Birdmen of India
is in a name?
Given below are details of some of the pioneers, who worked in the field of Indian ornithology. Information was, at times, quite difficult to collect and we would be delighted if readers could point out the mistakes and more importantly fill in the gaps.
In alphabetical order:
Andrew Leith Adams (1827 - 1882)
Andrew Adams was the son of Francis Adams
and studied medicine. He joined
the army as a physician in 1848, serving in the 22nd Infantry Regiment in India. He served in Himachal, Rawalpindi and Peshawar. He also worked in Kashmir and travelled to the interior of Ladakh and wrote about it in
The birds of Cashmere and Ladakh. It is said the Orange Bullfinch
Pyrrhula aurantiaca was discovered by him, as was the first breeding site of Brown-headed Gulls
Larus brunnicephalus in the Tibetan plateau.
Wanderings of a Naturalist in India, the Western Himalayas and Cashmere in 1867, as well as the
Western Himalayas and Kashmir.
The Black-winged (Tibetan) Snowfinch
Montifringilla adamsii was named after him. One of the races of the Sand Lark is called
Calandrella r adamsi.
Humayun Abdulali (1914-2001)
Humayun Abdulali was an Indian ornithologist, and a cousin of Salim Ali. His
initial foray into ornithology started with collecting bird eggs. Charles McCann said of him that 'he knew something about everything.' While studying Zoology at St Xavier's College in Bombay he put together a collection of birds which led to the publication of a six-part series on the
Birds of Bombay and Salsette in the Journal of the BNHS (1936-1939), co-authored by Salim Ali. His first publication was in
Eleven Koel eggs in a crow’s nest. He published 348 notes in his lifetime and his greatest contribution was
to cataloge the specimens in the collection of the BNHS.
He also led two expeditions to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in 1964 and
1966. Several species, including a new species of frog
Nyctibatrachus humayuni and a new species of Nicobar Scops Owl
Otus alius, have been named after him, and he himself described the Andaman subspecies of Black Baza
Accipiter l abdulali as well as the Nicobar sub-species of the Besra
Accipiter abdulali. A sub-species of the Red-vented Bulbul is also called
P c humayuni
Horace Alexander (1889- 1989)
Horace Gundry Alexander was a teacher, writer
and an ornithologist. He was a
talented birdwatcher, and was
involved in the movement of scientific observation and protection of birds
- something new in the 20th century. He was one of a small group of amateur birdwatchers who developed the skills and set new standards for combining the pleasures of birdwatching with the satisfaction of contributing to ornithology. Horace spent time in India and became interested in its birds in
the late 1920's. Ornithology at that time was not popular among Indians and when Horace informed Gandhi of an expedition, Gandhi commented,
That is a good hobby, provided you don't shoot them.
Horace demonstrated the use of binoculars as an acceptable alternative to the gun
to document birds. He accompanied S. Dillon Ripley on an expedition to the Naga Hills in 1950. He also associated himself with a group of birdwatchers in New Delhi and encouraged Indian ornithologists such as Usha Ganguli. He wrote several articles on Indian birds. In 1984 he was awarded the Padma Bhushan.
Dr. Salim Ali (1896-1987)
Sálim Ali was an Indian ornithologist and naturalist
who is known as the "Birdman of India" .
Ali was a pioneer and was arguablly the 1st Indian to conduct systematic bird surveys in India.
His popular books have
also contributed enormously to the development of professional and amateur ornithology in India.
Orphaned at the age of ten, and brought up by his maternal uncle, Amiruddin Tyabji, Salim
Ali was introduced to the serious study of birds by W. S. Millard, secretary
of the Bombay Natural History Society who helped him identify
a Yellow-throated Sparrow (now Chestnut-shouldered Petronia)
that he had shot for sport. Millard also showed
Ali around the Society's
collection and this turned out to be a key
event in his life and led to his pursuit of a career
Salim Ali's early education was at Mumbai. He
did not complete his education and instead went to Tavoy, Burma to look after the family interests there. The forests surrounding this area provided an opportunity for Ali to hone his skills. On his return to India in 1917, he resumed his education, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (Honors)
degree in Zoology. Ali failed to get an
ornithologist's position at the Zoological Survey of India due to lack of sufficient academic qualifications
but decided to study further after he was hired as guide lecturer in 1926 at the natural history section in the Prince of Wales Museum in Mumbai. He went to Germany, where he trained under Professor Erwin Stresemann of Berlin University.
On his return to India in 1930, he moved to Kihim, a coastal village near Mumbai, where he began making his first observations of the Baya Weaver. The publication of his findings brought him recognition. He undertook
sponsored systematic bird surveys of the princely states
of Hyderabad, Cochin, Travancore, Gwalior, Indore and Bhopal.
Salim Ali was very influential in ensuring the survival of the BNHS and managed to save the
100-year-old institution by
obtaining financial help from the Govt. of India. Dr. Ali's influence helped save the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary and the Silent Valley National Park.
Ali was elected Fellow of the Indian National Science Academy in 1958, received three honorary doctorates and was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 1985. Dr. Salim Ali died in 1987 at the age of 91.
He wrote several important books including his autobiography
The Fall of a Sparrow. For details of his other works check our bibliography section.
