Cowan Tetrapod Collection Contributors – Andor Kovacs

Kovacs A., 1903-1999. Taxidermist, professional museum specimen collector and natural history guide from ~1950 to ~1983. This image of Andor Kovacs appears as part of the dedication to their father (or grandfather) of the authors of The Illustrated Handbook of the Birds of Patagonia.

Contributor Snapshot

In the 1950s, Andor Kovacs with his wife Yolan Molnar de Kovacs, their six sons and one daughter relocated to El Bolsón, Province of Rio Negro, Argentina. Four of the sons shared their father’s keen interest in biology. For decades, this family of taxidermists and natural history guides helped created global awareness of the tetrapod biodiversity of Patagonia. Kovacs received commissions and shipped prepared mammal, bird, and amphibian research specimens around the world. The earliest A. Kovacs specimen currently listed on VertNet (a multi-museum search engine) is an American Kestrel collected in March 1950 with the last specimen listed being a Chilean Four-eyed Frog collected in November 1983.

Major collections of Patagonian specimens prepared by Andor Kovacs are housed in Europe at the Naturalis (Netherlands), Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle de la Ville de Gèneve (Switzerland), and Uppsala Universitet Evolutionsmuseet (Sweden). In North America, the largest collection of A. Kovacs specimens is at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County having ~1,850 birds and mammal skins. Here in Canada, the Royal Ontario Museum has a collection of 366 Patagonian birds prepared by this master taxidermist, Andor Kovacs.

In 2005, three of Andor Kovacs’s sons plus one grand-son published Spanish and English editions of Illustrated Handbook of the Birds of Patagonia. This publication was a multi-generational project. The backrooms of the private family museum, Museos Ornitologico Patagonica, house an impressive reference collection of over 240 species of Patagonian avian round skins prepared by different family members, plus have exceptional taxidermy displays on exhibit. The authors used this bird collection plus the bird lore amassed by this remarkable family to write and illustrated this massive book.

Contribution to the Cowan Tetrapod Collection

The two Andor Kovac bird specimens housed at the Cowan Tetrapod Collection expand the biodiversity of our holdings.

B012848, an Aplomado Falcon completes our collection of the six falcons that breed within the ABA Area (American Birding Association area is defined as the 49 continental United States, Hawaii, Canada and the French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon plus adjacent waters). Correspondence has been lost but most probably a former curator of the Cowan Tetrapod Collection contacted the Los Angeles Museum (Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County) and arranged a specimen trade. Leg tags are never removed from specimens. On the reverse side of the Los Angeles Museum tag (near the colour corrector card in this image) is scribed: El Bolstón, Rio Negro, Argentina: June 3, 1961; Andor Kovacs.

The colouration of the Cowan Tetrapod Collection other Kovacs skin is most un-Cotinga-like. The Cotinga passerine bird family is known for its outrages iridescent blue and purple plumages. To North American birders, this Rufous-tailed Plantcutter (B012847) with its formidable finch-like beak might bring to mind a zany variation of our local Grosbeaks species.

Researched and written by: Ildiko Szabo