22 December 2013

Current Content Summary for Ancient Avifauna Database

During this year, many new accomplishments were discovered in developing a database of records for wildbirds prior to 1885, and back at least 10,000 years for America northward of the Panama Canal.

The months have been wrought with many exciting finds, especially due to the wonderfully improved search capabilities provided by various newspaper search websites. Having worked with several of these, especially for the past two years, the options used to find pertinent material has improved by an awareness of the subtleties of pertinent text search options. Even in the ending weeks of this year, alternative options has meant finding articles not discovered previously.

There are several notable highlights of this relational database, which is only available on my personal computer, which thankfully continues to hum along in its incomparable manner. Praise to this machine and ever-working software!!

Especially notable details, as taken from the database tables, are:

  • Bibliography: the number of distinct citations surpassed 8,000 on December 17, 2013; a few more have been added since then, so the extent continues to expand; this includes 4335 articles or mentions from historic newspapers. Each item is a distinct citation with all of the appropriate details so the item could be readily referenced if it needed to be found at its original source by some researcher with such an interest. The Passenger Pigeon is represented by more than 1200 newspaper records, along with many other publications. A few of the other species mentioned often by paper sources include the Greater Prairie Chicken, Bald Eagle and Canada Goose.
  • BirdRecords: 147777 records on December 20, 2013; this includes more than 7900 from newspaper sources, dating back to the year 1675. There are nearly three hundred species denoted by newspaper sources.
  • SitesList: more than 14,000 localities; there are duplicate entries for primary sites, because when this table was first devised, it included a temporal aspect. The intent was to differentiate the time of record so a db query could convey when a site was denoted as a comparative feature. This aspect has changed, so there has been a limited refinement for designating distinct sites. Perhaps at some point, there could be an exquisite revision to get the number of places to where the sites prevail in a manner most-suited to geo-coding.
  • BirdSpecies: there are records for 1728 distinct species in this database, based on world-wide taxonomy presented by the International Ornithological Committee, a year or so ago.
  • GameBirdMarketPrices: more than 14,200 records from many different urban places. This source of information on wildbirds in the market is a surprisingly rich source of details for bird history. In just the past few weeks, an interesting perspective was prepared for the Cairo, Ill. market, along with — of course — other bird notations in the Cairo Bulletin. There are more known sources that will eventually be reviewed and integrated
  • HistoricNarratives: more than 1440 narrative sources, representing journals, diaries or other writings which represent original sources by travelers into various lands as associated with some endeavor or another. Many may convey few bird records, but they are certainly interesting reading since they convey a perspective of particular thought and view for an obviously distinct time and place.

There are certainly other topics that could be considered. It would be easy to pick and choose, but why can't the original details be presented in their entirety online for others with a birdly interest to present their own perspective?

A seeming indifference is obvious. There are web places which have historic bird records, but nothing which conveys details which this effort — which is a based upon a personal initiative — represents.

Work on this project was initiated in 1996. Material which has been posted here on Wildbirds Broadcasting is only a skim of the overall material which has been gathered.

There is so much more than could be derived from the multitude of records, perhaps:

  1. Historic distribution for so many species;
  2. Details of season chronology;
  3. Significant places for birds more than 100 years ago;
  4. People and places which represent the history of wildbirds, especially in North America;
  5. Distinct places where birds gathered, including the nesting places and roosts of Passenger Pigeons and other species;
  6. Factual details essential for any comparison of historic versus modern-era occurrence.

What if the details could be indicated by an online map, with options to compare when and where? It is the particulars which are so indicative ... and the end is nowhere in sight. There have been a bunch of grey eagle occurrences only recently noted. What is with the shooting of the blue herons? When does the shooting of a cat owl mean a Great Horned Owl or a Long-eared Owl?

Its in the details, with the past year providing so many unexpected details from one place or another, that 2014 will be a chance to add more records of long-forgotten pertinence.

It will soon be another new year to continue an appreciate the history of wildbirds. Maybe in 2014 their historic legacy will get more attention and recognition of this significance. And may their presence continue to be a common theme in one or another newspaper, as it has and does occur among the lower 48 states of the United States of America.

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