The South-central peninsula sub-species of the Rock Bush-Quail is named
Perdicula argoondah salimali as is the eastern sub-species of the Finn’s Baya called
Ploceus megarhynchus salimali. The Mishmi Hills race of the White-browed Scimitar Babbler
Pomatorhinus S salimali is also named after him as is the southern race of the Zitting Cisticola. The South-eastern Ghats sub-species of the Oriental White-eye is also called
Z p salimalii. His devoted wife Tehmina has a sub-species of the Black-rumped Flameback
Dinopium b tehminae named after her.
E C S Stuart Baker (1864 - 1944)
Baker was educated at Trinity College, and in 1883
joined the Indian Police Service. He spent most of his career in India in the Assam Police, rising to the rank of Inspector-General. In 1910 he was placed on Special Criminal Investigation duty and a year later returned to England and took up the appointment of Chief Police Officer of the Port of London Police
from where he retired in 1925. An excellent tennis player and an enthusiastic big game hunter,
Baker lost his left arm to a leopard in Silchar, Assam.
Baker studied and collected the birds of India
when he found the time. His books include
The Indian Ducks and their Allies
Game Birds of India and Ceylon (1921),
Fauna of British India: Birds (seven volumes), Mishmi
The Nidification of the Birds of the Indian Empire and
Cuckoo Problems (the cuckoo was his main interest in ornithology and in fact the northeastern sub-species of the Common Cuckoo is called
Cuculus canorus bakeri). He collected nearly 50,000 Indian birds' eggs, which he donated to the Natural History Museum. His seven-volume contribution to the
Fauna of British India series became the standard reference work on the subject.
Yuhina bakeri was named in his honour. It is now referred to as the White-naped Yuhina. The South Assam race of the Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler is called
Pomatorhinus r bakeri and the Sri Lankan race of the Asian Palm Swift is known as
T m bakeri. Many other sub-species too are named after him.
Valentine Ball (1843 – 1894)
Valentine Ball was an Irish geologist who joined the Geological Survey of India.
Ball took a deep interest in ornithology and was a a regular
Stray Feathers, the ornithological journal founded by Allan Octavian
Hume. His best known work is
Jungle-Life in India. He later became director of the National Museum
The Andaman Scops Owl
Otus balli is named after him.
Henry Edwin Barnes (1848-1896)
Henry Edwin Barnes FZS was born in Oxford and
educated at Oxford University School. He served
as an officer in the Army and was stationed at Aden,
Afghanistan and India. A keen ornithologist, Barnes
wrote several articles on birds of various places in
India and also the
Handbook to the birds of the Bombay Presidency in 1885 as well as
The birds of India, A guide to Indian Ornithology.
Finsch’s Wheatear was earlier called Barnes’s
R S P Bates (1897-?)
A Colonel in the Indian army who pioneered bird photography in India and wrote
Breeding Birds of Kashmir (with Lowther) – an illustrated guide to the habits and habitats of over 150 species native to the vale of Kashmir and the neighbouring valleys of the Kishenganga, Liddar, Sind and Wardwan rivers. He also wrote
Birdlife in India and a
note entitled History of Bird Photography in India.
Salim Ali paid him a handsome tribute when writing his
obituary, “Many of his portraits of Indian birds must still rank amongst the
finest ever made.”
R C Beavan’s (1841-1870)
Captain Robert Cecil Beavan served in India for 10 years. During his short life he collected specimens of birds and eggs
from various locations and
contributed notes to the
Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. His collection of eggs and birds
is kept at the Natural History Museum. In 1864, Beavan worked at Barrackpore and spent the winter of that year in the Maunbhoom
district. His notes on this period were published in the Ibis entitled
Notes on various Indian Birds. He
also collected in the Andaman Islands and, with additional information from Colonel Tytler, wrote
The Avifauna of the Andaman Islands in the Ibis in 1867.
Pyrrhula erythaca, first collected by him, was called Beavan's Bullfinch and is now named Grey-headed Bullfinch. The Rufescent Prinia was earlier called Beavan’s Wren Warbler. The East Himalayan race of the Rufous-vented Tit is called
Parus r beavani
F N Betts (1906- 1973)
Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Nicholson Betts
India to plant coffee, joined the Indian Territorial Army and ended up in some
of the roughest fighting of
WWII. Betts was a keen observer
of birds and kept records of his observations. During his
time in various remote places he studied the local birdlife.
Betts was among the first to study and report from the remote Khru valley, the Coorg district as well as from parts of northeast India. While in India he was an active member of the BNHS
and contributed his study of the birds of Coorg during this time.
Betts work was ahead of his time. His entire study was purely
based on observations and not
on collection of skins.
A BBC radio play called 'The Naga
Queen' was based on the life of Betts and his wife Ursula.
W T Blanford (1832 – 1905)
William Thomas Blanford (not Blandford as he is often called) was an English geologist and naturalist. He was born in London and educated in private schools in Brighton and Paris. In 1854, he and his brother Henry joined the Geological Survey of India
and took up their positions in Calcutta in 1855. He remained
in India for 27 years, retiring in 1882.
He was also the President of The Asiatic Society from
1878-1879. After his retirement he took up editorship of
the Fauna of British India series. He was more interested in zoology, especially the land-mollusca and vertebrates. His principal publication was the third volume in birds following the work of E. W. Oates in the
Fauna of British India series. The Plain-backed (Blanford’s) Snowfinch
Pyrgilauda blanfordi and the Blanford’s Rosefinch have been named after him. The Pale-footed Bush Warbler was earlier called Blanford’s Bush Warbler. A race of the Yellow-legged Buttonquail is called
T t blanfordi as are several other sub-species. The
(Ovis Vignei Blanfordi) is named after him.
