My last article, “The Pigeon Guru” got quite a response, so I thought I’d put together another article about our feathered friends while I’m on a roll. This next article will deal with an issue that’s been vexing me for quite some time; that is just who is in charge of naming these dang birds?
We’ve had a three-season vacation trailer in Central Wisconsin for many years. The area we currently have the trailer in is immersed in nature. And there are any number of wild critters we see during our time up there.
One of the things I enjoy the most, is watching the many different species of birds we see during our spring, summer and fall. Many species of woodpeckers, song birds, water fowl and birds of prey occupy the area we inhabit, along with turkeys, cranes and other types of birds. I have a couple of books on bird identification, and of course, an app for my phone which identifies our feathered friends. And I use both frequently to ID birds I am unfamiliar with or unsure of.
And this is where my problem comes in. Now I’m not familiar with protocol when it comes to naming our feathered friends, but I’m quite sure no birds were ever consulted about the process. Consider the “Grossbeak” for example. A beautiful bird that we see quite often in the spring and early summer, the Grossbeak does have a rather prominent beak…but I see no reason to exaggerate or insult it.
The “Jackdaw” is another name I would not care to be referred to as. There are several different types of Jackdaws and they’re probably in hiding so nobody shouts their name out somewhere. “Hey, there’s a Jackdaw”! And, believe it or not, some sick ornithologist slapped the label “Anis” on one poor bird, found mostly in southern Texas and Mexico. “Grassquits” is another moniker applied to a bird from the Caribbean area. Grassquits…what the heck does that even mean? “Hey, there’s a Grassquits”. “Uh, uh…. a what??” And the “Bananaquit” is another Caribbean bird, no doubt related to the Grassquits. When, exactly, do these birds quit, before they eat the stuff, or when they are full?
Now I wouldn’t wish to be named a “Swamphen”, nor a “Moorhen” either. And please don’t apply “Limpkin” to my description. And if you’re going to call me a “Boobie”, we might just not get along! “Tattlers” and “Yellowlegs” are some other names I wouldn’t particularly care for either.
If you see a “Common Chiffchaff” please don’t make fun of their name as they might be sensitive. There are several types of “Towhees”. Not exactly sure what a “hee” is and how a bird would tow it. (Or why) There are many types of “Flycatchers”, and no doubt they dine on flying insects. If birds were to name humans, maybe they’d call us “Hamburger Catchers”, or “Sauerkraut Catchers” perhaps. They could use the opportunity to turn the tables on us.
Some names applied to birds aren’t offensive at all, in fact some are quite flattering. “Kingbird” wouldn’t be a bad thing to be called. And if you’re a flycatcher I guess “Great Crested Flycatcher” wouldn’t be too bad either. Many birds have the term “lesser” as a first name. “Lesser Gold Finch” for example. Personally, I’d prefer to be the “Morer Goldfinch”, but I don’t believe they’ve named one just yet.
So going forward, I hope our ornithologists will be more sensitive regarding the names they apply to our feathered friends.
And whatever you do, don’t call me “Dickcissel”!
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