Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 149, Issue 3, pp 469–472 | Cite as

Willughby’s angel: the pintailed sandgrouse (Pterocles alchata)

  • Isabelle Charmantier
  • T. R. Birkhead
Short Note


Among paintings of birds thought to have been bought in 1663 in Nuremberg by Francis Willughby, and now housed in Nottingham University library, is the painting of a bird called Jangle de Languedoc. Unlike some of the other drawings, this particular one was never used by Ray in his Ornithology of Francis Willughby (1678), who had difficulty in identifying the bird. We show here that this painting was not bought in Nuremberg, but that it was obtained by Ray from Sir Thomas Crew, during his stay in Montpellier in 1665. Furthermore, had Ray looked at Gessner (Historiae animalium liber III qui est de avium natura. Christophus Froschoverus, Tiguri, 1555), Aldrovandi (Ornithologiae, tomus alter. Bononiae, apud Franciscum de Franciscis Senensem, 1600), Jonston (Historiae naturalis de avibus libri VI. Matthaeus Merianus, Frankfurt, 1650) and mostly at Charleton (Gualteri Charletoni Exercitationes de Differentiis & Nominibus Animalium. Theatro Sheldoniano, Oxford, 1677), he would have been able to identify the bird of the painting as alchata or “angel”, specifically a pintailed sandgrouse, Pterocles alchata.


Francis Willughby John Ray Pintailed sandgrouse Pterocles alchata 



We are extremely grateful to Lord and Lady Middleton, and the Willoughby family for granting us permission to examine and to reproduce the Nuremberg drawings. We also thank Dorothy Johnston and Jayne Amat of the Nottingham Library Special Collections, as well as Clair Castle of the Balfour and Newton Library in Cambridge for their assistance. Thank you also to Michel Desfayes, Frank Steinheimer and Walter Bock for their help on the etymology of "angel" and alchata. This study was funded by a Leverhulme Trust grant to TRB and a University of Sheffield Scholarship to IC.


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Animal and Plant SciencesUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK

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