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Renaming all North American Birds

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Old Friday 19th June 2020, 21:09   #126
Xenospiza
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Oldsquaw was deemed derogatory, yes, so changed to the relatively boring European 'Long-tailed Duck'. For good reason though apparently - see eg https://ourfinefeatheredfriends.com/tag/oldsquaw/
Thanks – here's some very selective quoting from that piece:
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the term “Long-tailed Duck” is sexist on the account that only the males possess the namesake long tail feathers that provide the inspiration for the common name.
I had thought about bringing that up in this thread as well, stating that this is one of the reasons why there are so few female birders.

The iconoclastic bloggers have not thought about this yet, based on their "Scarlet Piranga" and "Black-capped Warbler". Who's willing to excuse them of sexism?

(I am again not being serious).
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Old Friday 19th June 2020, 21:31   #127
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Thanks – here's some very selective quoting from that piece:

I had thought about bringing that up in this thread as well, stating that this is one of the reasons why there are so few female birders.

The iconoclastic bloggers have not thought about this yet, based on their "Scarlet Piranga" and "Black-capped Warbler". Who's willing to excuse them of sexism?

(I am again not being serious).
in the US it's more like 50% (or even more?) female birders.

Black-and-white Warbler is well known as being one of the most inclusive bird names around.
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Old Friday 19th June 2020, 21:37   #128
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Black-and-white Warbler is well known as being one of the most inclusive bird names around.
Many-coloured Chaco Finch Saltatricula multicolor
Seven-coloured Tanager Tangara fastuosa
Multicoloured Tanager Chlorochrysa nitidissima

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Old Friday 19th June 2020, 21:41   #129
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And of course, Rainbow Bee-eater Merops ornatus
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Old Friday 19th June 2020, 21:55   #130
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And of course, Rainbow Bee-eater Merops ornatus
In current context, but yes - that one even more inclusive I guess.

I started typing more but didn't know any suitable birds - Variegated Bird of Paradise though?
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Old Saturday 20th June 2020, 09:41   #131
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Black-and-white Warbler is well known as being one of the most inclusive bird names around.
Many people worry it is easily corrupted into black-or-white thinking.
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Old Saturday 20th June 2020, 19:55   #132
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In my opinion, the problem with naming a bird after a person is that it is not descriptive. Does that really matter? To me it does. The entire point for giving names to things is so that we can communicate about them. And communication is always aided by simplicity and clarity.

If I refer to a Wilson’s Warbler, and you don’t know anything about birds, the name is mostly meaningless. You would know that it is a bird that warbles and was named after someone named Wilson. But if the bird was called a Black-capped Yellow Warbler, for example, you’d at least have some kind of basic mental picture of it. A descriptive name allows one to use less words to convey the same useful information:

“I saw a Wilson’s Warbler, which is a yellowish warbler with a black cap.”

“I saw a Black-capped Yellow Warbler.”

(yes, I know, this does not help with the female, but 50% is better than 0%)

Knowing that someone named Wilson had this bird named for them is not useful information in the field. And brevity is to be valued, IMO. As Strunk and White said: “Omit needless words. Vigorous writing is concise.” I would amend that and say "Vigourous communication is concise." It may not seem like much to have to remember that “Wilson’s” means “yellow with a black cap” but when faced with learning large numbers of new birds, it starts to add up. For example, when my wife and I lived in Asia, we crossed paths with many of the infamous Phylloscopus warblers – a large genus that presents all kinds of identification challenges. It did not help that this group includes many honorific epithets. Question: What about these names might help you learn how to identify them and set each species apart? Answer: Absolutely Nothing.

Hume’s leaf warbler, Brooks’s leaf warbler, Pallas’s leaf warbler, Tytler’s leaf warbler, Radde’s warbler, Tickell’s leaf warbler, Ijima’s leaf warbler, Laura’s woodland warbler, Whistler’s warbler, Bianchi’s warbler, Alström’s warbler, Martens’s warbler, Blyth’s leaf warbler, Claudia’s leaf warbler, Hartert’s leaf warbler, Kloss’s leaf warbler, Davison’s leaf warbler....Clear as mud.