Dr Biswamoy Biswas (1923-1994)
Biswamoy Biswas was an Indian ornithologist
and its foremost taxonomist. Born in Calcutta,
Biswas was a brilliant student and gold medallist at
his graduation. In 1947, he was awarded a three-year fellowship
which enabled him to study at the British Museum, at the Berlin Zoological Museum under Erwin Stresemann, and also at the American Museum of Natural History under Ernst Mayr.
He received a Ph.D. in 1952 from the University of Calcutta
and was part of the Daily Mail expedition sent to look for the Yeti
around Mount Everest in 1954. Dr
Biswas was the Joint Director of the ZSI until his retirement in 1981, and then Emeritus Scientist until 1986.
Biswas adopted a modern genus
concept and published A Check-list of Genera of
Indian Birds in 1953,
the basis of all future taxonomic papers for the subcontinent.
A field scientist and a
meticulous collector, his landmark work was on the birds of Nepal and Bhutan.
A flying squirrel species,
Biswamoyopterus biswasi is named in his honour.
Edward Blyth (1810-1873)
Edward Blyth was an English zoologist and a chemist.
He was Darwin's contemporary and many believe that his work
on natural selection was similar and familiar to Darwin. He is
also known as one of the founders of Indian zoology. In 1841, he travelled to India to become the curator of the Museum of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal. He was so poor that he needed an advance of 100 pounds to make his trip to Calcutta. In India, Blyth was poorly paid
and tried various approaches to supplement his income. He was involved in trading live animals
between India and Britain. He set about updating the museum's catalogues, publishing a
Catalogue of the Birds of the Asiatic Society in 1849. He did not do much fieldwork himself, but received and described bird specimens from Hume, Tickell, Swinhoe and others. He remained as curator until 1862, when poor health forced his return to England. His
The Natural History of the Cranes was published in 1881.
Species bearing his name include Blyth's Hawk-eagle, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Blyth's Leaf-Warbler, Blyth’s Tragopan and Blyth's Pipit. Blyth’s Kingfisher, Blyth’s (Flavescent) Bulbul, Lesser Whitethroat
curruca blythi, Blyth’s (Red-mantled) Rosefinch. Pam Rasmussen has recently split the Chestnut-tailed Starlings and given full status to Malabar White-headed Starling
W E Brooks (1828-1899)
William Edwin Brooks was a civil engineer,
a collector and an ornithologist who was born near
Dublin, Ireland. He came to India in 1856
to work in the Railways and stayed on until 1881after
which he went to Canada. His vast collection of bird specimens is at the British Museum. During his career in India, he corresponded actively with other ornithologists in the region, notably Allan Octavian Hume. His third son, Allan Brooks, named after Hume,
the well known Canadian ornithologist and artist of repute. The Brooks'
Phylloscopus subviridis is named after him.
E A Butler (1843 - 1916)
Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Arthur Butler was an English ornithologist and British Army officer. He was born in Warwickshire, UK, and studied at Eton. Joining the army the young age of 21, he served in Gibraltar, India and South Africa
in the service of the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles. Butler was a keen collector and a taxidermist. The Hume's Owl,
Strix butleri is named after him as is Nicobar Sparrowhawk
Douglas Dewar (1875-1957)
Douglas Dewar was a barrister,
Auditor General of the Indian Civil Service and a
careful observer of bird life. He wrote several books including
Bombay Ducks. Indian Birds, Birds of the Plains, Glimpses of Indian Birds, A bird calendar for northern India, Glimpses of Indian birds, Birds of the plains and
Bombay ducks; an account of some of the every-day birds and beasts found in a naturalist's Eldorado.
The Transformist Illusion,
published posthumously, discusses the main areas of evolution within a
Edward Hamilton Aitken (popularly known as EHA
by those who admired his accurate and amusing
writer on natural history subjects) was a humorist, naturalist and a writer especially on the wildlife of India. Born at Satara
in the Bombay Presidency, he was educated by his father in India.
He entered the Customs and Salt Department of the Government of Bombay in April 1876, and served in Kharaghoda, Uran, North Kanara, Goa, Ratnagiri, and Bombay itself. In May 1903, he was appointed
Chief Collector of Customs and Salt Revenue at Karachi, and in November 1905, was made Superintendent in charge of the District of Sind.
He was an indefatigable worker in the Museum of the Bombay Natural History Society, which he helped found, and many of his papers and notes are preserved in the pages of its journal, of which he was an original joint-editor.
Before his retirement he was elected one of the
Vice-Presidents of the Society.
He wrote several books on natural history, including the
Birds of Bombay.
He is credited with the discovery
of a new species of anopheline mosquito which was named after him
Frank Finn (1886-1932)
Finn was born in Maidstone and educated at Brasenose College, Oxford. He went on a collecting expedition to East Africa in 1892, and became First Assistant Superintendent of the Indian Museum, Calcutta in 1894, and Deputy Superintendent from 1895 to 1903. He then returned to England, and became the editor of the
Avicultural Magazine in 1909-10.
Finn was a prolific author and his works included
Garden and Aviary Birds of India,
How to Know the Indian Ducks
Birds of Calcutta, How to Know the Indian Waders,
Ornithological and other Oddities,
The Making of Species, and
Indian Sporting Birds.
