James Lee Peters

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

James Lee Peters (born August 13, 1889 in Boston , Massachusetts , † April 19, 1952 in Cambridge , Massachusetts) was an American ornithologist , curator of the Museum of Comparative Zoology and author of numerous specialist publications. He was the initiator of the monumental work Check-list of Birds of the World , which was published in 16 volumes from 1931 to 1987.


Peter's father was the respected veterinary surgeon Dr. Austin Peters, who was educated at the Massachusetts Agricultural College and also worked for the Massachusetts State Milk Commission. The ancestors of the Peters branch emigrated from England to America as early as 1634 . His mother was Frances Howie Peters, née Lee. Her ancestral branch comes from Middlesex County and emigrated in the early 18th century. James grew up in Jamaica Plain , a neighborhood in Boston, where he attended Miss Segar's private school . From 1902 to 1908 he was enrolled at the Roxbury Latin School . After successfully completing his degree, he began studying at Harvard University , graduating in 1912 with the title Artium Baccalaureus .

In 1917 he served in the First World War in France with the US Army . After the end of the fighting, he spent a year in the occupation of Germany before returning to the USA in 1919 and being retired with the rank of sub-lieutenant . Interestingly, he received his discharge papers from the ornithologist Maunsell Schieffelin Crosby (1887–1931), whom he did not know until then, but who was still serving in the military.

After his father died, he lived with his mother on a farm on the outskirts of Harvard. In 1932 he married Eleanor K. Sweet .

In addition to his scientific interests, he was involved in social institutions. He did volunteer work for the fire department, helped manage the Community Memorial Hospital and was commander of the American Legion's local branch for seven years . Now and then he appeared in theatrical productions.

Peters as a scientist

Even in his early youth, Peters developed a keen interest in birds, influenced by his family. Through his father he met the ornithologist Arthur Cleveland Bent (1866-1954), who took him on an excursion to the Magdalene Islands in 1904 together with Charles Haskins Townsend (1859-1944) and Herbert Keightley Job (1864-1933) . According to Bent, Peters already showed a keen interest in the system at that time by sorting the hides collected according to genera and species. At around the same time he also regularly took part in bird tours by Charles Johnson Maynard (1845–1929), which he carried out at popular bird watching locations such as Franklin Park or the Arnold Arboretum . Another mentor was the judge Charles Francis Jenney (1860–1923), of whom he talked into old age.

Peters was one of the founders of the Norfolk Bird Club in December 1908 . In the following years he was also editor of the ornithological magazine The Wren , where Joseph Kittredge Jr. (1890-1971) made him managing director.

At Harvard University he finally met Outram Bangs (1863-1932), with whom he was on friendly terms and who significantly influenced his later career by teaching him the meticulous methods of analysis.

After graduating from university, he joined an archaeological society at the Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology , which went on an excursion to Quintana Roo . Here he collected bird hides from January to April 1912 . His accounts of this trip in The Auk became his first major publications. For the following three field seasons he worked part-time in the Bureau of Biological Survey (forerunner of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service ), for which he primarily collected smaller mammals. He traveled around Alabama from mid-April to June 1914 and accompanied Ernest Golsan Holt (1889–1983) and Edward Alphonso Goldman (1873–1946) in Arizona from July to October . The following year he was on the South Carolina coast and near Muskogee in Florida from mid-May to August to collect data on wood ducks ( Aix sponsa ) and other migratory birds. From February to early April 1916 he collected and studied the birds of the north of the Dominican Republic for the Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ) . On his return, he collected mammals for the Biological Survey from May to June in the mountains of the Georgia , North Carolina and South Carolina border area . He then wrote a report on his time in the Dominican Republic, which the museum published the following year.

Around 1919/20 he occupied the founder of the MCZ library John Charles Phillips (1876-1938) with the collection of data for his monograph A Natural History of the Ducks . He sent Peters to Argentina , where he worked in Misiones in the southern winter and moved on to the Río Negro province in the southern summer . Here he met Alexander Wetmore (1886–1978), with whom he roamed the Andes Mendozas and later the province of Tucumán in March and April of 1921 . At times they were accompanied by the entomologist and ornithologist Wilfred Backhouse Alexander (1885-1965). After returning to America, Wetmore and Peters published some results of their trip together.

