Forgotten Manuscript Comes to Light

Oregon State University has published a very unusual book. At the time of his death in 1935, Harry S. Swarth had been preparing a manuscript reflecting on 25 years of his research in coastal Alaska and British Columbia. The manuscript summarized Swarth’s research, ideas, and conjectures on the bird life in the region, including theories about when and how birds populated this vast territory after the retreat of glaciers near the end of the Pleistocene.

In 2019 Christopher Swarth, grandson of Harry Swarth, discovered the forgotten manuscript and decided it should not stay forgotten. The book he edited includes the original unpublished manuscript, accompanied by contextual essays from contemporary ornithologists who examine the impact and relevance of Swarth’s research on coastal bird diversity, Fox Sparrow migration, and the systemic puzzle of the Timberline Sparrow.

Field camp at Beaver Creek, Alberni, British Columbia, 1910.

Expedition maps display field camps and exploration routes, and species checklists illustrate the variety of birds observed at key field sites.

To bring additional color and insight, The Origin and Distribution of Birds in Coastal Alaska and British Columbia also includes excerpts from Harry Swarth’s field notes, a comprehensive list of Harry Swarth’s publications, and a glossary with historic and contemporary bird names.

—Clive Keen, Editor, BC Birding

Reprinted with permission from BC Birding, the newsmagazine of the British Columbia Field Ornithologists, vol. 33, no. 1, March 2023.

The Origin and Distribution of Birds in Coastal Alaska and British Columbia: The Lost Manuscript of Harry S. Swarth is available to order from OSU Press, Amazon, and your local independent bookstore.

Harry Swarth at Doch-da-on Creek, British Columbia.

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