100 Things to Explore


A photo of Elon Howard Eaton P'37 is displayed along with
some of the birds he collected, including (above) a common
reed bunting, a Greenland wheatear, male and female ring-
necked pheasants, a yellow-headed parrot and an eclectus

8. Elon Howard Eaton P'37, a renowned ornithologist who established the HWS Biology Department in the early 20th century, amassed a meticulous collection of birds between 1880 and 1933. The collection includes extinct species - like the Labrador duck, passenger pigeon (shown at right), ivory-billed woodpecker, Eskimo curlew, great auk and Carolina parakeet - which has enabled new research using DNA sampling techniques unimaginable in Eaton's time. In 2012, approximately 1,000 taxidermy birds were transferred to the New York State Museum in Albany, where Eaton served as state ornithologist and curator for six years. Approximately 300 birds - from the collections of Eaton, Professor of Biology Theodore O'Dell of the Class of 1920 and William Smith, who was also a bird enthusiast - remain on campus today, fittingly on the second floor of Eaton Hall. Among the rarest specimens are the peregrine falcon, a number of passenger pigeons and an Adélie penguin referenced in a 1959 study in Nature magazine.