Until then, Peters had been assisting Outram Bangs on a voluntary basis. This changed after returning from South America: Peters was employed as an ornithological assistant at the MCZ. In 1928 he was appointed assistant curator and in 1932 he was appointed curator, which he held until the end of his life.

More expeditions followed. In February 1922 Peters traveled to Anguilla , in December 1927 to the Corn Islands and until April 1928 to the east of Honduras . It was his last major foreign field research, as he was now increasingly concerned with the study of collections, especially from Asia and Africa.

The museum started a catalog to document the species present. It was the initial spark for Peter's life's work Checklist of the Birds of the World . The preparatory work for this work took up an enormous amount of time, because since Richard Bowdler Sharpe's incomplete A Hand-list of the Genera and Species of Birds there had been no further attempt to list and catalog all birds in the world. This is all the more important as the understanding of kinship relationships and differentiation according to geographic populations had changed since Sharpe and the concept of tripartite naming for subspecies became more and more prevalent. The checklist can be regarded as one of the most important ornithological works of this time. In 1931 the first volume with the orders appeared ancient birds (Archaeopterygiformes) Hesperornithiformes, Ichthyornithiformes, ratites (Struthioniformes), rheas (Rheiformes), Australia ratites (Casuariiformes) Moas (Dinornithiformes), elephant bird (Aepyornithiformes), kiwi (Apterygiformes) Tinamous (TINAMIFORMES), penguins (Sphenisciformes), loons (Gaviiformes) Lappentaucher (Colymbiformes), tube lugs (Procellariiformes) Ruderfüßer (Pelecaniformes), and similar birds (Ciconiiformes), Anseriformes (Anseriformes) and prey (Falconiformes). In a book review Witmer Stone (1866–1939) wrote about Volume 1 that he was afraid that the work would be out of date even before it was published. But Peters was not deterred and published another 6 volumes by 1951. Although the checklist took up most of his working time, he kept writing smaller treatises on special collections the museum had received from various regions such as Africa, Panama, Peru and Borneo.

For his volume on pottery birds (Furnariidae) and other Central and South American woodpecker-like groups, he cooperated with the proven expert on tyrants (Tyrannidae) John Todd Zimmer (1889-1957). Peters himself began working on the first group of songbirds (Oscines), which had to be completed by other ornithologists after his death.

Memberships, honors and dedication names

On November 28, 1904 Peters was elected for the first time to the Comrade (Associate) of the American Ornithologists' Union (AOU), to which he remained loyal for 37 years. In 1918 he became a member and in 1928 a fellow . In 1929 he was inducted into the council until he finally became vice-president in 1938. From 1942 1945 he acted as President of the AOU, in which, due to the political situation, he was only able to work administratively. Peters was posthumously awarded the title "Patron of the AOU" in 1956.

On December 7, 1908, Peters was accepted at the suggestion of William Brewster (1851-1919) in the Nuttall Ornithological Club , in which he was active from 1922 to 1932 as secretary, until 1939 as a council member, from December 1939 as vice president and from March 1942 as president was active.

In the Northeastern Bird-Banding Association he was active in bird ringing. Here, too, he was Vice President from 1938 until his death. He was also an author for the club's own magazine, Bird-Banding, from 1939 to 1950 .

As a scientist, he was a member of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature . Other memberships of Peters in America were the Cooper Ornithological Society , the Washington Academy of Sciences , the American Society of Mammalogists , the Society of Systematic Zoologists . He was a Fellow of the American Academy of Sciences , a member of Sigma Xi , as well as an elected advisory member of the German Ornithological Society , the Argentine Asociación Ornitológica del Plata and honorary member of the Ornithological Society in Bavaria eV In 1946, Peters became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences elected.

