Bonaparte on the Common Nighthawk

It’s commencement day in Princeton, and one of the questions on everyone’s mind this morning is who the recipients of honorary degrees will be. In 1825, one of them was none other than Charles Lucian Bonaparte, illegitimate nephew of the former emperor.

I don’t know whether the degree was awarded for his ornithological publications or his political engagement, but it was certainly not for his theory on the production of vocal sound by Common Nighthawks:

 Sometimes when flying [they] utter a noise, probably produced by air rushing into their open mouth, and circulating in the body.

That speculation was still three years in the future when the Prince of Musignano was granted his A.M. honoris causa. Plus, it’s not true.  

The 2013 ABA Bird of the Year
The 2013 ABA Bird of the Year