Tanager Expedition (1923)

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The Tanager expedition was a joint effort of the Bureau of the Biological Survey (U.S. Department of Agriculture), the Bernice P. Bishop Museum, and the United States Navy. The expedition name came from the converted World War I minesweeper used for the voyage. The expedition’s work in the northwest Hawaiian Islands related to a decree by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1909 that called for the establishment of a bird reservation in the area that would be the responsibility of the Biological Survey. US Navy primarily gathered navigational and other types of data on the region, while the US Biological Survey and the Bishop Museum studied area’s flora and fauna, including marine organisms. Staff also dealt with eliminating a population of rabbits introduced to Laysan Island in 1909 that had caused serious ecological damage by decimating vegetation. The expedition was led by Alexander Wetmore, assistant biologist for the US Biological Survey. Participants studied and collected seals, birds, turtles and other animals and plants of the region. Locations visited included northwest Hawaiian Islands, Wake Island, and Johnston Island.


  • Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum. (2000). The Tanager Expedition. Retrieved from http://www.bishopmuseum.org/research/nwhi/tanager.html
  • Olson, Storrs L. (1996). History and Ornithological Journals of the Tanager Expedition of 1923 to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Johnston, and Wake Islands. Atoll Research Bulletin; no. 433. Retried from http://si-pddr.si.edu/dspace/handle/10088/5880

Date Range

1923 - 1923


  • Animals
  • Zoology
  • Birds
  • Plants
  • Ornithology
  • Botany


  • Johnston Island
  • United States
  • Hawaii
  • Wake Island


Expedition name