In 1940 he received the William Brewster Medal of the AOU for his life's work Check-list of Birds of the World

Sometimes one finds the English trivial name Peters's Apalis for the kungwe singer ( Apalis argentea ), which Reginald Ernest Moreau had already described in 1941. This common name is based on a new description Apalis eidos sp. nov by Peters and Arthur Loveridge (1891–1980) from 1942 in the Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College , which, however , is to be regarded as invalid due to the International Rules for Zoological Nomenclature , since the species had already been described . Another English common name, which can be found in the literature is Peters' Twinspot Indigo Bird for 1907 by Sheffield Airey Neave described (1879-1961) Purple Atlas widow ( Vidua codringtoni ). The name Peter's Conure is occasionally used for a subspecies of the Columbian Parakeet ( Aratinga wagleri transilis ) JL Peters, 1927.

The common English names Peters' Finfoot (Podica senegalensis) (Vieillot, 1817) and Peter's Twinspot (Hypargos niveoguttatus) (Peters, WKH, 1868) cannot be traced back to James Lee Peters . Rather, these names were used in honor of Wilhelm Carl Hartwig Peters .

In some subspecies, Peter's name can also be found in the scientific name in honor of Peter. Here are u. a. to call:

  • Meisenpitpit ( Xenodacnis parina petersi ) Bond & Meyer de Schauensee , 1939 They wrote: James L. Peters, of the museum of Comparative Zoölogy, Cambridge, upon receipt of two topotypes of Xenodacnis Paria Cabanis, recently collected at Maraynioe, Peru, a species not represtented in the Academy's collection, very kindly called our attention to the differences existing between our birds and his. We therefore take great pleasure in naming this new species after him.
  • Spotted wren ( Thryothorus maculipectus petersi ) ( Griscom , 1930)
  • White-cheeked thicket panties ( Schoeniophylax phryganophilus petersi ) Pinto , 1949
  • Shark cuckoo ( Coccyzus longirostris petersi ) Richmond & Swales , 1924
  • Blue rump pitta ( Pitta soror petersi ) Delacour , 1934
  • Golden shoulderbird ( Chrysomus thilius petersii ) ( Laubmann , 1934)
  • Black-throated nectar bird ( Aethopyga saturata petersi ) Deignan , 1948

In addition, a subspecies of the coastal cordillera small tyrant ( Zimmerius improbus petersi ) was described by Hans Hermann Carl Ludwig von Berlepsch in 1907 under the name Tyranniscus petersi . This taxon goes back to the Candidatus theologiæ Ernst Peters, whose collection Berlepsch had received from Curaçao .

Taxa described by Peters

Peters named some genera, species and subspecies together with Alexander Wetmore, Thomas Barbour , Outram Bangs, Ludlow Griscom, Robert Thomas Moore and Frederic Hedge Kennard .


The genres that Peters named include, chronologically by year:


The species Peters named include, in chronological order by year:

  • Cuba Rail Cyanolimnas cerverai Barbour & JL Peters, 1927
  • Zapataammer Torreornis inexpectata Barbour & JL Peters, 1927


The species Peters named include, in chronological order by year:

