Letter P

Whose Bird - Number 19

...Platen....Prevost....Pritchard....Prjevalsky...

By Bruce Poulter

Carl Constantin Platen (1843-1899) was a German physician. After ending his medical profession in Amoy in the Chinese Empire, he worked as a zoological collector of birds and butterflies. Between 1878 and 1894 he undertook extensive journeys with his wife Margarete, which led him to places including Borneo, the Celebes, the Sulu Islands and the Philippines. His collection of over 700 species of birds and butterflies largely went to the Natural History Museum in Braunschweig. Birds named after him included the Snoring Rail (Aramidopsis plateni), (Indonesia, 2008, 2500 rupiah) and the Palawan Flowerpecker (Prionochilus plateni), (Philippines, 2009, 20 peso).

Jean Gabriel PrĂȘtre (1800-1840) was a French artist who was employed by the Natural History Museum in Paris. He illustrated Vieillot's classic work on the 'Songbirds of the Torrid Zone' while 'Animal Kingdom' was published posthumously in 1850. His works are still highly prized and regularly feature in auctions around the world. The Planalto Hermit (Phaethornis pretei), (Brazil, 1981, 7 cruzado) and the Red-spectacled Amazon (Amazona pretei), (Brazil, 1980, 28 cruzado) are named after him.

Florent Prevost (1794-1870) was a French artist and Assistant Naturalist at the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle. He was the author of various zoological works including the 'Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux d'Europe' in 1870. He worked on the birds and mammals brought back from the French expedition to Abyssinia and illustrated works by Temminck, Bonaparte and de Buffon. The Green-breasted Mango (Anthracothorax prevostii), (Grenadines of St. Vincent, 1992, $5) is named after him.

Archduke Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary (1857-1889), the heir to the Habsburg dynasty, was found dead with his mistress, Baroness Marie Vetsera, in mysterious circumstances. It has not been proven whether they were involved in a suicide pact or, as some advocates believe, they were murdered. The Blue Bird-of-Paradise (Paradisaea rudolphi), (Aruba, 2014, 250 cents) was named for Prince Rudolf in 1885 by Finsch, presumably to give some ' royal recognition' to such a beautiful bird.

Prince Eugenio Ruspoli (1866-1893) was an aristocratic Italian explorer. His family were eminent Roman aristocrats who intermarried with the Bonaparte dynasty in the 19th Century. Ruspoli was in Ethiopia from 1891 until 1893 when he was killed in an 'encounter with an elephant' which he had wounded. He collected Ruspoli's Turaco (Tauraco ruspoli), (Ethiopia, 2001, 2 birr), but he did not record when or where in Ethiopia he located it before meeting his elephantine fate!

Princess Alexandra of Wales (1844-1925) married Edward VII to become Queen Alexandra. The Princess Parrot (Polytelis alexandrae), (Australia, 2005, 50 cents) was named by Gould in 1863 to celebrate the marriage. This parrot is considered by some to be one of the most exquisitely coloured and well-proportioned of all birds and was described as the most fitting of the Australian birds to bear the name of such an illustrious lady. It is, however, a rare and elusive inhabitant of Australia's inland desert regions.

Princess Helena d'Orleans (1814-1858) was the wife of the Duc d'Orleans. His patronage of natural history expeditions presumably enabled him some freedom in the naming of specimens collected on those expeditions. This explains the naming of the Black-crested Coquette (Lophornis helenae), (St. Kitts, 2013, $2.50) after his wife.

Princess Stephanie of Belgium (1864-1945) was the wife of the abovementioned Prince Rudolf. Theirs was an arranged marriage when she was not yet 17 years old. After her husband's untimely and mysterious death Stephanie married Count Lonyay. Princess Stephanie's Aspatria (Aspatria stephaniae), (Papua New Guinea, 2008, 85 toea) was named for her by Finsch in 1885 presumably under the same circumstances that Prince Rudolf's bird-of-paradise was named after him.

William Thomas Pritchard (1829-1909) was a British Consular Agent in Samoa and then the British Consul in Fiji from 1857 to 1862. The leader of Fiji's most powerful clan had money problems and huge debts. He made an offer to Pritchard to cede Fiji to Britain if that nation would cover his debts. The deal did not go through initially but, in 1874, Britain 'took over'. The Tongan Megapode (Megapodius pritchardii), (Niuafo'ou, 1992, 60 seniti) is named after him.

Clement Francois Victor Gabriel Prunelle (1777-1853) was a French physician who lectured in Montpellier and published several medical books. The Black Inca (Coeligena prunellei), (Colombia, 2010, 1900 peso) was named after him in 1843. This hummingbird is only found in the moist tropical lowland forests of Colombia.

General Nikolai Mikhailovitch Prjevalsky (pronounced 'She-val-ski') (1839-1888) was a Russian Cossack naturalist who explored Central Asia. He was one of the greatest explorers the world has ever seen making an expedition to the Russian Far East and others to Mongolia. He is perhaps best known for having the horse Equus prjevalskii, which he discovered, named after him. He died of typhus while preparing for another expedition. Birds named after him include Prjevalski's Redstart (Phoenicurus alaschanicus), (China, 2002, 4.20 yuan) and Prjevalski's Finch (Urocynchramus pylzowi), (Taiwan, 1997, $5.00).

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