03 January 2011

Northern America Specimens Prevalent in Strickland Collection

A catalogue of the specimens in the historic collection of European Hugh Edwin Strickland includes numerous specimens from localities in northern America.

Strickland, a "Fellow of the Royal, Linnean, Geological and Royal Geographical Societies" collected "about a third" of the specimens, while also obtaining bird specimens from a number of prominent collectors on the continent. A thorough list is given, which includes a number of notable men. The tally included the number of skins which they provided, as based upon the overall collection, not just those from northern America.

Sir W. Jardine, of Jardine Hall — a prominent author on birds during this era — was the father-in-law to H.E. Strickland,

The catalogue — A Catalogue of the Collection of Birds Formed by the Late Hugh Edwin Strickland, M.A. — prepared by Osbert Salvin, and published in 1882, listed 6006 skin records, including those from the following, pertinent sources:

  • Captain Askew, in the Merchant Service - 339
  • J.J. Audubon, "Author of the 'Birds of North America' and other works - 4 skin records
  • S.F. Baird, "Professor, formerly of Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, now Secretary to the Smithsonian Institution, Washington" - 66 skn records
  • Senor Jose Constancia, Antigua, Guatemala - 212 skin records; there are more than 160 records from the Senor for the area of interest; the records entered convey a notation of a species for a place by a particular site, though the catalogue record may be for more than one specimen
  • Galeotti, a traveller in Mexico, where "he made large botanical collections" but obviously also acquired bird specimens which were sent to Europe -23 records
  • P.H. Gosse, author of the preeminent work, "Birds of Jamaica" - 39 records, of which 30 where from northern America
  • J. Gould, a prominent writer about birds during this era of history - 54 records of which 11 were from Jamaica
  • T.G. Mann, a collector of birds traveling about Mexico; the given number of skins in the Salvin catalogue was 33 skins, but once pertinent records were compiled, there were 37 records
  • Nathaniel Constantine Strickland, a cousin of H.E. Strickland, and brother of Arthur Strickland (also a contributor); the Stricklands were the source of more than 55 skins for the area being considered

One source of skins was Wosnessenski (not listed in the origins list of names), at N.W. America or Sitka or Kodiak Island, and who seemed to have sold some skins to J.F. Brandt, a German dealer.

Some specimens were bought from skin dealers, including Havell in London, S. Stevens in London, Thomas in London, and others.

Also worth noting are that specimens were acquired from Charles Darwin, naturalist on the H.M.S. Beagle, and author of "Origin of Species"; one specimen in the catalogue was from the Galapagos Islands; E. Blyth at Bengal; B.H. Hodgson, formerly of Nepal; T.C. Jerdon who was the author of 'The Birds of India'; Captain W.J.E. Boys collecting in northern India; and, other collectors lessor of better known.

Most of the specimens were obtained between 1838 and 1953, and the date when they became part of the catalogue is given with each item. Often this date is the only temporal indicator for a specimen record, as the actual date when a specimen was collected is not given for the majority.

The avid collector increased his collection in 1838 by purchasing about 1200 specimens from his cousin Nathaniel Constantine Strickland.

The oldest specimen is dated 1824, and the most recent had a date of 1856, though that had to be a typographical error, since in September, 1853, Strickland died after being involved in an accident involving a railway train.

In preparing the catalogue, Salvin, the collection curator at the University of Cambridge, included name synonyms, which provide an interesting depiction of avian taxonomy when the catalogue was published.

Species Denoted

An example of an entry, is:

"382. Troglodytes hyemalis.
Troglodytes hyemalis, Vieill. N. Dict. d'Hist. N. xxxiv. p. 514; Troglodytes parvulus var. hyemalis, Baird, Brew. & Ridgw. N. Am. B. i. p. 155.
a N. America (J.G. Kinberg) 1845."

This record would be attributed to the Winter Wren, in N. America, and given a designated date of 1845, based on the chronology of the specimen, which in this case which was added to Strickland's collection in 1845, with J.G. Kinberg the source of the skin. The locality entered was N. America, which would apply generally to Canada or the United States.

More than 500 records were noted to occur in the northern America region. Records occurred from Panama Bay, Guatemala, Jamaica, the West Indies, North America, Illinois, California, Canada, N.W. America and from Sitka and Kodiak Island, Alaska.

Among the records with the most information on date of occurrence were about 35 from Carlisle, Pennsylvania obtained from S.F. Baird, which have the specific date when collected. In comparing the Strickland skins to the records previously published by Baird, there was only one example of a duplicate record, where the same species had been noted for the same date.

  • Guatemala - 167 items
  • United States of America/Canada - 109
  • United States of America - 108
  • Mexico - 61
  • Jamaica - 53
  • Canada - 20
  • West Indies - 1
  • St. Vincent and the Grenadines - 1
  • Panama - 1
  • Bahama Islands - 1

About 355 different species are represented for these countries or regions.

There are several skins in the collection for species such as the Orchard Oriole (7 skins), and five each of the Eastern Bluebird, Northern Flicker, Yellow Warbler, and Belted Kingfisher. Those represented by four specimens are Acorn Woodpecker, American Kestrel, Baltimore Oriole, Blue-winged Teal, Cedar Waxwing, Great Crested Flycatcher, Indigo Bunting, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. About 90 species have two or three skins. For about 240 species, there is only a single specimen.

There are no extinct species such as the Carolina Parakeet or Passenger Pigeon in the collection.

Though most of the species records given in this catalogue lack details to provide - preferably - a more precise date and location where they were collected, the information does none the indicate that numerous species for northern America occur in European collections which also need to be evaluated to get a comprehensive perspective on bird occurrence and distribution.

This publication is available online in its entirety at the Biodiversity Heritage Library.