The weaver bird
Ploceus megarhynchus was originally described from a specimen collected by A O Hume from Kaladhungi near Nainital in 1869. It was rediscovered near Calcutta by Finn and E. W. Oates
later called it Finn's Baya
Thomas B Fletcher (1878-1950)
Thomas Bainbrigge Fletcher was an English
entomologist. He was a naval paymaster until 1910 and was later appointed
Imperial Entomologist in India. He took great interest in various aspects of entomology in India, especially
on economic pests. He also worked extensively on the
Microlepidoptera. He wrote (with CM Inglis)
The Garden Birds of India in 1924.
James Franklin (1783 - 1834)
Captain James Franklin was a British soldier who entered the service of the British East India Company in 1805. He served with distinction on various Indian surveys and was elected a member of the Royal Society.
Franklin undertook surveys of the Central Provinces
and collected birds for the Asiatic Society. He collected
156 species on tour from Calcutta to Saugar
via Benaras in 1826. The specimens went later to the Zoological Society in London.
Among the birds named after him are Golden-throated Barbet
Megalaima franklinii. The Grey-breasted Prinia was also referred to as Franklin’s Prinia as was the Savanna Nightjar. The SW race of the Plain Prinia is called
Prinia inornata franklinii
N F Frome (1899-1982)
Sir Norman Frederick
Frome was born in Bristol and educated at the University of Bristol. He worked in India with the Indian Posts and Telegraphs Department. During this time he studied the birds of various parts of India, and
conducted one of the most comprehensive studies of the birds of the Delhi region. He wrote extensively in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society and his articles include
Birds noted in the Mahasu-Narkanda-Baghi area of the Simla Hills, The birds
of Delhi and District and
A note on birds of the Simla foothills.
H H Godwin-Austen (1834 – 1923)
Henry Haversham Godwin-Austen was an English topographer, geologist and surveyor. After training at Sandhurst he served for many years on the Trigonometrical Survey of India, retiring in 1877. An excellent geologist, he was also a naturalist and a fine ornithologist and wrote the
Birds of Assam where he described several birds for the first time. The Karakoram peak K2 in the Himalayas was originally but briefly named Mount Godwin-Austen after him.
The Brown-capped Laughingthrush
Garrulax austeni is named after him. The Streak-throated Barwing was earlier called Austen’s Barwing as was the Snowy-throated Babbler which was referred to as Austen’s Babbler. A race of the Assam Laughingthrush is called
Trochalopteron C godwini as is a race of the Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler.
The South Assam race of the White-browed Fulvetta
Alcippe v austeni
John Gould (1804-1881)
Elizabeth Gould (1804-1841)
John Gould was a famous bird painter who produced several fine folios, including
A Century of birds from the Himalayan Mountains and the six-volume
Birds of Asia. His wife, too, was an accomplished painter. Mrs Gould Sunbird
Aethopyga gouldiae is named after her and the Gould’s Shortwing is named after him. A race of the Chestnut Thrush is called
T r gouldi
Brian Hodgson (1801-1894)
Brian Houghton Hodgson was a naturalist and ethnologist working in India
as a civil servant. Hodgson was born at Cheshire and, at the age of 17 travelled to India as a writer in the British East India Company. He was sent to Kathmandu in Nepal as Assistant Commissioner in 1819, becoming British Resident in 1833. He studied the Nepalese people
and their culture, producing a number of papers on their languages, literature and religion.
Hodgson studied all aspects of natural history around him,
particularly material emanating from Nepal, Sikkim and Bengal. He amassed a large collection of birds and mammal skins which he later donated to the British Museum. He also discovered 39 species of mammals and 124 species of birds which had not been described previously. 79 of the bird species
he described himself. The zoological collections presented to the British Museum by Hodgson in 1843 and 1858
comprised 10,499 specimens. In addition to these, the collection also included an enormous number of drawings and coloured sketches of Indian animals by native artists under his supervision. Most of these were subsequently transferred to the Zoological Society of London.
Many birds are named after him and they include Tibetan Partridge
Perdix hodgsoniae, Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo, Hodgson’s Frogmouth, Speckled Wood Pigeon
Columba hodgsonii, Hodgson’s Redstart, Hodgson’s Bushchat, Slaty-backed Flycatcher
Ficedula hodgsonii and Broad-billed Warbler
Tickellia hodgsoni. The White-bellied Redstart is now known as Hodgson’s Blue Robin
Hodgsonius phaenicuroides. Several other sub-species too are named after him.
A O Hume (1829-1912)
Allan Octavian Hume was a civil servant in British India, and a political reformer. He was a founder of the Indian National Congress. He has been called
the father of Indian Ornithology by some and, by those who found him dogmatic, as
the Pope of Indian ornithology. In 1849 he sailed to India and the following year joined the Bengal Civil Service at Etawah in the North-Western Provinces in what is now Uttar Pradesh. He soon rose to become District Officer. During the Mutiny of 1857 Hume took refuge in the Agra fort for six months. In 1860 he was made Companion of the Bath for his services during the rebellion. Hume left India in 1894 and settled
Hume made many expeditions to collect birds both when he was on health leave and as and where his work took him.
As the Commissioner of Inland Customs
Hume was responsible for the control of 2,500 miles of coast from near Peshawar in the northwest to Cuttack on the Bay of Bengal. During
his travels he made a number of notes on various bird species. His expedition to the Indus area was one of the largest. In 1873, he visited the Andaman
and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal, the Laccadive Islands in 1875, and in 1881 he made his last ornithological expedition to Manipur.
