BluebirdersAlthea Rosina Sherman (1853 – 1943)

Althea Rosina Sherman (1853 – 1943)

Photograph of Althea Sherman from History of Clayton County, Iowa (1916) by Realto E. Price.
Photograph of Althea Sherman from History of Clayton County, Iowa (1916) by Realto E. Price.

Although not technically a “bluebirder,”, Althea Sherman was a citizen scientist and self-taught ornithologist.  Born in National, Iowa in 1853, she attended Upper Iowa University and received her degree as an art teacher. She became particularly interested in bird behavior. She published over 70 articles on 38 species in scientific and ornithological journals. Fred J. Pierce publis hed Sherman’s book Birds of an Iowa Dooryard posthumously, with publication limited to 1500 copies, and her work was included in Arthur Cleveland Bent’s treatise Life Histories of North American Birds.[4]

Drawing done by Althea Sherman of a chimney swift on the nest in her original tower. Photo courtesy of State Historical Museum of Iowa—DesMoines. Photographer: Chuck Greiner. Sherman commissioned construction of an 28-foot tall, 9-foot square wooden “Chimney Swifts’ Tower” in Iowa so she could observe their life cycle.

Although she was self-taught in the area of bird research, she did pioneering work in the study of the life-styles of several bird species and became nationally and internationally known for her studies.  Seventy years later, much of her work is considered to be the most complete research compiled on several bird species.

Althea Sherman’s research on wrens is particularly interesting.   Wrens are often a serious problem on a bluebird trail. . However, little attention has been given to how the overpopulation of wrens is affecting many other songbird species that nest and feed in our backyards, including Bewick’s Wrens.

Adapted from Barbara Boyle’s article, The Great Wren Debate Revisited.

House Wren Nesting Timetable: See House Wren Biology


There are people who deny that the earth is round, and there are other people who deny that the house wren is a bad bird.
– Althea Sherman


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