Posted by: atowhee | August 2, 2014


The AOU giveth and the AOU taketh. We still have our Clapper Rail here on the pacific Coast but we’ve lost Nutmeg Mannikin forever. Actually, we have lost the name “Clapper” as well. Our biggest Pacific area rails are now named Ridgway’s Rail. Robert Rdigway was leading American ornithologist in the late 19th Century, and worked at the Smithsonian.* Here’s a readable summary of the many changes wrought in American avian taxonomy by the taxo-gods at the American Ornithological Union.
Interestingly a Salvin’s Albatross has just been sighted along the Central California Coast, a state first. Even as a Shy Albatross it was a rarity in California waters.
For those of you who bird San Francisco, the “Parrots of Telegraph Hill” which can now be seen all over the city are officially: Red-masked Parakeet, Psittacara erythrogenys. That’s a new genus name in Latin, if you’re following along.2Parrote_FlowerEating.

* At sixteen years of age Ridgway’s knowledge of natural history was already greatly respected by Spencer Baird at the Smithsonian. He assigned the teenager to be the naturalist on the Clarence King survey of the Forthieth Parallel shortly after the Civil War ended. Ridgway was also a talented illustrator, drawing realistic images of birds and other wildlife.
Ridgway joined the King Expedition in San Francisco. Over the next three years the expedition went straight east to the Wasatch Mountains. As late as 1899, at the age of 49, Ridgway was still in the field. This time with the Harriman Expedition to Alaska. His final major field trip was to Costa Rica in 1908. Today a small bird preserve, Bird Haven, commemorates Ridgway near his hometown of Mt. Carmel, Illinois.


  1. I’m confused by the first sentence. Clapper Rails are not found on the west coast of the U.S.; what the scientists discovered is that they’re not closely related to the “original” Clappers on the east coast. The big rails on the west coast are now called Ridgway’s Rail. As for the mannikin, just to be clear, only its name has changed, not its classification. They are still found in California.

    • I added the needed clairification, thanks for pointing out the missing info.

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