10 Birds Named After Ornithologists

Audubon’s Oriole
Image credit: Andy Morffew


Audubon’s Oriole

John James Audubon (April 26, 1785 – January 27 1851), an American naturalist and painter, is probably one of the most famous and well known ornithologists. The National Audubon Society is named after him as are two birds.

Audubon’s Oriole (Icterus graduacauda)is a new world passerine that lives in the woodlands and thickets of southern Texas and the mesquite brushland of the Mexican coast.

It is the only species of oriole to have a black hood and yellow body and can be difficult to spot due to its secretive behaviour. It is a slow-moving bird and is often identified by the sound of its call; a series of slurry whistles.

Wilson's Strom Petrel


Wilson’s Storm Petrel

Alexander Wilson (July 6, 1766 – August 23 1813) was a Scottish-American ornithologist who had several species of bird named after him. He was also a poet and illustrator and is often described as the “Father of American Ornithology”.

Wilson’s storm petrel (Oceanites oceanicus)is one of the most abundant species of bird in the world with a population of more than 50 million pairs. It is distributed around the globe, mainly in the seas of the southern hemisphere but its range extends northwards during the summer of the northern hemisphere.

Wilson’s storm petrel is a small bird and has a more direct gliding flight than other petrels. It nests in colonies in rock crevices and burrows close to the edge of the sea and, like most petrels, its walking ability is limited to a short shuffle to reach its nest.

Audouin's Gull


Audouin’s Gull

Jean Victoire Audouin (27 April 1797 – 9 November 1841), sometimes known as Victor Audouin was a French naturalist, who studied insects, amphibians, molluscs and birds.

Auduoin’s gull (Ichthyaetus audouinii)is a large gull only found in the Mediterranean and the west coast of Saharan Africa. It breeds in small colonies or alone, typically laying 2-3 eggs. Unlike most gulls, Auduoin’s gull is not a scavenger but is a specialist fish eater and will feed at night, often well out to sea.

In the 1960’s it was one of the world’s rarest gulls with just 1,000 pairs remaining and although conservation efforts have seen it establish new colonies it remains are with a population of about 10,000 pairs.

Brewer's Duck
Image credit: Tom Benson


Brewer’s Duck

Thomas Mayo Brewer (November 21, 1814 – January 24 1880) was an American naturalist who along with Baird and Ridgway, wrote A History of North American Birds, and in doing so made the first attempt since Audubon to complete the study of American ornithology.

Brewer’s duck is not actually a species of duck but a hybrid between a mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)and a gadwall (Anas strepera). Mallard ducks have an unusually malleable genetic codes which means it has the capability to interbreed and produce hybrids including Brewer’s duck.

Brewer’s duck is not always easy to identify as it shows enormous variability in its markings. The birds size and wing pattern are the best indicators for making a positive identification.

Baker's Yuhina
Image credit: Francesco Veronesi


Baker’s Yuhina

Edward Charles Stuart Baker (1864 – 16 April 1944) was a British police officer posted in India and an ornithologist. He was an avid nest and egg collector although some of his 50,000 specimens are of dubious provenance and some people have even gone so far as to suggest the whole collection should be destroyed.

Baker’s yuhiina (Yuhina bakeri), also known as the white-naped yuhina, is found in temperate forests and subtropical and tropical moist, lowland forests throughout Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, and Nepal.

Baker’s yuhina is part of the white-eye family of birds, sociable creatures that form large flocks which only separate prior to breeding season.

Baird's Sparrow
Image credit: Tom Benson


Baird’s Sparrow

Spencer Fullerton Baird (February 3, 1823 – August 19, 1887) was an American naturalist and museum curator. He was the first curator to be named at the Smithsonian Institute and would eventually become secretary of the institute in 1878.

Baird’s sparrow (Ammodramus bairdii) is a migratory bird that spends the summer on the tall grass prairies of the U.S and Candida and the winter in northern Mexico.

Its habitat is dwindling which puts it at some risk so maintaining the grass prairies is important for its survival as cultivated land is not suitable for it to thrive in.

Harris' Hawk


Harris’s Hawk

Edward Harris (September 7, 1799 – June 8 1863) was an American farmer and a close friend of James Audubon to whom he provided financial support.

Audubon named the Harris’ hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus), a medium-sixed bird of prey, after him. It breeds in the U.S., Chile and Argentina and, although they have been spotted in the U.K., these are most certainly birds that have escaped from captivity where they have been used for falconry.

The Harris hawk is unusual in that it hunts in packs of up to six birds, while most other raptors hunt alone. It is believed that it evolved this co-operative behaviour due to the lack of prey in the desert climate in which they live.

Blyth's Pipit


Blyth’s Pipit

Edward Blyth (23 December 1810 – 27 December 1873) was an English pharmacist and zoologist and one of the fathers or zoology in India. He was the curator of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal with many responsibilities, but focused mainly on ornithology, often ignoring the rest of his work.

Blyth’s pipit (Anthus godlewskii)is a long-distant migrant which breeds in Mongolia before moving to the open lowlands in southern Asia. It has occasionally been spotted in western Europe including the UK.

Blyth’s pipit can be easily confused with Richard’s pipit but it is slightly smaller and has shorter legs and a shorter dark bill. It can be identified by its characteristic call which is softer and higher pitched than Richard’s pipit.

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