Banner year

Last week I showed a banner the role of some prominent women in the history of ornithology. We prepared that large banner to display at the recent AOS conference in Anchorage, but I thought it worth posting here for those of you who were not at that conference or were just too busy to stop …

Women in Ornithology

I have been in Alaska for most of the last month, doing field work on St Paul Island (in the Pribilofs), and at Ukpeaġvik (formerly Barrow) on the north slope, then at the terrific AOS conference in Anchorage. At the AOS meeting we presented a couple of large banners celebrating women in particular, and diversity …

Field Guides

In the fall of 1973, shortly after starting my PhD at McGill University, I decided that I wanted to study a community of hummingbirds in western Mexico. During his own PhD research, my supervisor (major professor), Peter Grant, had discovered an apparent case of character displacement in the bill lengths of two hummingbird species on …

Contemplating the Tundra

CELEBRATING THE HISTORY OF WOMEN IN ORNITHOLOGY Until the 1970s, few women could have called themselves ‘professional’ ornithologists no matter how great their contribution to the study of birds. As I have documented earlier in this series of essays about the history of ornithology, women were most often (i) invisible, in the sense that we …

Magda and Kaethe

CELEBRATING THE HISTORY OF WOMEN IN ORNITHOLOGY In one of my earliest memories—I must have been about 6 years old—it is summer and I am sitting in my grandfather’s garden as his seven hens and a rooster forage around me, almost within touch. I am watching them closely, giving each of them personalities, figuring out …

More Than Generous Help

CELEBRATING THE HISTORY OF WOMEN IN ORNITHOLOGY A recent study [1] of papers published from 1970 to 1990 in computational population genetics in the journal Theoretical Population Biology found that women were acknowledged for their contributions at a much higher rate than they appeared as authors. During that period only 7% of authors were women whereas …

Not Just a Bird in a Cage

CELEBRATING THE HISTORY OF WOMEN IN ORNITHOLOGY This month—March 2019—is Women’s History Month in the USA, Australia, and the UK [1]. As President Jimmy Carter said in 1980: “Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed” [2]. For a few years now, I have been compiling information on the history of …

In the Shadow of Men

In 1973, I was stranded for several days on a small island in Witless Bay off the southeast coast of Newfoundland. I had gone there several times already that summer, conducting seabird surveys for the Canadian Wildlife Service. Landing on Green Island was sometimes difficult and the days were short as the local cod fishermen—Bill …

The Nice Bird Club

When I took first-year Zoology at the University of Toronto, in the 1960s, our lab instructor/coordinator was Dr J. Murray Speirs. Speirs was a kindly gentleman with a bit of old-world charm, accentuated by his ever-present black beret. I warmed to him immediately because he was also a birder and had a reputation for encouraging …

Elizabeth Gould and the Heads of Australian Birds

John Gould’s A Synopsis of the Birds of Australia, and the Adjacent Islands strikes me as the oddest of the superbly illustrated 19th-century bird books. Published by subscription that began in 1837, it was illustrated by his wife, Elizabeth, but only shows in colour the head of each species [1], unlike any of the other …