Subject: northbound migrants (was Re: Violet Green Swallows)
Date: Feb 07 20:50:57 1994
From: Don Cecile - dcecile at

Michael Price wrote:

. Herein my annual plaint (heh, earliest record for that,
>too ;-) about birders' confusing and arbitrary usage of English, and equally
>regular plea for linguistic common sense: to increase accuracy, decoupling
>migration from season is a good justification for referring to migrations
>directionally, as in 'northbound' and 'southbound', otherwise you have such
>silliness as the late-Winter migrant swallows in the same 'Spring' migration
>as early-Summer migrants such as Common Nighthawks;
snip, snip

I remember back when I was first becoming an active birder and I had the
common misconception about migration (that it only occurred in the spring
and fall and that all birds did it at the same time) and it was some time
before I was able to conceptualize that this was not the way things were. I
have to agree with you, not only did the common usage of 'spring and fall
migration' by birder's, decrease my chances of understanding the
complexities of migration, but they also used the terms 'summer and winter
plumage' which messed me up even further.

Perhaps birders understand very well by now how these can be confusing
statements but those of us who continue to use them keep the rest of the
poplulation of non-birders in complete darkness and they will never have an
appreciation of migration as we do, since the terminology used is very
limiting and leads to very narrow views of what migration really is. (was
that all one sentence?)

Mike, I completely agree with you and I wish to add in the plug that we
continue to refer to plumages as well in a more consistent and accurate fashion.


Don Cecile
dcecile at