He used this vast bird collection to produce a massive publication on all the birds of India. Unfortunately, this work was lost in 1885 when all
of Hume's manuscripts were sold by a servant as waste paper. His interest in ornithology was greatly diminished after this and he wrote to the British Museum wishing to donate his collection.
the Large-billed Reed-Warbler
Acrocephalus orinus was known from just one specimen collected by him in 1869. It was only in 2006 that the species was seen again in Thailand and later near Kolkata.
Hume started the quarterly journal
Stray Feathers - A journal of ornithology for India and dependencies in 1872. Twelve volumes were produced, the last of which was in 1888. He used the journal to publish descriptions of his new discoveries, such as Hume's Owl, Hume's Wheatear and Hume's Whitethroat. He wrote extensively on his own observations as well as
writing critical reviews of all the ornithological works of the time. Hume built up a network of ornithologists reporting from various parts of India.
Hume co-authored with C H T Marshall
Game Birds of India, Burmah and Ceylon (1879-1881).This three-volume work was made using contributions and notes from a network of 200 or more correspondents.
Nests and Eggs of Indian Birds (1883) was another major work by Hume. This nearly marked the end of Hume's interest in ornithology. His last piece of ornithological writing was done in 1891 as part of an
Introduction to the Scientific Results of the Second Yarkand Mission, an official publication on the contributions of Dr. Ferdinand Stoliczka, who died during the return journey of this mission. Several birds were named after him and his wife including Mrs Hume’s Pheasant
Syrmaticus humiae, Hume's Owl, Hume’s Groundpecker
Pseudopodoces humilis, Hume’s Wheatear, Hume’s Warbler
Phylloscopus humei, Wedge-billed Wren Babbler
Hume’s Lesser Whitethroat and Hume’s Short-toed Lark.
Mrs Mary Anne Grindall Hume (?-1890)
Wife of the famous A. O. Hume. Mrs Hume’s Pheasant
Syrmaticus humiae was named after her.
C M Inglis (1870-1954)
Charles McFarlane Inglis was a naturalist and curator of the Darjeeling museum in India from 1926 to 1948. The museum was run by the Bengal Natural History Society and many of his writings were published in that society's journal which he started and edited.
He was born in Elgin, Scotland and went to India at the age of 18. He became a planter and during this time made studies of the birds, butterflies and dragonflies. His works include (with Baker, H R)
The Birds of Southern India including Madras, Malabar, Travancore, Cochin, Coorg and Mysore, and (with Fletcher,
Birds of an Indian Garden. The eastern race of the Ashy Prinia
Prinia socialis inglisi is named after him as is the West Assam race of the Manipur Bush Quail
P m inglisi
Capt. Surgeon T C Jerdon (1811-1872)
Jerdon arrived in India on 21 February 1836, and soon thereafter started collecting birds. He was posted in the 2nd Light Cavalry and for the next four years lived in the Deccan and Eastern Ghats. Around 1845 the Jerdons lived in Ooty and then in Nellore and Tellicherry. Earlier he used to send his collections to William Jardine for identification, but they often arrived infested by moths. From now on Jerdon trusted his own judgment and published
A Catalogue of the Birds of the Indian Peninsula for the
Madras Journal of Literature and Science (1839-40). This included 420 species, almost twice the earlier list by Colonel W H Sykes. After retirement he went to the Khasi Hills in Assam. In June 1868 he
returned to England.
Jerdon's most important publication was
The Birds of India (1862-64), which included over 1008 species in two volumes with the second volume in two parts. He also wrote
Illustrations of Indian Ornithology in 1844, which included illustration made by Indian artists. Other works included
The Game Birds and Wildfowl of India (1864). Jerdon was instrumental in the conception of the
Fauna of British India series.
Birds named after him include Jerdon’s Courser, Jerdon’s Baza, Jerdon’s Bushchat, Jerdon’s Babbler, Jerdon’s Leafbird,
Jerdon’s Nightjar and the Grey-breasted Laughingthrush
N B Kinnear (1882-1957)
Sir Norman Boyd Kinnear was a Scottish zoologist
and was related to Sir William Jardine. He was
the Curator of the museum of the Bombay Natural History Society
(BNHS) from November 1907 to 1919, as well as assistant editor of the
Bombay Natural History Society Journal. In 1920 he became an assistant in the Department of Zoology at the Natural History Museum, becoming Keeper of Zoology in 1945, and Director of the Museum in August 1947. He retired on April 30, 1950 and was knighted in June of that year. He was one of the founders of the Society for the History of Natural History. He wrote two papers in the
Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society on the history of Indian ornithology and mammalogy. The Rufous-bellied Eagle
Hieraaetus kienerii is named after him.
Walter Norman Koelz (1895-1989)
Walter Norman Koelz was an American zoologist and museum collector.
Koelz studied zoology and received the degree of Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Michigan in 1920. In 1925 he joined the McMillan expedition to the American Arctic.
He was offered a post with the
Himalayan Research Institute of the Roerich Museum in 1930. He visited Naggar in Kulu in May 1930 to begin botanical explorations. He returned to Michigan in 1932, but his interest in Tibetan culture led to his appointment as a Research Fellow on the Charles L. Freer Fund in September 1932.
In 1933 he returned to Tibet to collect
anthropology related material for the University of Michigan. For seven years from 1939 he explored Persia, Nepal, and parts of India including Assam and made a large collection of birds. In 1956 he was awarded the Meyer Memorial Award for outstanding contribution to the world of agriculture. He found and brought back a disease-resistant wild
melon from Calcutta that helped save the California melon crop. He had collected nearly 30,000 bird specimens for the University of Michigan's zoology museum and some 30,000 plants for the herbarium. A race of the Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch is called
Sitta c koelzi as is the race of the Green-tailed Sunbird
Aethopyga n koelzi.