Bird ID can be daunting enough, both for newcomers, and for experienced birders in new locations learning lots of new species. It can only help birders do their jobs better if the nomenclature is more descriptive. It certainly cannot hurt.

Most, but not all, honorifics reference an ornithologist whose work we wish to celebrate or honor. This is a fine sentiment, and that can still be done, in the latin designation, as is already the case with many birds, such as the Yellow billed Loon (Gavia adamsii). If you are a fan of honorific names, would you prefer that this be called Adams’s Loon? Would it be "better"? If you answer "no, we merely want stability" then how do you feel about the Magnificent Hummingbird 2017 split, when it was felt necessary to dispense with that moniker all together and to honor Rivoli, passing up a chance to have a descriptive name (that referenced the gorget color perhaps)? Granted, "Magnificent" isn't the best descriptor either, even though the bird is pretty damn magnificent - but so are so many others! - but it's an example of where nobody in the honorifi camp apparently cried foul about "instability" or "loss of preservation of tradition."

If one thing is clear, though, it is that my position of wanting illustrative names (and which has nothing to do with anything political at all) is quite the minority.

Thanks for reading. And please, if you can make a compelling argument for why honorifics are a wonderful idea in how we name animals, I am all ears.
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Old Saturday 20th June 2020, 20:13   #133
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From here on out, if people want to put a ban on making common names which honor folks, I am 100% fine with it.

My number one concern is that of stability. Changing common names without a good "reason" (e.g., a split or lump; confusion with another bird with the same common name, or just problematic due to racism/sexism) can lead to confusion and make communication difficult between birders. If you change Wilson's warbler to "black-capped Yellow Warbler", Wilson's won't go away...Entire generations of birders have learned that name and will continue to use it, and the name will continue to be present in older books and references, even if all newer editions make the adoption (Not guaranteed). Now multiply this by EVERY SINGLE required name change to get rid of honorifics. It would make communication in birding a mess for an entire generation.

And of course honorifics are just the tip of the iceberg. If we are worried about confusing new birders...whoo boy. You have birds whose names include archaic language (flammulated, cinereous, rufescent), field marks not actually discernible in the field (Ring-necked Duck, Red-bellied Woodpecker, etc), birds that share names with completely unrelated birds (all the various flycatchers and warblers), and birds which references locations or habitats they are not normally associated with (Prairie Warbler, Connecticut Warbler, Muscovy Duck). Changing all of these names would cause even more chaos.

As for WHY they exist anyway? Well the Phylloscopus warblers are the perfect example. They all look alike, and it can be hard to think of a meaningful accurate name to reflect there differences. So you trot out the lazy tactic of naming after someone. Even if you didn't name them after someone,do you think keeping track of all of them would be much easier?
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Old Saturday 20th June 2020, 20:40   #134
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Originally Posted by Lerxst View Post
Hume’s leaf warbler, Brooks’s leaf warbler, Pallas’s leaf warbler, Tytler’s leaf warbler, Radde’s warbler, Tickell’s leaf warbler, Ijima’s leaf warbler, Laura’s woodland warbler, Whistler’s warbler, Bianchi’s warbler, Alström’s warbler, Martens’s warbler, Blyth’s leaf warbler, Claudia’s leaf warbler, Hartert’s leaf warbler, Kloss’s leaf warbler, Davison’s leaf warbler....Clear as mud.
Inornate Warbler for Hume's never caught on and I think Izu Leaf Warbler is a better name for this island endemic than Ijima's Leaf Warbler.
Good luck with coming up with descriptive names for all the Golden-spectacled types (Limestone Leaf-Warbler is a nice example that it can be done).
I am still annoyed by the switch to Pallas's Gull though: Great Black-headed Gull is a fantastic name for a fantastic bird.
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Old Saturday 20th June 2020, 20:53   #135
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Inornate Warbler for Hume's never caught on and I think Izu Leaf Warbler is a better name for this island endemic than Ijima's Leaf Warbler.
Good luck with coming up with descriptive names for all the Golden-spectacled types (Limestone Leaf-Warbler is a nice example that it can be done).
I am still annoyed by the switch to Pallas's Gull though: Great Black-headed Gull is a fantastic name for a fantastic bird.
Isn't inornatus Yellow-browed Warbler? Not that THAT English name is uniquely descriptive for any phyllosc, either.
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Old Saturday 20th June 2020, 20:59   #136
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I am still annoyed by the switch to Pallas's Gull though: Great Black-headed Gull is a fantastic name for a fantastic bird.
Absolutely! It's one of the few gull names that is an accurate description of the bird, and there's little danger we're going to forget Pallas given the other cool species he has to his name.
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Old Saturday 20th June 2020, 21:09   #137
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From here on out, if people want to put a ban on making common names which honor folks, I am 100% fine with it.

