Subject: Changing Bird Names
Date: Sep 8 05:21:44 1994
From: Michael Price - Michael_Price at

re: Changing Bird Names.

Spot the imposter.

Blue-grey Gnatcatcher. Smew. Worm-eating Warbler. Boat-tailed Grackle.
Tufted Titmouse. Hump-tailed Flatwhacker. Red-breasted Nuthatch.
Bristle-thighed Curlew. Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet. Hairy Woodpecker.

*Who* is responsible for such preposterous names? Names which are their own
worst parody? A few are charming, most I want to mumble when talking to
non-birders, awkward as a teenager who has to introduce his klutzy,
tag-along kid brother to his guffawing buddies. Bristle-thighed Curlew
indeed. Good god.

More seriously, where Europe/Asia & N. America share a species (don't
bogart that bird, my friend...) there seems to no consistency.
Herring Gull is the same on either side of the Atlantic but Larus canus is
Mew Gull here, Common Gull there. With a species such as Pluvialis
squatarola, for example, why don't we use the name which has been in
existence longer and would presumably have precedence: Grey Plover instead
of Black-bellied? Or Long-tailed Duck rather than the somewhat offensive
Oldsquaw (and-to quote someone or other-not a word about political
correctness, he said icily. Not. One. Word.).

And, hey, while we're at it, why *not* rejig the Stercs from jaegers into
skuas? It's not like we'd all have to adopt plummy Brit accents to say
these names, although the image of a bunch of birders at the settling ponds
all talking like Jean-Luc Picard is just too good not to run through a
bunch of mental cartoon sequences....

Is there any reason(s) for the difference in colloquial names? And when
name changes are proposed, is done in secret conclave, like choosing a
Pope? Or, to reprise gently the thesis implicit in the introductory
remarks, could the AOU use some help from the wider public in originating

M. Price
michael_price at