Frank Ludlow (1885-1972)
Frank Ludlow OBE was an English officer stationed in the British Mission at Lhasa, and a naturalist. After studying in Cambridge he taught at Sind College, Karachi. During World War I he served with the Ninety-seventh Indian Infantry and later joined the Indian Education Service. In 1927 he retired and lived in Srinagar, Kashmir and travelled extensively in the Himalayas. He later took charge of the British Mission in Lhasa from 1942-43. He used his time
in studying natural history and collecting birds and botanical specimens. His collection of nearly 7,000 bird specimens is housed in the Natural History Museum. The Brown-throated Fulvetta
Alcippe ludlowi is named after him. The South Tibet sub-species of the Little Owl is also called
Athene noctua ludlowi.
C H T Marshall (1841 - 1927)
Charles Henry Tilson Marshall was a British Army officer, serving in Punjab, India. In his spare time he collected birds in Punjab and the Himalayas, and sent these to A.
O. Hume. He was the brother of George Marshall, with whom he published ornithological articles in
the Ibis. He wrote
The Game Birds of India, Burmah and Ceylon along with Hume in three volumes between 1878 and 1880. The Western Himalayan race of the Great Barbet is called
Megalaima virens marshallorum. The west Himalayan race of the Rufous-bellied Woodpecker is called
H h marshalli.
G F L Marshall (1843 - 1934)
George Frederick Leycester Marshall was a Colonel in the Indian Army and brother of C H T Marshall. He was a naturalist interested in the birds and butterflies of India. Several new species of butterflies were described by him along with Lionel de Niceville. He wrote
The butterflies of India, Burmah and Ceylon. The Marshall's Iora
(White-tailed Iora) was discovered by him.
John McClelland (1805-1883)
John McClelland was a British
who worked for the East India Company. He had interests in geology
and biology. He was a member of the delegation sent to
investigate the nature of the tea plant. He also served as an interim superintendent of the Calcutta Botanical Garden from 1846 to 1847.
He wrote about birds in Some Inquiries in the Province
of Kemaon and is commemorated in the name of the Mountain Bulbul
Hypsipetes mcclellandii. The Rufous-vented Laughingthrush was
earlier known as MaClelland’s
Richard Meinertzhagen (1878-1967)
Colonel Richard Henry Meinertzhagen CBE DSO was a British soldier, intelligence officer, ornithologist and expert on bird lice. He was influential in life and had a legendary reputation for his exploits around the world. Studies on his work on birds and historic notes after his death, however, raised serious questions on his integrity and have made him a controversial character.
As the author of numerous taxonomic and other works on birds, and possessing a vast collection of bird and bird lice specimens, Meinertzhagen was long considered one of Britain's greatest ornithologists. Yet his magnum opus,
Birds of Arabia (1954), is believed to have been based on the unpublished manuscript of another naturalist, George Bates, who is not sufficiently credited in that book.
In the 1990s an analysis of Meinertzhagen's bird collection at the Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum in Tring, UK, revealed large-scale fraud involving theft and falsification. Many of the specimens that he submitted as his own were found to be missing specimens belonging to the Natural History Museum and collected by others such as Hugh Whistler. The North and Central Indian race of the Rock Bush Quail is called
P a meinertzhageni
James A Murray (???)
James A. Murray was a zoologist and museum curator in Karachi. He was a member of the Natural History and Anthropological Societies of Bombay, a manager at the Victoria Natural History Institute and curator at the Kurrachee Municipal Library and Museum. He wrote several books on Indian birds including
The Avifauna of the Island of Ceylon, The Edible and Game Birds of British India with its Dependencies and Ceylon, Indian Birds or the Avifauna of British India. Vols. 1-2 and
The Avifauna of British India and its dependencies.
E W Oates (1845-1911)
Eugene William Oates was an English naturalist. He was born in Sicily and educated at Bath, England. He was a civil servant in the Public Works Department in India and Burma from 1867 to 1899. He retired to England, where he compiled a catalogue of birds' eggs in the Natural History Museum, and served as secretary of the British Ornithologists' Union from 1898 to 1901.
Some of his important works include
A handbook to the birds of British Burmah including those found in the adjoining state of Karennee,
A manual of the Game Birds of India. Vol. ii and (with Blanford)
Fauna of British India (birds). 4 vols. A rare race of the Lesser Rufous-headed Parrotbill is known as
Paradoxornis a oatesi. The Vivid Niltava is now called
Niltava oatesi. The recently split Chin Hills Wren Babbler is now called
Arthur Edward Osmaston (1885-1961)
Arthur Edward Osmaston was a forest officer and naturalist in India. He studied at the Royal Indian Engineering College, Cooper's Hill and joined the Indian Forest Department in the United Provinces. During his 30 years of service, he studied the birds and flora of the region and wrote numerous papers in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. His collection of bird specimens was given to Hugh Whistler in 1931 and is now in the Natural
Bertram Beresford Osmaston (1868-1961)
He was the Chief Conservators of Forests, Central Provinces, and wrote
The Wildlife of Dehradun, which was a pioneering work on birds of the region. He also spent substantial time in the Andamans. The Andaman’s sub-species of the Pale-footed Bush Warbler is called
Cettia P osmastoni as is the Andaman’s sub-species of the Small Minivet and the Stork-billed Kingfisher.