My number one concern is that of stability. Changing common names without a good "reason" (e.g., a split or lump; confusion with another bird with the same common name, or just problematic due to racism/sexism) can lead to confusion and make communication difficult between birders. If you change Wilson's warbler to "black-capped Yellow Warbler", Wilson's won't go away...Entire generations of birders have learned that name and will continue to use it, and the name will continue to be present in older books and references, even if all newer editions make the adoption (Not guaranteed). Now multiply this by EVERY SINGLE required name change to get rid of honorifics. It would make communication in birding a mess for an entire generation.

And of course honorifics are just the tip of the iceberg. If we are worried about confusing new birders...whoo boy. You have birds whose names include archaic language (flammulated, cinereous, rufescent), field marks not actually discernible in the field (Ring-necked Duck, Red-bellied Woodpecker, etc), birds that share names with completely unrelated birds (all the various flycatchers and warblers), and birds which references locations or habitats they are not normally associated with (Prairie Warbler, Connecticut Warbler, Muscovy Duck). Changing all of these names would cause even more chaos.

As for WHY they exist anyway? Well the Phylloscopus warblers are the perfect example. They all look alike, and it can be hard to think of a meaningful accurate name to reflect there differences. So you trot out the lazy tactic of naming after someone. Even if you didn't name them after someone,do you think keeping track of all of them would be much easier?
Thanks for the reply. I agree it would present instability now; I think future generations would be thankful to have better nomenclature, though. Can the nomenclature be perfect? No. And you give lots of reasons why. Can it be better? Yes, I think so.

And we have already been doing some of these name changes, and it has not been a disaster at all. For example, my old Peterson Western guide that I grew up on has a Rufous-backed Robin. Happily we have changed that - and did the right thing with almost all the Turdus thrushes that had the unfortunate robin moniker in the past. Hopefully we do that with our "robin" too at some point. If we can fix Rufous-backed and Clay-colored, why not?

As for the Phylloscopus, I'd offer that some species breeding habitat, vocalizations, and behaviors would be enough to at least improve some of them; Chiffchaff is a nice example. (I suppose I should take that up as a challenge to put my money where my mouth is and actually propose how I might rename them... :) )
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Old Saturday 20th June 2020, 21:54   #138
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Most, but not all, honorifics reference an ornithologist whose work we wish to celebrate or honor. This is a fine sentiment, and that can still be done, in the latin designation, as is already the case with many birds, such as the Yellow billed Loon (Gavia adamsii). If you are a fan of honorific names, would you prefer that this be called Adams’s Loon?
No, always been happy with White-billed Diver, which is more accurate.

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Old Saturday 20th June 2020, 22:25   #139
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Except Pallas's Gull. Which was and always should have remained an appropriate four-word name: Great Black-headed Gull.

(It's tempting to use every single one of the emojis available on my right to accompany the above statement of fact, but I shall resist that temptation and leave each to their own...)
I see that Clements taxonomy made this change around 2011 going from ver 6.5 to ver 6.6.

Here is the IOC page that announced their version of this change in 2008, but there is no explanation as to why, and it does not look like a taxonomy (split/lump) change. Just a name change:

https://www.worldbirdnames.org/updat...lish-names-v1/

Anybody know what prompted it?
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Old Saturday 20th June 2020, 22:49   #140
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Thanks for the reply. I agree it would present instability now; I think future generations would be thankful to have better nomenclature, though. Can the nomenclature be perfect? No. And you give lots of reasons why. Can it be better? Yes, I think so.

