Even Homer NodsBy
Samuel Aughey was surely among the most idiosyncratic and the least reliable of Nebraska’s early ornithologists. This garbled passage from his 1877 “Notes on the Nature of the Food of the Birds of Nebraska” may not be the worst of his bloopers, but it’s certainly the most notorious. It’s hard to do anything but sputter faced with such a pile of errors and implausibilities.
Only today — a good third of a century after I first read this text — did I notice the footnote at the bottom of the page reproducing the “letters of transmittal.”
At the request of Professor [Charles Valentine] Riley, I have revised the nomenclature of the birds treated in this paper. — Elliott Coues, Washington, D.C., May 15, 1878.
So much for the acribious eye of the great Coues. Of course, he was working on the second Installment of the Bibliography at the time, so I think we can forgive him for doing a less than perfect job of proofreading the work of a minor figure from a new university on the edge of the Great Plains.