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Patuxent Wildlife Research Center


Franklin Lorenzo Burns

Franklin Lorenzo Burns was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania on January 18, 1868 to Peter J. and Ellen J. (Dyson) Burns. Franklin was the fifth of eight children. His interest in nature began at an early age when his physician promised him a "rabbit's egg" if Franklin took all his allopathic prescription. This sparked his imagination and interest in egg collection which continued until three years later when he obtained his first Dickcissel egg. Around the same time, Franklin became a frequent visitor to the Hawthorn farm where a collection of mounted birds were displayed. This fueled a desire in Franklin to one day have a collection of his own, and to know each of the names and habits of the species collected.

As time passed, Franklin's three older brothers moved away from the family farm in Berwyn, leaving Franklin to take on primary responsibility for the farm work. Though the labor was arduous, he found comfort in a small subscription library where he would meet with friends on Saturday nights. In 1884, Franklin learned of the publication, "Young Oologist," and from it, improved methods for egg collection. He quickly fashioned climbers out of iron bars and took his first set of crow's eggs from a chestnut tree at Valley Forge. That same year, Franklin began a long record of service, sending in bird migration records to the migration and distribution records at the Bureau of Biological Survey. As his collection grew, Franklin would hide the eggs in cigar boxes, bedded in hair, so that his disapproving family would not find them. The following year, Franklin began sending in bird skins to the A.O.U. committee. Most of his specimen collection came from a small area close to his home.

Franklin later served in several capacities with the Wilson Ornithological Club. His articles and studies of bird life appeared in The Auk, the Wilson Bulletin and other ornithological magazines. Franklin Lorenzo Burns is best known for his book, The Ornithology of Chester County, Pennsylvania.

To learn more about Franklin Lorenzo Burns, please visit:,%20August%2030,1940.pdf and

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