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Swainson's Birds

So many birds were named for Swainson!

William John Swainson, ornithologist, author, illustrator, was born in October 1789. He settled in New Zealand, and it's quite likely that he never saw any of the birds named for him. But because of Swainson's reputation and knowledge about birds, the Swainson's Warbler, Swainson's Thrush, and Swainson's Hawk — like this one — were all named in his honor. In fact, John James Audubon himself named the Swainson's Swamp-Warbler.

Full Transcript



Swainson’s Birthday – October 2014

Written by Ellen Blackstone and Dominic Black

This is BirdNote.

[Song of Swainson’s Warbler] 

Nimble notes ring out from a tangle of vines in the southern US. [Song of Swainson’s Warbler]

On the western High Plains, a raspy scream. [Call of Swainson’s Hawk] 

A flute-like song spirals upward in the cool evening of a northern forest. [Song of Swainson’s Thrush] 

The Swainson’s Thrush, the Swainson’s Hawk, and the Swainson's Warbler – birds that carry the name of ornithologist, author, and illustrator, William John Swainson.

Born in England in October 1789, Swainson made his name as a zoological illustrator. After one trip to Brazil, he described himself as "a bee loaded with honey", bringing home a collection of over 20,000 insects, 1,200 species of plants, drawings of 120 species of fish, and about 760 bird skins. [Song of Swainson’s Thrush]

Swainson's career was sporadic, though, so in 1841 he emigrated to New Zealand in search of better fortunes. He remained a controversial figure, even though John James Audubon called him an “excellent and learned author.” 

And it was Audubon himself who was responsible for christening the Swainson's Swamp-Warbler. [Song of Swainson’s Warbler]

For BirdNote, I'm Michael Stein. [Song of Swainson’s Warbler]


Bird audio provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Swainson’s Hawk call 4313 recorded by R.S. Little.  Songs of Swainson’s Warbler 73910 and Swainson’s Thrush 133353 recorded by G.A. Keller
BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Dominic Black
© 2015 Tune In to     October 2014/2015    Narrator: Michael Stein

ID: 100807swainson      swainson-01b

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