Raymond Andrew Paynter, Jr.

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Raymond Andrew Paynter, Jr. (born November 29, 1925 in New York City , † July 10, 2003 in Weston , Massachusetts ) was an American ornithologist. His research focus was the taxonomy and zoogeography of the neotropical avifauna .


At 16, Paynter graduated from Cheshire Academy , a rigorous pre-college school. He then used the money he earned from gardening on a trip to Mexico to see the tropics firsthand. This sparked his interest in natural history. In 1946 he graduated from Bowdoin College . His studies of the behavior of the black-backed gulls on the Canadian island of Kent Island were among the first publications on this long-term project. Soon after, Paynter collected birds in central and southern Mexico for a few years. This research work formed the basis of his dissertation "Ornithogeography of the Yucatan Peninsula", with which he received his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1954. PhD.

Partly funded by Sidney Dillon Ripley , Paynter spent the following years collecting birds for the Peabody Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ). In addition to his work in Central America, he collected in Nepal, Pakistan and India. In 1953 he became assistant curator at the MCZ. In 1961 he became curator of the bird department and senior lecturer at Harvard. In November 1965, an expedition for Paynter and his wife Elizabeth Storer resulted in an almost fatal outcome. While the Paynters camped in the forested Andes in southeastern Ecuador, they were attacked with machetes by superstitious locals. Elizabeth Storer, who was injured in the scalp and hand, pretended to be dead. Paynter tried unsuccessfully to mount a weapon and finally escaped from the collapsed tent. He suffered a double fracture of his skull and his arm was almost severed. The attackers thought he was dead and left him on the edge of a ditch. David Norton, a student of the Paynters, was able to escape and get help from the hospital ship USS Hope, stationed off the Ecuadorian coast . The crew included US doctors who trained their Ecuadorian counterparts in Cuenca and who were able to save the Paynters the following day.

Paynter's original position at Harvard was created to help Ernst Mayr complete the Check-list of Birds of the World book series , which was interrupted after the death of James Lee Peters in 1952. Eventually he became co-author and co-editor of the last six volumes of this monumental handbook. This work led to the revision of the systematics of the finches (Fringillidae), tangerines (Thraupidae), cardinals (Cardinalidae) as well as the bunting (Emberizidae), especially the bushhammer ( Atlapetes ). In 1966 he became editor of the Publications of the Nuttall Ornithological Club, a position he held for 32 years, with the publication of Volumes 6-27. In 1970 Paynter began its largest project. Frustrated by the lack of organized mapping evidence of the locations of the South American bird collection in the MCZ, Paynter created an index card catalog of all locations that he found on the preparation labels or in the taxonomic literature. The place of discovery, all alternative spellings, remarks about the collector (s) and the time of collection as well as the longitude, latitude and altitude of the place of discovery were noted on each index card.

As the card index he built with his volunteer students grew, Paynter increasingly recognized its importance for all future Neotropical systematists. With the support of his assistant Alison Pirie, he published eleven meticulously researched ornithological gazetteers between 1975 and 1993 , which covered all 13 South American countries. Several of these were based on the work of Melvin Alvah Traylor junior , a colleague and friend of Paynter who worked at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Paynter published several second editions of these gazetteers. Within a few weeks of finishing the revision of the volume on Venezuela, he suffered a stroke, so that the manuscript remained unpublished. Paynter's contributions to ornithology include 130 publications and edited volumes. Paynter described some neotropical Vogeltaxa, including Dendrocitta vagabunda bristoli , a subspecies of the rufous treepie ( Dendrocitta vagabunda ), Piranga roseogularis tincta , a subspecies of Rosenkehltangare ( Piranga roseogularis ), Emberiza buchanani neobscura , a subspecies of Steinortolans ( Emberiza buchanani ) and Rallus longirostris Grossi , a subspecies of the rattle rail ( Rallus longirostris ).

Honors and Dedication Names

In 1980 John W. Fitzpatrick dedicated the taxon Atlapetes leucopterus paynteri , a subspecies of the mirror bushhammer ( Atlapetes leucopterus ) to him. In 2001 he was awarded the Elliot Coues Medal of the American Ornithologists' Union (AOU) together with Melvin Alvah Traylor, junior , where he joined in 1946, an elected member in 1952 and a fellow in 1963.


  • John W. Fitzpatrick: In Memorian: Raymond Andrew Paynter, Jr. 1925-2003 . In: The Auk . Vol. 122, number 4, 2005, pp. 1295-1297 ( JSTOR 4090533 ).