Sir Arthur Purves Phayre (1812 - 1885)
Phayre was a soldier, an
administrator and an author. He later became the First Commissioner of British Burma
and the Governor of Mauritius. He joined the Indian Army in 1828. In 1846 he was appointed assistant to the commissioner of the province of Tenasserim,
Burma. In 1862 Phayre was made commissioner for the entire province of British Burma.
He is commemorated in the names of a number of animals, including the Phayre’s Leaf Monkey. The Eared Pitta is called
Pitta phayrei. A race of the Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler is also named after him as is the W Myanmar race of the Brown-cheeked Fulvetta
Alcippe p phayrei. Rasmussen has recently split the Pompadour Green Pigeon
in to several species and given a full status to the Ashy-headed Green Pigeon
Treron phayrei of the Eastern Himalayas.
Wardlaw Ramsay (1852-1921)
Colonel Robert George Wardlaw Ramsay was an army officer and naturalist. He
served with the Army in India, Afghanistan and Burma.
Throught his life Ramsay took a great interest in ornithology. He was president of the British Ornithologists' Union from 1913 to 1918. He edited
The Ornithological works of Arthur 9th Marquis of Tweeddale (1881) and also wrote a
Guide to the birds of Europe and North Africa (1923). He was
the nephew of Arthur Hay, 9th Marquess of Tweeddale, and inherited his collection of over 20,000 bird skins. This was later presented to the
Natural History Museum
along with the Tweeddale ornithological library which
contained 2,560 volumes.
Dr Sidney Dillon Ripley (1913-2001)
Sidney Dillon Ripley was an American ornithologist. He was born in New York City. He studied at St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire and in 1936 graduated with a B.A. from Yale University. A visit to India at age 13, included a walking tour into Ladakh and western Tibet, led to his lifelong interest in the ornithology of India. He later obtained a Ph.D. in zoology from Harvard and became friendly with Dr Salim Ali, which led to a partnership that
changed the face of Indian ornithology.
He served as Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution from 1964 to 1984. The S. Dillon Ripley Center was named after him. He joined the AOU in 1938, became an elective member in 1942, and a fellow in 1951. In 1985 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award. He had honorary degrees from 15 colleges and universities.
He most important work was (with Salim Ali)
Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan, in 10 volumes. His other books included
In search of the Spiny babbler,
Rails of the World and the
Birds of Bhutan with Salim Ali and Biswamoy Biswas. The South-western Ghats sub-species of the Oriental Bay Owl is sometimes called
Phodilus badius ripleyi. The East Assam race of the Puff-throated Babbler is called
Pellorneum r ripleyi
B E Smythies (1912-1999)
Bertram Evelyn (Bill) Smythies
was a British forester and an outstanding
amateur field ornithologist and botanist.
He was born at Nainital
and read botany and forestry at Balliol College, Oxford.
After graduating he joined the Colonial Forest Service
and took up duties with
the Burma Forest Service in 1934 and explored the botany and
ornithology of the Burmese regions. Post the pull out from
Burma he was posted to the forest service of
Sarawak in 1949.
Smythies was seconded from forest duty to curate and catalogue
the Bornean collection. He went on to collate the
new distributional information with the results of taxonomic and literature
research, to produce a 300-page Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Borneo.
Smythies returned to Sarawak as Conservator of
Forests in the 50's.
He wrote several major books including
The Birds of Burma and
Birds of Borneo which are
towering landmarks in the development of the
regional ornithology. The
OBC's Bertram Smythies fund
commemorates his contribution to ornithology.
J K Stanford (1892-1971)
John Keith Stanford OBE MC was a British writer of the mid-20th century.
Educated in Oxford, Stanford joined the army
and rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.
Between the wars he was in the Indian Civil Service, much of the time in Burma. He wrote 27 books, and was a regular contributor to
Ibis, the journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, and other magazines where he wrote on ornithology or British colonial life between the wars. The Lushai hills race of the Nepal Fulvetta
Alcippe n stanfordi is named in his honour.
Ferdinand Stoliczka (1838-1874)
Ferdinand Stoliczka was a Moravian paleontologist who worked in India on paleontology, geology and various aspects of zoology. He was born in Moravia. In 1862 Stoliczka joined the Geological Survey of India under the British Government in India. His interest in birds started only in 1864 when serving in the Himalayas and he was greatly encouraged by Hume. His first ornithological work was making large collections of birds from the Sutlej Valley.
Stoliczka's Bushchat (
Saxicola macrorhyncha) is named after him. The White-browed Tit Warbler was earlier referred to as Stoliczka’s Tit Warbler
Colonel W H Sykes (1790-1872)
Colonel William Henry Sykes, FRS, was an Indian Army officer,
statistician, politician and ornithologist.
Born in Yorkshire, he joined the Bombay Army in 1804, returning to Britain in 1837. He became Member of Parliament for Aberdeen in 1857, and was elected President of the Royal Asiatic Society in 1858.
During his time at the Bombay Army, he published his catalogues of birds and mammals of the Deccan in the
Proceedings of the Zoological Society in 1832. This included 56 birds new to science, including the Indian Pond Heron. His list of birds of the Deccan included 236 species.
He left the Bombay Army with the rank of Colonel on June 18, 1833 and in 1840 became a Director of the East India Company.
The Sykes's Lark (
Galerida deva) of peninsular India is named after him as is the Sykes’s Nightjar so is Sykes’s Warbler. In addition, one race of Blue-headed Wagtail (
Motacilla flava beema) was given the common name Sykes's Wagtail in
British Birds in 1907.
