Letter D

Whose Bird? - Number 4

D is for DARWIN - or is it?

by Bruce Poulter

Charles Darwin is probably the name that first springs to mind when searching the list of naturalists, explorers, kings and queens and the like who might have birds named after them. Such a search, I believe, gives us just one species, namely Darwin's Nothura - Nothura darwinii - but this bird has not yet appeared on a stamp! We surely cannot leave Darwin out of this article so four of the finches that he so famously studied in the Galapagos Islands in 1835 are included to bridge the gap. This stamp was issued by Great Britain in 2009 as part of a set that commemorated the bicentenary of the great man's birth. So, D is not for Darwin in this article. There are, however, no less than eight others who have had birds named after them. Let us take them in turn.

Pierre-Medard Diard (1795-1863) was a French explorer and naturalist who left Europe in 1817 for India to collect specimens for the Natural History Museum in Paris. He was probably highly aggrieved when the Honourable East India Company confiscated his whole collection in 1821! He moved on to Indo-China and Malaya before joining the Dutch East India Company to continue his collecting in the East Indies for 20 years until 1848. One of the three birds named after him was the Siamese [or Diard's] Fireback (Lophura diardi) - as shown on the North Vietnam 20 xu stamp of 1963. He was also honoured by having a beetle, a spider and a blind snake named after him.

Dr John Dickinson (1832-1863) was an English physician and missionary who joined Livingstone but died of blackwater fever in what was then Nyasaland. He collected the type specimen of Dickinson's Kestrel (Falco dickinsoni) himself. This uncommon kestrel with its pale grey head and rump, is found in the palms and savanna of east-central Africa - as nicely shown on Zambia's 20.50 kwacha stamp of 1991.

William Doherty was born in Cincinnati in 1857. He travelled widely through Europe and the Middle East before starting to collect entomological specimens seriously from 1882 when he roamed through India and Burma to reach the far parts of Indonesia in 1887. He came to England in 1895 where he met Lord Rothschild who recruited him into the ranks of bird collectors. Four birds are named after him, but only one of these, the colourful Doherty's Bushshrike (Telephorus dohertyi), has so far featured on a stamp - namely Uganda's 1000 shilling of 1992. Doherty died in Nairobi in 1901.

Heinrich Wolfgang Ludwig Dohrn (1838-1913) was a German politician and entomologist whose family came from Pomerania, part of which is now in Poland. He studied entomology in Stettin, graduating in 1858, and he collected natural history specimens on Principe (a small island in the Gulf of Guinea) in 1865. The bird named after him - Dohrn's Flycatcher (Horizorhinus dohrni) - is endemic to Principe and features on the St. Thomas & Prince 10 dobra stamp issued in 1983. Dohrn's father - Dr. Karl Dohrn - also had a bird named after him - the Hook-billed Hermit (Glaucis dohrnii) - a Brazilian hummingbird.

Marchese Giacomo Doria (1840-1913) was an Italian zoologist who collected specimens in Persia between 1862 and 1863 and in Borneo between 1865 and 1866. He collected upwards of 800 specimens of birds in the latter area, mainly from the Sarawak area. He was the first Director of the Museo Civico di Storia Naturale in Turin from 1867 until his death. It was while he was in this post that four bats, a tree-kangaroo and a marsupial-shrew were named after him as well as Doria's Goshawk (Megatriorchis doriae). Among the biggest of hawks, this bird is endemic to the lowland rainforests of New Guinea and Batanta Island off the coast of West New Guinea. It is featured on the Papua New Guinea 30 toea stamp of 1985.

Little seems to have been recorded about L.J.Ducorps except that he was an 'explorer for the French Navy'. When and where was he born? And where did his explorations take him? It seems most probable that he reached the Solomon Islands where Ducorps' Cockatoo (Cacatua ducorpsii) is endemic. This small and noisy cockatoo is found from coast to mountains in these islands. It is also known as the Solomons Cockatoo (as shown on the $2.10 stamp of 2005); the Solomons Corella; and, most recently, the Broad-crested Corella.

Colonel Henry Nason Dunn CMG, DSO, MB, BCh (1864-1952) was a British army surgeon who became a big-game hunter. He left diaries relating to his time in Sudan, Somaliland and Woolwich to the National Army Museum in Chelsea. Dunn himself 'collected' the lark named after him. Dunn's Lark (Eremalauda dunni) is found on the southern edges of the Sahara and in south-west Arabia, being a local and scarce breeder in flat and sandy deserts. It is depicted, but not very realistically, on the Sultanate of Oman's 50 baiza stamp issued in 2002.

Leonard Puech Dupont (1795-1828) was a French naturalist and collector in the early part of the 19th century. Dupont's Lark (Chersophilus duponti) was named after him by the noted French ornithologist Vieillot in 1820. This is an extremely shy and elusive species which quickly runs for cover. It was not portrayed on a stamp until 2007 when Spain issued a booklet containing 10 self-adhesive 0.30 euro stamps which nicely show its long and slightly downcurved bill.


So, eight explorers/naturalists/collectors grace this article - an American, two Britons, three Frenchmen, a German and an Italian. But let us end where we started with a tribute to Darwin by including three of the many finches he 'discovered' in the Galapagos Islands. These are, from left to right below, Large Ground-Finch (Geospiza magnirostris), Common Cactus-Finch (Geospiza scandens) and Woodpecker Finch (Camarhynchus pallidus).

[Author's note - The names used in this article are those used in Clements 5th Edition of 'Birds of the World'.]

Home   Whose Bird