And we have already been doing some of these name changes, and it has not been a disaster at all. For example, my old Peterson Western guide that I grew up on has a Rufous-backed Robin. Happily we have changed that - and did the right thing with almost all the Turdus thrushes that had the unfortunate robin moniker in the past. Hopefully we do that with our "robin" too at some point. If we can fix Rufous-backed and Clay-colored, why not?
Well...Rufous-backed Robin is still...Rufous-backed Robin. Clay-colored and White-throated did change, although I vaguely recall that might have to do with them already being known as "thrush" in places anyway.
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Old Saturday 20th June 2020, 22:51   #141
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I see that Clements taxonomy made this change around 2011 going from ver 6.5 to ver 6.6.

Here is the IOC page that announced their version of this change in 2008, but there is no explanation as to why, and it does not look like a taxonomy (split/lump) change. Just a name change:

https://www.worldbirdnames.org/updat...lish-names-v1/

Anybody know what prompted it?
Was that around the time the IOC list went online? If so it might have been a case where it simply wasn't reversed, since a lot of the originally changed names did get reversed after proving unpopular and no one using them. Which again speaks to the difficulty of changing common names.
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Old Saturday 20th June 2020, 23:01   #142
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Here is the IOC page that announced their version of this change in 2008, but there is no explanation as to why, and it does not look like a taxonomy (split/lump) change. Just a name change:

https://www.worldbirdnames.org/updat...lish-names-v1/

Anybody know what prompted it?
1: Note that at the same time, it enabled the simplification of 'Common Black-headed Gull' back to its traditional 'Black-headed Gull'. That was the prime reason.
2: Using CBHG and GBHG at least hints that they are each others' close, if not closest, relatives; needless to say, they aren't. They're not even in the same genus now with the split-up of Larus.
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Old Saturday 20th June 2020, 23:05   #143
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Well...Rufous-backed Robin is still...Rufous-backed Robin. Clay-colored and White-throated did change, although I vaguely recall that might have to do with them already being known as "thrush" in places anyway.
It is Rufous-backed Thrush in the two Mexico field guides (van Perlo, Howell and Webb) that I have used, as well as in the IOC checklist (which includes commentary about being changed from Robin to Thrush). I had not realized that "Robin" was still the name in eBird/Clements.
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Old Saturday 20th June 2020, 23:06   #144
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1: Note that at the same time, it enabled the simplification of 'Common Black-headed Gull' back to its traditional 'Black-headed Gull'. That was the prime reason.
2: Using CBHG and GBHG at least hints that they are each others' close, if not closest, relatives; needless to say, they aren't. They're not even in the same genus now with the split-up of Larus.
Ok, thanks. That makes sense.
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Old Sunday 21st June 2020, 06:26   #145
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1: Note that at the same time, it enabled the simplification of 'Common Black-headed Gull' back to its traditional 'Black-headed Gull'. That was the prime reason.
2: Using CBHG and GBHG at least hints that they are each others' close, if not closest, relatives; needless to say, they aren't. They're not even in the same genus now with the split-up of Larus.
It didn't "enable the simplification". There is no need for a qualifier on every bird name just because one needs it. In any case, if a qualifier was needed, the obvious one in answer to "Great Black-headed Gull" is "Lesser" or "Least", not "Common".

Just as "Robin" is perfectly adequate despite the proliferation of qualifiers around the world for other rufous-breasted birds and their relatives (and whatever field guide writers use, the common usage is definitely just "Robin").

"Common" is the worst refuge of the inept bird-namer anyway, as it is entirely subject to location.

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Old Sunday 21st June 2020, 07:39   #146
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Originally Posted by Lerxst;4019567[B
]In my opinion, the problem with naming a bird after a person is that it is not descriptive. Does that really matter? To me it does. [/b]The entire point for giving names to things is so that we can communicate about them. And communication is always aided by simplicity and clarity.
This is the very point that I argued when people were supporting the use of indiginous names, written in a foreign language.
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Old Sunday 21st June 2020, 09:29   #147
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It didn't "enable the simplification". There is no need for a qualifier on every bird name just because one needs it. In any case, if a qualifier was needed, the obvious one in answer to "Great Black-headed Gull" is "Lesser" or "Least", not "Common".

