One hundred fifty years ago today, Adolphus L. Heermann was killed, “having evidently stumbled and fallen,” when his collecting gun fired.
John Cassin, who knew him well, said of Heermann in earlier, healthier days that no better man could be had for a collecting expedition. In 1853, Cassin dedicated a “beautiful gull” to his friend, an
acknowledgment due to his accomplishment as a naturalist, and his perseverance and success as a scientific traveller.
In Washington, D.C., Spencer Baird was equally impressed by Heermann and his work in the field. On working through a collection of sparrows from the west, Baird encountered one that Heermann had sent from Tejon Pass, California, resembling a song sparrow but
differing very appreciably from a large number of specimens from Washington and Oregon…. I have come to the conclusion that the species is worthy of specific separation, and have accordingly named it Melospiza heermanni, after its accomplished collector and discoverer.
Today we “know” that that California bird is “just” a subspecies of the song sparrow. But there’s no reason not to call it the Heermann’s song sparrow, especially today.