Cabinet 05 - Birds
Early naturalists, including Buffon, believed parrots were tropical birds. This was proved incorrect when scientific expeditions later discovered species in cooler climates. Since Linnaeus developed his classification system, a broad range of parrots have been identified. To account for them, Linnaeus's genus Psittacus was raised and further subdivided. On display is an illustration of a Purple-Capped Lory (Lorius domicellus) - Lorius being a subdivision of Psittacus.
Prideaux J. Selby, 'The Natural History of Parrots.' Vol. VI. The Naturalist's Library. Edinburgh: W. H. Lizars, S. Highley, and W. Curry Jnr, 1835. DeB Sb 1833 N O6
This volume contains descriptions of birds collected on the late northern land expeditions under the command of Captain Sir John Franklin. The Arctic Blue-bird (Sialia arctica) on display was described from a specimen shot at Fort Franklin in 1825. It was acknowledged as 'merely a summer visitor to the fur-countries.' Presumably as a result of its untimely death, no information regarding its habits was gathered during the expedition. The Arctic Blue-bird is an example of what would have been collected on scientific expeditions and sent back for classifying. William Swainson provided the commentary regarding natural arrangement and authorised the use of specific names in Part Second: The Birds. He resided in New Zealand at the end of his life and was the son of John Timothy Swainson, one of the founding members of the Linnean Society of London.
William Swainson, Fauna Boreali-Americana; or the Zoology of the Northern Parts of British America. Part Second: The Birds. London: John Murray, 1831. Leith 9GIa R523
'The Blue-bellied Bee-eater is not only a particularly splendid species, but one of such rarity that we do not remember to have seen more than four specimens.' So begins the description for the Blue-bellied Bee-eater (Merops cyanogaster) in Swainson's volume on birds of Western Africa. It also features a memoir of the ornithologist François Le Vaillant (1753-1824). Le Vaillant's boyhood amusement was bird-shooting and he reportedly became skilled at 'stuffing' the specimens he killed. Like Linnaeus, he travelled extensively.