S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Bulger, Lieutenant George Ernest (ornithology, plant collection)

Born: 1830, Place not known.
Died: 1881, Place not known.

George Ernest Bulger, a British soldier, was an ensign with the Canadian Rifle regiment in 1847, was promoted to lieutenant in 1850, joined 69 Regiment in 1853, was promoted to captain in the 10th Regiment of Foot in 1858, was promoted to major in 1872, and retired with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in February 1876. His hobbies included ornithology, plant collecting, and hunting.

Bulger spent the period from January 1860 to December 1864 in South Africa, attached to the 2nd Battalion of the 10th Regiment of Foot. Extracts from the journal he kept during this period were published in Bangalore, India, in 1867. He also wrote a book, Sporting adventures in many lands (1864). Some 30 pages of the book are devoted to South Africa. From 1865 onward he also wrote a number of semi-popular articles on the natural history of the countries he visited. Several of these dealt with South Africa, for example, 'Record of a day in Kaffraria' (The Zoologist, 1865), 'An eight days ramble in Cape Colony' (The Intellectual Observer, 1867), and 'A day in the vicinity of Simon's Town, South Africa' (The Student, 1868). The latter contains a description of Simonsberg and the birds and plants seen there on a day's outing. 'Windvogelberg-kloof'(The Student, 1869) provided an account of the flora and bird life on a mountain near Cathcart in the Eastern Cape. In the same year his 'Note on the habits of Myrmecocichla formicivora [Ant-eating chat] as observed near Windvogelberg, South Africa' was published in the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London (1869), followed by 'Flora of Windvogelberg-kloof' (The Student, 1870). He must have touched at the Cape again around this time, for he wrote 'A few hours at Cape Town, South Africa: Natural history notes' (Canadian Naturalist, 1870). In the preface to Volume 3 of the Flora Capensis (1865) W.H. Harvey* thanked him for plant specimens collected at Windvogelberg, as well as some orchids from the neighbourhood of Cape Town.

Shortly after leaving South Africa Bulger served in India. Based on his stay there he published Notes on a tour through India in 1867 (1869), 'List of birds observed at Wellington, Neilgherry Hills [in southern India], about 6000 feet above the level of the sea, during the months April and May, 1866' (Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 1866) and 'List of birds obtained in Sikkim, Eastern Himalayas, between March and July, 1867' (Ibis, 1869) He also collected plants in Myanmar (formerly Burma). His specimens from that country and South Africa ended up in the herbarium at Kew Gardens. He was elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society in 1864. The Gray Fantail subspecies Rhipidura albiscapa bulgeri was named after him.

List of sources:

Beolens, B., Watkins, M. & Grayson, M. The eponym dictionary of birds. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014.

Google scholar. http://scholar.google.co.za Publications by G.E. Bulger.

Gunn, M. & Codd, L.E. Botanical exploration of southern Africa. Cape Town: Balkema, 1981.

Harvey, W.H. & Sonder, O.W. Flora Capensis (Vol. 3, Preface). Ashford, Kent: Lovell Reeve, 1894 (originally published 1865).

The London Gazette, February 8, 1876, p. 528, at https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/24291/page/528/data.pdf

Mendelssohn, S. South African bibliography. London, 1910.

National Union Catalogue, pre-1956 imprints. London: Mansell, 1968-1980.

Royal Society of London. Catalogue of scientific papers [1800-1900]. London: Royal Society, 1867-1925.

South African bibliography to the year 1925. London: Mansell, 1979.

Compiled by: C. Plug