Birds Discovered (or Not) in the Cincinnati Area
Posted On: 10/13/2017 - 12:46pm, Posted By: Other
This post is guest-authored by Stanley Hedeen, professor emeritus at Xavier University and long-time volunteer at the Geier Collections & Research Center.
John James Audubon resided in Cincinnati in 1819 and 1820 while he served as a taxidermist and scene painter at the Western Museum, the institution that would evolve into the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History and Science, now the Cincinnati Museum Center. During a visit to a Northern Kentucky field in 1820, Audubon discovered a secretive grassland sparrow previously unknown to science. He named the bird Henslow’s Sparrow (Ammodramus henslowii) in honor of John Stevens Henslow, a British naturalist, and included a portrait of the sparrow in his Birds of America folio. Today the sparrow’s population is declining nationwide as farmers convert pastures and hayfields into crops that are unsuitable for the bird.
Henslow’s Sparrow was new to science when Audubon discovered the bird in a Northern Kentucky field.
Also in 1820, Audubon discovered a bird on the Ohio River that he titled the Cincinnati Gull. At that time a new species often was named after the locality where it was first seen. Audubon’s name for the gull, however, was set aside when it was determined that another ornithologist had previously discovered the species in Philadelphia and named it Bonaparte’s Gull (Chroicocephalus philadelphia) in honor of the French zoologist Charles Lucien Bonaparte. Although the bird lost its Cincinnati title, Bonaparte’s Gull continues to be regularly seen in the city during its fall and spring migrations.
Bonaparte’s Gull, the species Audubon named the Cincinnati Gull.
In 1880, Frank Langdon discovered an unknown warbler in the Cincinnati neighborhood of Madisonville. He thought the warbler was a new species when he collected the bird and named it the Cincinnati Warbler. It was later determined that the warbler was not a distinct species, but was instead a hybrid produced when a Blue-winged Warbler (Vermivora cyanoptera) mated with a Kentucky Warbler (Geothlypis formosa). The individual bird collected by Langdon in 1880 continues to be known as the Cincinnati Warbler and resides in the bird collection of Cincinnati Museum Center.
Cincinnati Warbler, once thought to be a species but now known to be a hybrid.