Throwback Thursday: Observations of Red-shafted and Yellow-shafted Flickers in a 1893 letter to Science

It’s Thursday, so time for an old avian hybrids paper! This week: a short letter to Science on hybrid woodpeckers.

Being a scientist in the 1800s must have been great. Nowadays, researchers struggle to get something published in high ranking journals, such as Science or Nature. Back in the days, you could just send a letter to the editor of those journals and you would have a reasonable chance of getting published.

In 1893, Alvah Eaton reacted to a summary of hybridization in the genus Colaptes in a previous edition of Science. Here is the entire letter:


A letter in Science based on a few presumed hybrids between Red-shafted Flicker (C. cafer) and Yellow-shafted Flicker (C. auratus). This would be unthinkable nowadays. However, these two woodpecker species have become one of the model systems for avian hybridization in North America. You can read more about them here.


Yellow-shafted and Red-shafted Flicker

On a side note, the letter following the piece by Eaton shows how scientists communicated before the arrival of the internet. Want to know how to study ants? Just send a letter to Science!



Eaton, A. A. 1893. Hybridism in Genus Colaptes. Science (New York, N.Y.), 21: 25-25.


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