Nebraska Ornithologists' Union


Date of this Version



“Book Review” [of John Kirk Townsend: Collector of Audubon’s Western Birds and Mammals] from Nebraska Bird Review (June 2008) 76(2).


Copyright 2008 Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union. Used by permission.


A review of John Kirk Townsend: Collector of Audubon's Western Birds and Mammals. Barbara and Richard Mearns. 2007. Published by the authors, Dumfries, UK. 389 pp., with 18 appendices, and a bibliography of nearly 150 entries. No price given. ISBN 978-0-9556739-0-0

This large (9 x 12 inches) and sumptuously illustrated book details the life and biological contributions of John Townsend, one of the earliest biologists after Lewis and Clark (1804) and Prince Maximilian (1832) to visit what is now Nebraska, preceding John J. Audubon's visit (1843) by nearly a decade. Townsend ascended the upper Platte Valley during an 1834 expedition organized by Thomas Nuttall for exploring the American interior from Philadelphia to the Pacific Coast. John James Audubon later used many of the specimens Townsend collected on that trip in painting his monumental Birds of America. including Townsend's namesake species, Townsend's Warbler. His name is also taxonomically associated with several western American mammals that he collected, including a ground squirrel, a chipmunk, a mole, a vole, and the white-tailed jackrabbit. Townsend also collected and described a still uncertainly identified bird that he named the Audubon's "Bunting" (Emberiza auduboni), which was possibly an aberrant Dickcissel.