Letter F

Whose Bird? - Number 6

F is for Finsch, Fischer, Forster et al

by Bruce Poulter

Friedrich Hermann Otto Finsch (1839 - 1917) was a German ethnographer, naturalist and traveller. He visited the Balkans, North America, Turkestan, north western China and the South Seas. Bismarck appointed him Imperial Commissioner for the German Colony in what is now Papua New Guinea where he founded the town of Finschhafen in 1885. He was the director of a number of museums and an author - one of his major works being on the parrots of the world. Depending on which authority is used Finsch named a dozen or more birds, several of which appear on stamps. As shown below, these include Finsch's Pygmy Parrot (Micropsitta finschii) ( Solomon Islands, 2005, 2.10$); Dusky White-eye (Zosterops finschii) (Palau, 2007, 50 cents) and Crimson-fronted Parakeet (Aratinga finschi) (Nicaragua, 1981, 1.80 cordobas).

Johann Gotthelf Fischer von Waldheim (1771 - 1853) was a German anatomist, entomologist and palaeontologist. Sent to Moscow by the Emperor Napoleon when the latter was on good terms with the Tsar, Fischer remained in Russia for the rest of his life. Fischer's major contributions in many fields of natural history made him one of the intellectual giants of his day. The Spectacled Eider (Somateria fischeri) (Russia, 1972, 12 kopecks) - a duck found mainly on north Siberian coasts - is named after him.

Johann Reinhold Forster (1729 - 1798) was originally a clergyman in Danzig, but became a naturalist who accompanied James Cook on his second journey around the world in 1772 - 1773. He discovered five new species of penguin, but his poor reputation as a troublemaker destroyed his career in England and he went to Germany. Here he maintained his unpleasant nature to the end by refusing to relinquish his notes on his adventures with Cook. Forster's Tern (Sterna forsteri) (Gambia, 1999, 4 dalasy), is named after him.

Harold Munro Fox FRS (1189 - 1967) was an English zoologist who was born in London and educated in Cambridge. He held a series of academic posts in Imperial College, Cairo, Cambridge, Birmingham and Bedford College, London. He led an expedition to Egypt to study the fauna of the Suez Canal between 1924 and 1925. Fox's Weaver (Ploceus spekeoides) (Uganda, 1999, 700 shillings) is found only in the swamps of eastern central Uganda.

Louis Fraser (1810 - 1866) was essentially a British zoologist and collector. He was also something of a 'jack-of-all-trades' with interests as a curator, explorer, zookeeper, consul, author, dealer and taxidermist! His collecting activities took him to Nigeria, Ecuador and California. In between times he was Consul in Nigeria's Bight of Benin and Curator to the Museum of the Zoological Society of London. Did he 'discover' Fraser's Eagle-Owl (Bubo poensis) (Congo Brazzaville, 1996, 700 francs) while collecting in Nigeria?

Louis Agassiz Fuertes (1874 - 1927) was an ornithologist who decided from an early age to concentrate on a career in painting birds. He went on many collecting trips, for example, to Florida, Alaska, Texas, New Mexico, Mexico and Jamaica - all before the outbreak of World War I. He lectured in ornithology at Cornell University from 1923 until his death in a road accident. The parrot named after him - Indigo-winged or Fuertes Parrot (Hapolopsittaca fuertesi) (Colombia, 2003, 1000 peso) - is found in the central Andes of Colombia.

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So, Finsch, Fischer, Forster, Fox, Fraser and Fuertes all have birds named after them featured on stamps. At least three other names come to mind when considering those who have sub-species named after them.

The first of these is Dr. Edward Fleck (1843 - after 1911), a German ornithologist who explored and collected in what is now Namibia. The sub-species of the Senegal Coucal (Centropus senegalensis flecki) (Niger, 1971, 15 francs) is currently to be found in the areas which he explored.

The second is Etio Alegondas Forsten (1811 - 1843) who collected plants, primarily with pharmaceutical properties, in the East Indies. One of the 20 or so sub-species of the Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus forsteni) (Palau, 2002, 70 cents), is found only on the island of Sumbaya in Indonesia in the area which he explored.

The third is Paul Caspar Freer MD, PhD (1862 - 1912) who was Professor of Chemistry at the University of Michigan and, later, Dean of the Philippine Islands Medical School. One of the six sub-species of the Azure-rumped Parrot (Tanygnathus sumatranus freeri) (Philippines, 1984, 3.60 pisos) is found on the island of Polilo in the northern Philippines.

(Note that the stamps featured below do not necessarily illustrate the sub-species described above.)

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It remains to add two more names to those included above, namely Fernandez and Fernandina.

The Juan Fernandez Firecrown (Sephanoides fernandensis) (Chile, 2001, 160 pesos) is named after the Three Juan Fernandez Islands off the coast of Chile where Alexander Selkirk (the real-life Robinson Crusoe) was marooned in 1704.

Fernandina's Flicker (Colaptes fernandinae) (Cuba, 2009, 15 centavos) reflects that Fernandina was once another name for Cuba - so could this alternatively be the Cuban Flicker?

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