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Gilbert's birds (1 Viewer)

Björn Bergenholtz

... earlier a k a "Calalp"
With focus on Gilbert's (true) Whistler ...

I think it's about time to delete an old, protracted question mark, regarding the birth of the naturalist and explorer John Gilbert (fairly famous in Australia), commemorated in several birds (even if most of them are invalid today), however we still have one, or two, that might be valid (to some), however, I (only) had a look at ...

gilbertii as in:
• the debated subspecies, either valid or (most often?) invalid alt. part of a cline; Pachycephala inornata gilbertii GOULD 1844 (here), as "Pachycephala Gilbertii", a k a "Gilbert's Whistler", ... with no outspoken dedication, nor any explanation, in the intro (on p.103) he's nothing but "Mr. Gilbert".

This bird/taxon is not to be confused with (the English name of) today's nominate/Monotypic Gilbert's Whistler Pachycephala (i.) inornata GOULD 1841 (here, bottom page), as "Pachycephala inornata", a k a "Black-lored Whistler"*

Either way, in the very intro (on p.103) of Gould's OD of "Pachycephala Gilbertii", he´s nothing but "Mr. Gilbert", but I see no reason to question what's told in today's Key, [my blue]:
gilberti / gilbertii
● John Gilbert (?1810-1845) English taxidermist, naturalist, explorer, collector in Australia 1838-1845 (syn. Anous stolidus pileatus, syn. Ardea sumatrana, syn. Eurostopodus argus, subsp. Megapodius cumingii, syn. Pachycephala inornata).
... and certainly not as the unfortunate (and very dramatic) Death of "Mr. John Gilbert" was reported shortly thereafter (here), by John Gould himself, simply trusting a letter from John Roper, telling us that "poor Gilbert" was killed; "28th of June [1845] ... when a spear thrown at him pierced his breast ..."**

But let's return to the topic of this thread; the opposite, his Birth.

Several sources are equally vague/uncertain regarding his Birth year; "ca.1812", or "in about 1810", "c.1815?" ... etc., etc., like:

Nothing is known of the early days of Gilbert. From his Australian diary we learn that his birthday was on 14 March but the year is not given ... Almost everything that is known about Gilbert we owe to Chisholm's researches [1940], ....

But today the National Museums Liverpool sounds all convinced (and pretty self-confident), when they state that he was born:

14 March 1812 (with the following, long and thorough, explanation):
This information was discovered by the following methods and from these sources:

1. William Gilbert wrote a letter to John Gould from Acre Passage, Peascod Street, Windsor, Berkshire on August 21st 1846. This was one of the letters discovered in the possession of Gould's descendants by Alec Chisholm in 1938; it is now in the Mitchell Library, Sydney. Unfortunately Chisholm, who stated that he had examined the census records for Windsor for 1841 and 1851 (Chisholm 1940: 160), must have missed the relevant entry. An entry does exist in the census return for 1851; for William (aged 60, carpenter; born in Staplehurst, Kent) and Ann (aged 61, born in Headcorn, Kent). A copy of the entry was supplied by the Public Record Office in Chancery Lane, London.

2. A camp-site on the 1844/1845 Leichhardt Expedition, pitched on March 14th 1845, was named "Gilbert's Birthday Camp". A search was made of the Mormon Genealogical Index for entries for a John Gilbert born on March 14th between 1810 and 1815. The only possibility was for the christening of a John Gilbert - son of William and Ann - on 25th October 1812, at Lady Huntingdon's Chapel in Clerkenwell, London. The Public Record Office was asked to search the register for this church (RG 4/4171, for births and baptisms 1800-1815). They provided a copy of an entry for the birth of John Gilbert, son of William and Ann Gilbert of the parish of Newington Butts, on March 14th 1812 (LH Folio 179).

3. In addition, the Mormon Genealogical Index and the register for Lady Huntingdon's Chapel provided the dates of birth of Gilbert's two brothers; William on October 16th 1813 and Thomas on July 6th 1818. ...

[... and onwards, from here]​
Also see the John Gilbert Lookout memoral monument, from 2004 here (detail of plaque, also attached).

More about the same guy, from the same Museum, here.

And: Enjoy!


*In my mind, "Black-lored Whistler" is, or would be, a better English name for the species,
simply as the scientific name inornata wasn't aimed at Gilbert at all (he himself doesn't seem
to have been "adorned" in any way, ;)). As I see it, the English name "Gilbert's" ought to be
used only for the ssp., this said even if Gregory M. Mathews post-1912 would have preferred
to call it Gilbertornis (inornata) gilbertii].

**If he truly died by a spear through his breast, or/and pierced through his throat (as some
claim) is unknown to me. Either way, an abrupt end, at the age of 33.


PS. English Wikipedia's entry for John Gilbert is also worth the read, full of Birds:
Naming the Gilbert's whistler was one of Gould's rare ornithological mistakes. He had already named the eastern race of the same bird, calling it the 'unadorned thickhead', perhaps giving some indication of what he thought of the bird. By convention, the first name stands, so today the scientific name is Pachycephalia inornata. But while technically speaking, the name Gilbert's whistler refers just to the western race of the bird, the name is used universally today for the species.
PPS. Martin, German Wiki has just about nothing regarding his Birth: "... vermutlich in England".


  • John Gilbert plaque.jpg
    John Gilbert plaque.jpg
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Björn Bergenholtz

... earlier a k a "Calalp"
"Gilbert's (Mountain-) Babbler"

And how about the (only) other Gilbert?

In today's Key:
● Gilbert Nkwocha (fl. 1949) Nigerian collector, skinner for William Serle (Kupeornis).
Commemorated in the White-throated Mountain-Babbler Kupeornis gilberti SERLE 1949 (here): "Named after my indispensable African skinner Gilbert Nkwocha.", thereby a k a "Gilbert's Babbler" alt. "Gilbert's Mountain-Babbler"

Anyone who knows who he was/is, or what happened to him?

Just curious.


PS. He's also mentioned in The Ibis; here, and here (p.477), and again in BBOC (1952), by the same William Serle: here, as "... my Ibo skinner, Gilbert Nkwocha", as well as (in BBOC 85, 1965) here: "In November 1959 Gilbert Nkwocha, my former skinner ...".

But that's all I can find about him. If of any help/use?
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