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AVES: A Survey of the Literature of Neotropical Ornithology

Beginning of Collections

At first glance, the movement of huge collections of zoological specimens from the Neotropics to the private cabinets and public museums of Europe bears an unfortunate resemblance to the other, more serious forms of colonial exploitation. In fairness, however, before the nineteenth century there were no institutions in Latin America (Read more…)


JOHANN NATTERER (1787-1843)

Biography: Johann Natterer was almost predestined to become a naturalist. His father, Joseph, worked as a falconer and taxidermist at Laxenburg, one of the country estates of the Austrian emperor Franz I. There the elder Natterer assembled a large collection of birds, mammals, and insects, which the emperor later purchased and moved to Vienna, where it (Read more…)

Zur Ornithologie Brasiliens: Resultate von Johann Natterers Reisen in den Jahren 1817 bis 1835. Wien: A. Pichler’s Witwe & Sohn, 1871. 8vo. 2 maps of Natterer’s routes. (Borba de Moraes 608; Wood 515; Zimmer 486.)

The Ibis praised Natterer as “the best and most successful collector of birds that has ever lived” (vol. 3, no. 11, July 1891, 459). The quantity of material he collected in Brazil was so great, however, that by the time of his premature death in 1843, he had been able to analyze and write about only a small portion of it. The task of studying the thousands of birds Natterer sent back to Vienna, representing 1,238 species, was eventually taken up by August von Pelzeln (1825-91), curator of birds and mammals at the Hof-Naturalienkabinette. “The [collection is] arranged and listed and the new forms are described. Pp. 344-390 contains an analysis of the avifauna of Brazil. Pp. 391-462 contains a list of all known Brazilian species, compiled from various sources, comprising a total of 1680 species” (Zimmer 1926, 486). This was the first attempt to create a complete list of Brazilian birds, and John T. Zimmer concluded his description of Pelzeln’s work by saying that it is “indispensable to the student of South American ornithology” (ibid.). Perhaps because it has been so useful, it is now quite difficult to find.

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