  • Red Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis flammiger JL Peters, 1913
  • Brown-winged Guinea Ortalis vetula intermedia JL Peters, 1913
  • White-winged pigeon Zenaida asiatica australis (JL Peters, 1913)
  • Grasshopper Ammodramus savannarum borinquensis JL Peters, 1917
  • Antilles crackel Quiscalus niger bangsi (JL Peters, 1921)
  • Salmon- beaked Saltator aurantiirostris nasica Wetmore & JL Peters, 1922
  • Morgenammer Zonotrichia capensis choraules (Wetmore & JL Peters, 1922)
  • Quail Callipepla californica achrustera (JL Peters, 1923)
  • Southern stilt tachurityrann Stigmatura budytoides inzonata Wetmore & JL Peters, 1923
  • Rallenkranich Aramus guarauna dolosus JL Peters, 1925
  • Rallenkranich Aramus guarauna elucus JL Peters, 1925
  • Patagonian chopper Geositta cunicularia hellmayri JL Peters, 1925
  • Sandhill crane Grus canadensis tabida JL Peters, 1925
  • Trauergrackel Quiscalus lugubris contrusus (JL Peters, 1925)
  • Yellow Warbler Dendroica petechia alsiosa JL Peters, 1926
  • Eichhorn cuckoo Piaya cayana mogenseni JL Peters, 1926
  • Copper- necked pigeon Geopelia humeralis gregalis Bangs & JL Peters, 1926
  • Columbian Parakeet Aratinga wagleri transilis JL Peters, 1927
  • Golden ribbon pipra Manacus manacus cerritus JL Peters, 1927
  • Gray-flanked tit Poecile sclateri eidos (JL Peters, 1927)
  • Buschtinamu Crypturellus cinnamomeus praepes (Bangs & JL Peters, 1927)
  • Red breast thicket panties Synallaxis erythrothorax furtiva Bangs & JL Peters, 1927
  • White-throated strangler tangar Lanio leucothorax ictus Kennard & JL Peters, 1927
  • Little owl Athene noctua impasta Bangs & JL Peters, 1928
  • Virginia quail Colinus virginianus thayeri Bangs & JL Peters, 1928
  • Red-breasted woodpecker Dendrocopos cathpharius innixus (Bangs & JL Peters, 1928)
  • Thin-billed poison sittasomus griseicapillus gracileus Bangs & JL Peters, 1928
  • Thick -billed King Tyrannus crassirostris pompalis Bangs & JL Peters, 1928
  • Strichelbaumsteiger Xiphorhynchus flavigaster tardus Bangs & JL Peters, 1928
  • Mexican crow ( Corvus imparatus ) Peters, JL, 1929
  • Olive back organist Euphonia gouldi praetermissa (JL Peters, 1929)
  • Wedge-billed tree pavements Glyphorynchus spirurus sublestus JL Peters, 1929
  • Giant cowbird Molothrus oryzivorus impacificus (JL Peters, 1929)
  • Black-eared quail Odontophorus melanotis verecundus JL Peters, 1929
  • Long-legged quail Rhynchortyx cinctus pudibundus JL Peters, 1929
  • Gray-headed pigeon Leptotila plumbeiceps notia JL Peters, 1931
  • Ptarmigan Lagopus muta capta JL Peters, 1934
  • Blue-ringed pigeon Leptotila verreauxi zapluta JL Peters, 1937
  • Bare-faced pigeons Metriopelia ceciliae zimmeri JL Peters, 1937
  • Rose shoulder pigeon Patagioenas inornata wetmorei (JL Peters, 1937)
  • Reinwardttaube Reinwardtoena reinwardtii brevis JL Peters, 1937
  • Blue-headed pigeon Turtur brehmeri infelix JL Peters, 1937
  • Savannah Sparrow Passerculus sandwichensis oblitus JL Peters and Griscom, 1938
  • Guatemala Screech Owl Megascops guatemalae dacrysistactus (RT Moore & JL Peters, 1939)
  • Guatemala Screech Owl Megascops guatemalae fuscus (RT Moore & JL Peters, 1939)
  • Hindu nightjar Caprimulgus asiaticus eidos JL Peters, 1940
  • White-tailed nightjar Caprimulgus cayennensis apertus JL Peters, 1940
  • Red owl Strix albitarsis opaca JL Peters, 1943
  • Timorliest Todiramphus australasia odites (JL Peters, 1945)
  • Copper trogon Trogon elegans lubricus JL Peters, 1945
  • Yucatan woodpecker Melanerpes pygmaeus rubricomus JL Peters, 1948
  • Gray woodpecker Picus canus sobrinus JL Peters, 1948
  • Pale-bellied chopper Tarphonomus certhioides estebani (Wetmore & JL Peters, 1949)