Charles Swinhoe (1836 - 1923)
Colonel Charles Swinhoe was an English naturalist and lepidopterist who served in the British Army in India. He was one of the eight founders of the Bombay Natural History Society and a brother of the famous naturalist Robert Swinhoe. Swinhoe joined the Army and reached India
in 1858. He was at Kandahar with Lord Roberts in 1880, and collected 341 birds there and on the march back to India. He was a
member of the British Ornithologists Union and contributed papers to
Ibis on the birds of southern Afghanistan and central India, and donated 300 bird skins from each country to the British Museum.
Robert Swinhoe (1836 - 1877)
Robert Swinhoe was an English naturalist who was born in Calcutta.
Swinhoe was sent to England
for his education, where he enrolled in King's College School, London in 1852,
and subsequently registered at the University of London in 1853. In 1854,
Swinhoe demonstrated the first signs of his interest in zoology by presenting
a small collection of British birds, nests, and eggs to the British Museum.
In 1854 he joined the British
Consular service in Hong Kong and thereafter went to
Amoy in 1856.
Robert Swinhoe has many new discoveries to his credit and
many of these were birds some of which were first described in John
Birds of Asia (1863). A number of species were named after Swinhoe, including Swinhoe's Storm-Petrel and Swinhoe’s Snipe.
C B Ticehurst (1881-1941)
Claud Buchanan Ticehurst was a British ornithologist. He was educated first at Cambridge.
Initially trained as a medical physician,
Ticehurst was what we might call a born
field-ornithologist for whom
ornithology became to be the leading passion of
He and made trips to Europe with John Lewis James Bonhote and Hugh Whistler.
His collection of 10,000 bird skins was bequeathed to the Natural History Museum.
During World War I, Ticehurst served with the British Army as a surgeon, visiting Basra and Quetta, and afterwards became an authority on the birds of South Asia, following in the footsteps of Philip Lutley Sclater.
Ticehurst was the editor of teh Ibis for 10 yaers and was
working on a comprehensive publication with Hugh Whistler when he died in
Samuel Tickell (1811 – 1875)
Colonel Samuel Richard Tickell was a British army officer, artist and ornithologist in India and Burma. He was born at Cuttack in India and was educated in England, returning at the age of 19 to join the Bengal Native Infantry. He served in Bengal until 1840 when he was made commander of Brian Hodgson's military escort to Kathmandu. He returned to Bengal in 1843 and, after his promotion to Captain in 1847, was moved to lower Burma.
During his time in India Tickell made important contributions to the country's ornithology and mammalology, with field observations and collections of specimens. He contributed to volume 17 of the
Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. Volume 18 included a report by Tickell from Burma. Tickell retired in 1865 and settled in the Channel Islands. In 1870 an eye inflammation made him blind. Tickell had been working on a book entitled
Illustrations of Indian Ornithology, but his deteriorating eyesight forced him to abandon it. Before he died in Cheltenham he donated the unfinished work to the Zoological Society of London.
A number of birds were named after Tickell, including Tickell's Thrush (
Turdus unicolor), Tickell's Flowerpecker (
Dicaeum erythrorhynchos), Tickell's Blue Flycatcher (
Cyornis tickelliae), Tickell's Leaf-warbler (
Phylloscopus affinis), The Buff-breasted (Tickell’s) Babbler
Pellorneum tickelli and the Pale-billed (Tickell’s) Flowerpecker. The Brown Hornbill is named
Col. Robert C Tytler (1818-1872)
A British soldier who served actively throughout India and Afghanistan, Tytler moved to the Andamans as superintendent of the prison there before spending the last six months of his life in Simla. Tytler’s Leaf Warbler
Phylloscopus tytleri was named after him as is the northeastern race of the Barn Swallow
Hirundo rustica tytleri as is the northeastern race of the Bright-headed Cisticola
Cisticola e tytleri. The Andaman and Car Nicobar race of the Asian Glossy Starling is called
A p tytleri. The Andamans race of the Long-tailed Parakeet is called
P l tytleri
Hugh Whistler (1889 - 1943)
Hugh Whistler was an English ornithologist and served with the Indian police in the Punjab province from 1909 to 1926. Whistler studied and collected birds and on retiring to England he continued his research into Indian ornithology. He also made collecting trips to Spain and Albania, often in the company of C Ticehurst. Whistler's publications include the
Popular Handbook of Indian Birds (1928). Two more editions were published and the last was produced after his death. In this work he foresaw the value of popularizing observation-based ornithology.
Whistler lived at Battle, East Sussex during his retirement, where he was a Justice of the Peace. He joined the British Ornithologists' Union in 1913 and in 1940 served as its vice-president. He visited Kashmir with Admiral Lynes and wanted to produce an account of the birds of Punjab and Kashmir, but this was not completed. The Whistler Prize of Sussex University, awarded to the best essay on natural history or archaeology, is named after him. His
collection of 17,000 bird skins is now at the Natural History Museum. Whistler’s Warbler
Seicercus whistleri has been named after him. The Andaman’s race of the Red-whiskered Bulbul is called
Pycnonotus j whistleri. The Northwestern race of the Rufous-bellied Niltava is named
Niltava s whistleri and the West Himalayan race of the White-throated Laughing Thrush is also named after him. Several other sub-species too are named after him including the North-western race of the Golden Bush Robin.
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