Who Was Woodhouse?

Nice video of Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay in Colorado by Colette Micallef

Samuel Washington Woodhouse (1821-1904)

One of the birds we typically encounter on our Colorado birding tours is Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay. But who in the heck is Woodhouse?

Samuel Washington Woodhouse was a surgeon-naturalist from Philadelphia who accompanied a U.S. Army survey expedition in the U.S. Southwest in 1849-1851. During the expedition, Woodhouse collected four species new to science, Cassin's Sparrow, Black-capped, White-throated Swift, and another bird which became known as Woodhouse's Jay. In 1931, the American Ornithologists' Union decided that Woodhouse's Jay was the same species as the Western Scrub Jay but in 2016, this decision was reversed and Woodhouse's bird is again considered a separate species and also gained a hyphen in the official name: Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay.

Some interesting tidbits:

  • Woodhouse was seriously injured at least twice during the expedition. First, Woodhouse was bitten by a rattlesnake and lost the use of one hand for months. And just a few weeks later, he was shot in the leg with an arrow by a Yavapai Indian.
  • One of the expedition members collected a falcon that Woodhouse initially identified as a Peregrine Falcon. The specimen was later re-identified as a Prairie Falcon which had by then been described for science by others; thus, Woodhouse missed out on the discovery of another new bird species!
  • Just to keep things interesting for birders, Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay itself is made up of at least seven recognized sub-species!

Additional Information:



A Naturalist in Indian Territory: The Journals of S. W. Woodhouse 1849-1850

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