Excerpt from The Pacific Coast Races of the Bewick Wren
Next to the data obtained directly from this splendid series of specimens, the writer is inclined to give high place to the in formational value of the field work incidental to its collection, in much of which he took an active part. The ideal material upon which to base conclusions as regards relationships and distribution consists of specimens in freshly acquired autumnal plumage, taken at the exact localities where the birds were born. As we have not usually any means of knowing the exact birthplace of a bird, the results of our studies must often depend upon assumptions based largely upon one's knowledge of the species in general and its usual mode of life. Just here is where it would seem that experience and information acquired through extensive field work would be invaluable in aiding in an analysis of the facts presented by series of skins - facts often in apparent conﬂict. The man who works from the dried skin alone is handicapped more than he usually realizes. In working out the relationships and distribution of closely connected forms, a labor entailing the handling of large series, anomalous Specimens are frequently encountered, calculated to lead one astray. Some knowledge of the country and climate, the physical surroundings of the species in gen eral, will frequently give a clue to the explanation, while inti mate acquaintance with the bird in life will enable one, to a certain extent, to imagine himself in the bird's place and figure out what, under given conditions, is most apt to occur. The life history and habits of the species in general, the faunal complexion of its usual habitat, the nature and extent of vari ation in the individual and in the race, are all factors of prime importance, and are all to be learned in the course of field work, some of them in no other way. It is not enough, be cause a specimen bears a superficial resemblance to a race geo graphically placed more or less remotely from where it was taken, to place the said specimen with such race. In the writer's opinion, this has been done but too frequently in late years, resulting in extraordinary extensions of ranges of cer tain subspecies without due justification. Familiarity with the birds in life should serve as a most excellent check to such hasty conclusions.
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