With its colorful landscape and wonderful diversity of plant and animal communities, the southwestern borderlands have attracted naturalists for centuries. As Col. Thomas Henry noted in 1853, there “are to be found many curious birds, peculiar to the country.” This book identifies more than 100 early ornithologists and explorers who entered the Southwest from 1528 to 1900, all of whom have contributed in significant ways to our understanding of the region’s avian life.
Dan Fischer identifies those individuals who documented the natural history of the Southwest and summarizes their contributions to our knowledge about the region’s birds—particularly through discovering and naming them. He tells why the ornithologists came to the region, what they saw, who described and named the new discoveries, and who were the first to sketch or paint new birds.
Beginning with accounts of the earliest Spanish explorers such as Cabeza de Vaca and Coronado, Fischer considers all who visited the region through the end of the nineteenth century, including such renowned naturalists as William Gambel, John McCown, Adolphus Heermann, Elliott Coues, Charles Bendire, and Henry Henshaw. In between, he recalls English mining speculators, French traders, army explorers, railroad surveyors, and more—all of whom contributed to ornithological knowledge.
Although focusing on ornithologists, Fischer’s text reveals the wonderful variety of avian species in the region and their relationship with human history. Featuring a comprehensive bibliography, illustrations, and maps that portray the westward march of exploration, it is a major sourcebook for southwestern ornithology and an essential volume for anyone interested in birds.