Works and writings

  • Birds from the Northern Coast of the Dominican Republic , Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Volume 61, Issue 11, 1917
  • Notes on summer birds of northern Patagonia , Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Volume 65, Issue 9, 1923
  • Notes on the taxonymy of Ardea canadensis Linné , The Auk, Volume 42, Number 1, 1925, pp. 120-122
  • together with Outram Bangs: A collection of birds from southwestern New Guinea (Merauke coast and inland) , Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Volume 67, Issue 12, 1926
  • A review of the races of Elaenia martinica (Linné) , Occasional papers of the Boston Society of Natural History, 5, 1926, pp. 197-202
  • together with Outram Bangs: Birds from the rain forest regions of Vera Cruz , Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Volume 67, Issue 15, 1927
  • The Virginia Nighthawk in the Bahamas , The Auk, Volume 44, Number 3, 1927, p. 421
  • The rediscovery of Myiarchus sclateri Lawr , The Auk, Volume 44, Number 3, 1927, pp. 422-423
  • Streptoprocne Semicollaris (De Saussure) in Chihuahua , The Auk, Volume 44, Number 3, 1927, pp. 424-425
  • Birds of the island of Anguilla, West Indies , The Auk, Volume 44, Number 4, 1927, pp. 432-438
  • The Races of Amazona leucocephala (Linn.) , The Auk, Volume 45, Number 3, 1928, pp. 342-344
  • with Thomas Barbour: Two More Remarkable New Birds from Cuba , Proceedings of the New England Zoological Club, IX, 1927, pp. 95-97
  • A Revision of the Golden Warblers. Dendroica petechia (Linne) , Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, Vol. 40, 1927, pp. 31-42
  • The North American races of Falco columbarius , Bulletin of the Essex County [Mass.] Ornithological Club, 1927, pp. 20-24.
  • The Moults and Plumages of the Starling Sturnus vulgaris Linn. , Bulletin of the Essex County [Mass.] Ornithological Club, 1928, pp. 21-25
  • together with Outram Bangs: A collection of birds from Oaxaca , Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Volume 68, Issue 8, 1928
  • together with Outram Bangs: Birds collected by Dr. Joseph F. Rock in western Kansu and eastern Tibet , Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, 1928
  • together with Frederic Hedge Kennard: A collection of birds from the Almirante Bay region of Panama , Proceedings of the Boston Society of Natural History, Volume 38, Issue 10, 1928
  • with Ludlow Griscom: A new rail and a new dove from Micronesia , Proceedings of the New England Zoological Club, 10, 1928, pp. 99-106.
  • The Generic Name of the Tinamous Formerly Included in the Genus Crypturus Illiger , Proceedings of the New England Zoological Club, 10, 1929, pp. 113-114.
  • with Ludlow Griscom: The Central American Races of Rupornis magnirostris , Proceedings of the New England Zoological Club, 11, 1929, pp. 43-48
  • The Identity of Trogon Fulgidus Gould , The Auk, Volume 46, Number 1, 1929, pp. 115-116
  • An ornithological survey in the Caribbean lowlands of Honduras , The Museum, 1929
  • The Identity of the Toucans Described by Linnaeus in the 10th and 12th Editions of the Systema Naturae , The Auk, Vol. 47, Ausg. 3, 1930, pp. 405-408
  • Western Sandpiper in Massachusetts in Spring , The Auk, Volume 47, Number 4, 1930, pp. 562-563
  • Buteo Platypterus in Porto Rico , The Auk, Volume 47, Number 4, 1930, p. 563
  • Notes on some night herons , Proceedings of the Boston Society of Natural History, Volume 39, Issue 7, 1930
  • Checklist of the Birds of the World Volume I Struthioniformes - Anseriformes , Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1931
  • Additional notes on the birds of the Almirante Bay Region of Panama , Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Volume 71, Issue 5, 1931
  • Outram Bangs , Science, Vol. 76, No. 1972, 1932, pp. 337-339
  • Outram Bangs, 1863-1932 , The Auk, Vol. 50, No. 3, 1933, pp. 265–274 Original article (English; PDF; 573 kB)
  • Checklist of the Birds of the World Volume II Galliformes, Gruiformes, Charadriiformes , Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1934
  • Generic limits of some fruit pigeons , Proceedings of the 8th International Ornithological Congress, 1934, pp. 371-391
  • The Martinique form of the ground dove , The Auk, Vol 51, Issue 4, 1934
  • Checklist of the Birds of the World Volume III Columbiformes, Psittaciformes , Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1937
  • with Ludlow Griscom: Geographical variation in the Savannah sparrow , Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Volume 80, Issue 13, 1938
  • Checklist of the Birds of the World Volume IV Cuculiformes, Strigiformes, Caprimulgiformes, Apodes , Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1940
  • with Arthur Loveridge: Scientific Results of a fourth expedition to forested areas on East and Central Africa: Birds, Volume 2 , Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Volume 89, Issue 5, 1942
  • First supplement to the list of types of birds now in the Museum of Comparative Zoology , Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Volume 92, Issue 2, 1943
  • with John Augustus Griswold (Jr): Birds of the Harvard Peruvian Expedition , Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Volume 92, Issue 4, 1943
  • Checklist of the Birds of the World Volume V Trochili, Coliiformes, Trogoniformes, Coraciiformes , Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1945
  • Checklist of the Birds of the World Volume VI Piciformes , Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1948
  • Together with Charles Henry Blake: Microsittace not different generically from Enicognathus , The Auk, Vol 65, Ausg. 2, 1948, pp. 288-289
  • Thomas Barbour, 1884-1946 , The Auk, Vol. 65, Issue 3, 1948, pp. 432-438
  • Checklist of the Birds of the World Volume VII Eurylaimidae - Rhinocryptidae , Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1951
  • with Arthur Loveridge: Zoological results of a fifth expedition to East Africa: Birds from Nyasaland and Tete , Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Volume 110; Volume 112 1953