Just as "Robin" is perfectly adequate despite the proliferation of qualifiers around the world for other rufous-breasted birds and their relatives (and whatever field guide writers use, the common usage is definitely just "Robin").

"Common" is the worst refuge of the inept bird-namer anyway, as it is entirely subject to location.

John
It's what was stated at the time, just the same as 'Ringed Plover' became 'Common Ringed Plover', 'Swallow' became 'Barn Swallow', and (much longer ago), 'Sandpiper' became 'Common Sandpiper', etc. Short names like you suggest only work locally ('Robin' on its own means different things to you & me, to Americans, to Australians, to Indians, etc.), yet this is of course the World Bird List, so they have to make the distinctions
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Old Sunday 21st June 2020, 10:58   #148
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There is a difference between what I will use in the field in a given area or jot in my notebook versus what I think a checklist or field guide should use. I have no problem just using "robin" or "cardinal" or "catbird" while tallying my list in the field, because there is no way I or anyone could be confused on what I mean for that location.

So I don't really understand the issue some folks have with a checklist including a "full" more unique name, since it doesn't require you to always use that full unique name in local communication
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Old Sunday 21st June 2020, 11:20   #149
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I'm also thinking that a name doesn't have to be physically descriptive at all. In Europe Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush don't need changing! A plethora of napes, throats, breasted and winged etc tied with a lot of colours all gets rather repetitive?? Might be useful to a degree with lots of species but in general on home turf not and new birders - well they can learn.
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Old Sunday 21st June 2020, 12:26   #150
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You have birds whose names include archaic language (flammulated, cinereous, rufescent),
If archaic names were changed to equivalent modern words, few birders would be confused. This should be the least controversial change. For European birds it could be:

Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca - Chestnut Duck
Harlequin Duck Histrionicus histrionicus - Clown Duck
Demoiselle Crane Anthropoides virgo - Elegant Crane
Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarius - Social Lapwing
Semipalmated Plover Charadrius semipalmatus - Web-footed Plover
Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos - Band-breasted Sandpiper
Semipalmated Sandpiper Calidris pusilla - Web-footed Sandpiper
Jack Snipe Lymnocryptes minimus - Little Snipe
Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus - Spoon-tailed Skua
Glaucous-winged Gull Larus glaucescens - Gray-winged Gull
Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus - Glacier Gull
Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii - Rosy Tern
Intermediate Egret Ardea intermedia - Middle Egret
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides - Silky Heron
Striated Heron Butorides striata - Streaked Heron
Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus - Pale Harrier
Isabelline Shrike Lanius isabellinus - Sandy Shrike
Sombre Tit Poecile lugubris - Brownish Tit
Bimaculated Lark Melanocorypha bimaculata - Two-spotted Lark
Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus - Ringed Thrush
Cinereous Bunting Emberiza cineracea - Grayish Bunting
Striolated Bunting Emberiza striolata - Striped Bunting
Rustic Bunting Emberiza rustica - Rusty Bunting
Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans - Hill Warbler
Plumbeous Redstart Phoenicurus fuliginosus - Gray Redstart
Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina - Pale Wheatear
Razorbill Alca torda - Common Auk
Semicollared Flycatcher Ficedula semitorquata - Balkan Flycatcher
Clamorous Reed Warbler Acrocephalus stentoreus - Noisy Reed Warbler
Lanceolated Warbler Locustella lanceolata - Streaked Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler Setophaga castanea - Rusty-breasted Warbler
Western Orphean Warbler Sylvia hortensis - Fluting Warbler
Eastern Orphean Warbler Sylvia crassirostris - Eastern Warbler

Much easier to the tongue, isn't it? And it helps that many archaic names are calques of Latin or other foreign language used by people knowing little about the actual bird. For example Ouzel is a corruption of German Amsel.

Last edited by jurek : Sunday 21st June 2020 at 12:38.
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