack Meadows in New Jersey (Auk 30:110). Griggs was returning from a hunting trip, saw the duck sitting on a log, and shot it because it looked unusual. The bird was described as “not at all shy,” but Grinnell said that it showed no signs of having been in captivity. The report showed up in the fourth edition of the Check-list of North American Birds (American Ornithologists' Union [AOU] 1931), listing the species as accidental, but the species was relegated to the hypothetical list in the fifth edition (AOU 1957), on the basis of Ludlow Griscom's (1923) assertion that the most likely explanation was that it was an escaped bird.

George Bird Grinnell (1849–1938) was a fascinating person who lived a full life. He obtained a doctoral degree from Yale University in 1880, during which time he declined an invitation to be the naturalist on General Custer's 1876 expedition, which probably would have led to his death at Little Bighorn. Grinnell went on to become an expert on Native Americans and their cultures, championed their rights in Washington, D.C., and became a member of the Blackfoot tribe. He was a founding member of the Boone and Crockett Club, started the Audubon Society in 1886, was the editor of Field and Stream magazine for over three decades, helped save the American bison, and was responsible for the formation of Glacier National Park. He was a Fellow in the AOU and was actively involved with the establishment of international bird treaties to halt the slaughter of migratory birds. Somehow, he also found time to author seven books for young boys, with “Jack” as the hero. Following his death, Robert Cushman Murphy wrote in a New York newspaper: “To meet his eye, feel his iron handclasp, or hear his calm and thrifty words—even when he was a man in his ninth decade—was to conclude that he was the noblest Roman of them all.”

In the note following Grinnell's, W. Sprague Brooks (1887– 1965) reported another new duck to the Check-list area: a White-cheeked Pintail (Anas bahamensis) collected at Cape Canaveral, Florida, in March 1912 (30:110–111). This species also was reported as accidental in the fourth Check-list, but then as casual to the United States in the fifth. Brooks was a long-time member of the AOU and was given Honorary Life Elective Member status at the 1960 annual meeting.

Other interesting notes were by W. E. Snyder (1873–1937), of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, who reported that an Eastern Wood-Pewee (Contopus virens) was able to care for three recently fledged Eastern Kingbirds (Tyrannus tyrannus) for about 10 days after the parents disappeared in a violent storm (30:273). Snyder was killed in an automobile crash before he could complete his book on Birds of Dodge County, based on nearly 40 years of near daily observations. Henry K. Coale (1858–1926) authored a note on hummingbird eyelashes (30:583–584), which, he explained, appear to come in two varieties: black and brownish-gray. Colors appear to be the same in males and females, and he suggested that this may aid in the identification of some specimens. Coale joined the AOU in 1883 and amassed two large bird collections during his lifetime. John C. Phillips (1876–1938) reported on three Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) that were shot from the same flock that had crests on the back of their heads (30:578). The note was accompanied with a drawing that Phillips had made of one of the heads. He went on to discuss other crested waterfowl, concluding that the crest might be a dominant trait. He hypothesized that if this had occurred in captivity, it would have been the basis of a crested race of Canada Geese.



American Ornithologists' Union. 1931. Check-list of North American Birds, 4th edition. Lancaster Press, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Google Scholar


American Ornithologists' Union. 1957. Check-list of North American Birds, 5th edition. Lord Baltimore Press, Baltimore, Maryland. Google Scholar


L. Griscom 1923. Birds of the New York City Region. American Museum of Natural History. Handbook Series no. 9. Google Scholar
© 2013 by The American Ornithologists' Union. All rights reserved. Please direct all requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content through the University of California Press's Rights and Permissions website,
Kimberly G. Smith "100 Years Ago in The American Ornithologists' Union," The Auk 130(3), 557, (1 July 2013).
Published: 1 July 2013

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