Letter E

Whose Bird? - Number 5

...Eton...Edwards...Eleanora... Elicia...Elliot...Estella....

....& the Emperor-of-Germany

by Bruce Poulter

We can now move on in this series to learn about some more explorers, naturalists and others whose names are commemorated in the common and/or scientific names of birds.

We begin with Reverend Alfred Edmund Eaton (1845-1929), an English explorer, entomologist and naturalist. He published many scientific papers and is perhaps best known for his entomological collecting in Madeira and Tenerife in 1902. Eaton's Pintail (Anas eatoni) is named after him. This small dabbling duck, which is found only on Kerguelen and Crozet Islands in the Southern Indian Ocean, is featured on a stamp issued by the French Southern and Antarctic Territories in 1983.

Sir Alphonse Milne-Edwards (1835-1900) was a noted palaeontologist who wrote 'Histoire Naturelle de l'Oiseaux' as well as a book on the natural history of Madagascar. He was the first person to recognise that the Giant Panda was not a bear but belonged in a distinct family. Four birds were named after him, two of which feature on stamps. The first of these is Edwards' Fig-Parrot (Psittaculirostris edwardsii).This small, stocky parrot with a large head is found only in lowland forests of north-eastern New Guinea and appears on the stamp issued by Papua New Guinea in 1967. The second is Edwards' Pheasant (Lophura edwardsi), a bird from the lowlands of Vietnam, which is on the verge of extinction in the wild. It is shown on a 1979 stamp from Vietnam.

Eleanora of Arborea (c1350-1404) was the warrior-princess, national heroine of Sardinia, who passed enlightened regulation to protect birds of prey - though some say that this was to keep them for the aristocracy alone! Eleanora's Falcon (Falco eleonorae), which was named after her, was first observed in Sardinia in 1830. This medium-large falcon, with long narrow wings and a rather slim body, postpones its breeding on Mediterranean cliffs and islands until late summer-autumn to coincide with the autumn migration of small passerines. Stamps featuring this falcon were issued by Burundi in 2009 and Malta in 1991. Cyprus, Gambia, Greece, Morocco and Turkish Cypriot Posts have also included this falcon on their stamps.

Little or no information is available on Elicia Alain after whom Bourcier & Mulsant named Elicia's Goldentail (Hylocharis eliciae) in 1846. This small hummingbird, which is also known as the Blue-throated Goldentail and the Blue-throated Sapphire, lives in shady, humid forests of Central America from south-east Mexico to north-west Colombia. It is shown here on a stamp issued by El Salvador in 1998.

Daniel Giraud Elliot (1835-1915) was the Curator of Zoology at The Field Museum in Chicago and a founder member of the American Ornithologists' Union. His personal wealth enabled him to produce a series of books with magnificent colour plates by commissioning the best bird artists of the day. Four birds are named after him - Elliot's Laughingthrush (Garrulax elliotii), Bar-bellied Pitta (Pitta elliotii), Elliot's Woodpecker (Dendropicos elliotii) and Elliot's Pheasant (Syrmaticus elliotii). Vietnam showed the last species on a stamp issued in 1997.

It is assumed that the German Emperor referred to in naming the Emperor (or Emperor of Germany) Bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea guilielmi) was Kaiser Wilhelm I (1797-1888). He ascended the Prussian throne in 1861 and was proclaimed German Emperor in 1871. Note that in the latter half of the 19th century, the northern half of what is now Papua New Guinea, where this bird may be found, was a German colony. Papua New Guinea has featured this bird several times on its stamps - the one illustrated in 1964.

There is some doubt about whether Estella's (or Andean) Hillstar (Oreotrochilus estella) was named after Estelle-Marie d'Orbigny (1801-1893) or whether it was named for its star-like appearance. Let us assume the former here! The bird's only appearance on a stamp was on the miniature sheet issued by Mongolia in 2003.

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