A dictionary of birds - PDF book by Alfred Newton (1893)

A dictionary of birds (complete) 

A dictionary of birds



Those who may look into this book are warned that they will not find a complete treatise on Ornithology, any more than an attempt to include in it all the names under which Birds, even the commonest, are known. Taking as its foundation a series of articles contributed to the ninth edition of the ' Encyclopaedia Britannica,' I have tried, first, to modify them into something like continuity, so far as an alphabetical arrangement will admit; and, next, to supplement them by the intercalation of a much greater number, be they short or long, to serve the same end.

 Of these additions by far the most important are those furnished by my fellow-worker Dr Gadow, which bring the anatomical portion to a level hitherto un- attained, I believe, in any book that has appeared. For other contributions of not less value in their respective lines, I have to thank my old pupil Mr Lydekker, my learned colleague Professor Roy, and my esteemed correspondent Dr Shufeldt, formerly of the United States Army.

 Dr Gadow's articles are distinguished by their title being printed in Italic type: those of the other contributors bear their author's name at the end. For my own part I have to say that, in the difficult task of choosing the subjects for additional articles, one of my main, objects has been to supply information which I know, from enquiries often made of me, to be greatly needed. Headers who in most respects are certainly not ignorant of things in general, frequently find in works of all sorts, but especially in books of travel, mention of Birds by names which no ordinary dictionary will explain; and, on meeting with a Caracara, a Koel or a Paauw, a Leatherheacl, a Mollymawk or a Tom-fool, are at a loss to know what kind of bird is intended by the author. On the other hand, I have not thought it necessary to include many names, compounded (mostly of late years) by writers on ornithology, which have never come nor are likely to come into common use — such as Crow- Shrike, Crow -Titmouse, Shrike -Crow, Shrike- Titmouse, Thrush- Titmouse, Titmouse-Thrush, Jay- Thrush and the like. Happily, these clumsy inventions are seldom found but in technical works, where their meaning, if they have one that is definite, is at once made evident. 


Their introduction into the present volume would merely swell its bulk with little if any compensating good. On this account I have also kept out a vast number of local names even of British Birds, which could have been easily inserted, though preserving most of those that have found their way into some sort of literature, ranging from an epic poem to an act of parliament; but I confess to much regret in being compelled to exclude them, because the subject is one of great interest, and has never been properly treated. 

It will thus be seen that my selection of names to be inserted is quite arbitrary. I have tried to make it tend to utility, and whether I have succeeded, those who consult the volume will judge. Thanks to the complaisance of Messi's. Longman and Company I have been able to acquire electrotypes of a considerable number of the woodcuts which illustrated Swainson's Classification of Birds.' These figures were drawn by that admirable ornithological delineator, and most of them for the truth of detail or beauty of design has seldom been equalled and rarely surpassed. 

 Lastly, I would say that the alphabetical order has been deliberately adopted in preference to the taxonomic because I entertain grave doubt of the validity of any systematic arrangement as yet put forth, some of the later attempts being in my opinion among the most fallacious, and a good deal worse than those they are intended to supersede. 

That in a few directions an approach to improvement has been made is not to be denied, but how far that approach goes is uncertain. I only see that mistakes are easily made, and I have no wish to mislead others •by an assertion of knowledge which I know no one to possess; yet with all these drawbacks and shortcomings, I trust that this Dictionary will aid a few who wish to study 

Ornithology in a scientific spirit, as well as many who merely regard its pursuit as a pastime, while I even dare indulge the hope that persons indifferent to the pleasures of Natural History, except when highly-coloured pictures are presented to them by popular writers, may find in it some corrective to the erroneous impressions commonly conveyed by sciolists posing as instructors.

This Dictionary has taken me far longer to complete than, when I began it, I had any notion that it would. Yet I do not regret the delay, since it has enabled me, though very briefly, to show (Introduction, page 108, note) that the latest investigation has proved the newly-announced group Stereornithes, which seemed at first so important, to have no more claim to recognition than had that known as Odontornithes.

 The articles by Dr G-adow have fully sustained the expectation of them expressed in my initial Note. Read with the aid of the cross-references they contain and the Index that follows, they cannot fail to place the enquirer, be he beginner or advanced student, in a position he could not hope to occupy through the study of any other English book, and, what is better, a position whence he may extend his researches in many directions. It has been my object throughout to compress into the smallest compass the information intended to be conveyed. It would have been easier to double the bulk of the work, but the limits of a single volume are already strained, and to extend it to a second would in several ways destroy such use as it may possess. 

Still, I cannot but regret having to omit any special notice of several interesting subjects which bear more or less directly upon Ornithology. To name only a few of them — Insulation, Isomorphism, Reversion and the  Struggle for Existence, as illustrated by Birds, were tempting themes for treatment, while Nomenclature, which owing to its contentious nature I have studied to avoid, and Protection, about which so much deplorable and mischievous misunderstanding exists, might well be said to demand consideration. 

It will be obvious to nearly everyone that the number of names of Birds included in a work of this kind might be increased almost indefinitely. Whether it will ever be possible for me to supply these additions, and others, must depend on many things, and not least on the reception accorded by the public to the present volume.


the book details :
  • Author: Alfred Newton - Hans Gadow - Richard Lydekker -Charles S. Roy -  Robert W.Shufeldt
  • Publication date:1893
  • Company: London, A. and C. Black
  • 1238 pages

  • Download 77 MB . for the best experience use your PC for reading a big file

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