After his death, other volumes appeared with the addition A Contribution of the Work of James L. Peters . The following authors completed Peter's life's work:


  • Alexander Wetmore: In Memorian: James Lee Peters , The Auk, Vol 74 (2), 1957, pp. 167-173
  • Charles Henry Blake: James Lee Peters , The Journal of Field Ornithology, Vol 23, No 3, 1952, p. 136
  • Walter J. Bock: A special review: Peters' "Check-List of birds of the World and a history of avian checklists , The Auk, Vol 107, Ausg. 3, 1990, pp 627-648
  • Witmet Stone: Peters Check List of Birds of the World. , The Auk, Volume 49, Number 1, 1932, pp. 112-114
  • Mark V. Barrow Jr .: A Passion for Birds: American Ornithology After Audubon , Princeton University Press, 2000, ISBN 978-0-691-04954-0
  • Valérie Chansignaud: The History of Ornithology , New Holland, 2009, ISBN 978-1-84773-433-4
  • Erwin Stresemann : The development of ornithology. From Aristotle to the Present , Aula, 1996, ISBN 978-3-89104-588-6
  • Bo Beolens, Michael Watkins: Whose Bird ?: Common Bird Names and the People They Commemorate , Yale University Press, 2004, p. 268, ISBN 978-0-300-10359-5

Individual evidence

  1. The Auk, Volume 49, Number 1, 1932, pp. 112-114, Peters 'Check-List of Birds of the World.' (PDF; 192 kB) Original article
  2. ^ Members of the American Academy. Listed by election year, 1900-1949 ( PDF ). Retrieved October 11, 2015
  3. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College, Vol 89, 1942, pp. 252f Apalis eidos sp. nov original article
  4. Notulae Naturae, Number 40, 1939 Description of a new species and subspecies of Xenodacnis - Xenodacnis petersi (Engl.) Original article
  5. The Auk, Vol 74 (2) In Memorian: James Lee Peters (PDF; 447 kB) Original article
  6. The Journal of Field Ornithology, Vol 23, No 3, James Lee Peters (PDF; 152 kB) Original article
  7. The Auk, Vol 107, Ausg. 3, 1990 A special review: Peters' Check-List of birds of the World and a history of avian checklists (PDF; 2.0 MB) Original article