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Arnold Arboretum

South Central China and Tibet: Hotspot of Diversity

Ornithological Specimens

packing up birds

“Dr. Rock and his Chinese assistants collected over 1000 birds, which after passing through many delays, and Chinese civil wars, reached this country in perfect condition without the loss of a feather.” (Bangs and Peters. Bulletin of the Museum of of Comparitive Zoology. Vol. 68, No. 7, 1928)

Joseph Rock employed two “well trained hunters” and one “excellent” taxidermist to help him acquire and process the birds that eventually arrived at the MCZ well identified, well skinned, and well stuffed. They were also carefully wrapped in cotton and packed in boxes so well constructed and sealed that they could “be dropped in a river without the slightest damage.”

Rock took few pictures of the birds he collected, but even he was impressed with “a large bird” [Gypaetus barbatus] that was shot while feeding on the carcass of a yak.

Gypaetus barbatus Giant Bearded Vulture
Five Tibetan hunters with rifles holding a Lammergeier/giant bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) on the high plateau northeast of Koko Nor. “The wings measure ten feet from tip to tip, the outer part of the eye a beautiful orange, the iris a pale drab color and the pupil black.” Joseph Rock Diary.

Giant Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus from the top Gypaetus barbatus from the  right Gypaetus barbatus from the  bottom

Gypaetus barbatus collected by Joseph Rock in 1925 shown here as the ornithological specimen held in the collections of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University.

Tetraogallus tibetanus Snowcock
Tibet (Serchung – Serchen). Snow chickens. [Snowcock]

“We cross the Serchung Nang and climb steeply to a spur going east elev. 12,500 ft., descend a gully and climb a trail at a terrific angle to the top of a pass 13,200 ft. elev. We descend again going northeast in a latteral valley full of scree and rocky cliffs simply alive with snow chickens of which we shot quite a number. Took several photos of the boys with the snow chickens.” Joseph Rock Diary.

Man with snowcocks Snowcock Snowcock Snowcock

Tetraogallus tibetanus collected by Joseph Rock in 1925 shown here as the ornithological specimen held in the collections of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University.

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