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Avian misnomers (1 Viewer)

Xenospiza

Distracted
Supporter
Trumpeter Finch is actually "desert finch" in Czech, we are more advanced it seems :)
It is the same in Dutch (but Desert Finch is "pallid desert finch" which is obviously worse than the English name).

And I actually like the name "Trumpeter Finch" (I dipped it twice in NL so the bird does not like me).
 

Lerxst

Well-known member
One of my favorite names, but one that I imagine some people do not like, is Diabolical Nightjar (aka Satanic Nightjar). In the latter case it is a sort of honorific, I suppose.
 

raymie

Well-known member
United States
How has no one mentioned the Olive Warbler? Not olive and not a warbler! Although one cold argue that "warbler" is not a taxonomic classification.

What about Arizona Woodpecker, only a tiny portion of its range is in Arizona. Pinyon Jay is named after the plant it feeds on, but its name is spelled differently than that plant (pinion). Clay-colored Sparrow isn't colored like any clay I've seen. Ovenbird isn't in the ovenbird family. Palm Warbler isn't associated with palms during any time of year. Prairie Warbler is found in areas much more wooded than what is usually called a prairie.

West Indian Whistling Duck. The name is misleading, suggesting the bird is from western India. Contrast that with West Mexican Chachalaca, which rightly indicates that the bird is found in western Mexico. A more accurate name might be West Indies Whistling Duck.

Dave
It isn't found in India but it is found in the West Indies, so that's not really a misnomer.
 

Xenospiza

Distracted
Supporter
How has no one mentioned the Olive Warbler? Not olive and not a warbler! Although one cold argue that "warbler" is not a taxonomic classification.

What about Arizona Woodpecker, only a tiny portion of its range is in Arizona. Pinyon Jay is named after the plant it feeds on, but its name is spelled differently than that plant (pinion). Clay-colored Sparrow isn't colored like any clay I've seen. Ovenbird isn't in the ovenbird family. Palm Warbler isn't associated with palms during any time of year. Prairie Warbler is found in areas much more wooded than what is usually called a prairie.


It isn't found in India but it is found in the West Indies, so that's not really a misnomer.
Agree on most, especially the Olive Warbler. I like the proposal Ocotero, because it is an easy-to-pronounce name for a unique bird which mostly lives in a (now) Spanish-speaking country. Southwestern American English is so full of Spanish words already that it fits right in!

(But pinyon pine is also written with "ny" (or "ñ", which is equivalent), not "ni": Pinyon pine - Wikipedia)
 

MJB

Well-known member
(But pinyon pine is also written with "ny" (or "ñ", which is equivalent), not "ni": Pinyon pine - Wikipedia)
Let's hear it for the tilde...!

That actually opens up another can of worms and that is the insistence of English-language ornithological authorities that there should be no accents in English bird names. There may be an arguable case for applying that rule to birds that mostly occur only in English-speaking countries, but I'm sure that contributors to this thread could come up with many examples of where to do so is inappropriate.

I surmise this rule originated in pre-internet days when the standard English-language typewriter had no means of producing accents. When the internet and keyboard warriors came along, keyboard layouts to suit languages that had accented letters appeared for nationals that spoke these languages, but the standard UK or US keyboards didn't follow suit.

I spend a fair bit of time digging out papers to cite as references, and when authors have names that contain accents, I feel that it is a necessary courtesy to try to ensure that any reference I cite contains those accented letters in their names. I'm an avid use of 'Insert a symbol' tables...😇
MJB
 

Xenospiza

Distracted
Supporter
Let's hear it for the tilde...!
Yes – I deal a lot with people in various nations with interesting diacritics, which I try to use as much as possible.
The ř is a particular challenge in more ways than one!

A case against accents is that they present an issue when searching, because most programmes don't recognise an "é" as an "e".

I am sure the change to Ménétriès's Warbler would not be overly popular (although it might at least ensure a more accurate pronunciation).
 

jurek

Well-known member
I of course enjoy hearing English speakers trying to pronounce gżegżółka. ;)

I never heard it correctly pronounced. Introducing accents means that the name will be mispronounced by everybody except speakers of the original language.

Lifting words out of local languages means that they tell nothing about the bird, or even whether it is a bird. Ocotero is completely uninformative, unless one speaks Latin American version of Spanish, where ocote is a pine tree. Confusingly, ocotillo is a more international name for a completely different Latin American plant - a desert shrub.

Likewise, words Palila, Iiwi, Nukupuu, Alala etc. mean nothing for people not speaking Hawaiian. And Latin American Spanish speakers generally don't know Hawaiian and vice versa. For Hawaiians, Ocotero means nothing. For Spanish speakers, Palila is a dish with rice.
 

Xenospiza

Distracted
Supporter
Lifting words out of local languages means that they tell nothing about the bird, or even whether it is a bird. Ocotero is completely uninformative, unless one speaks Latin American version of Spanish, where ocote is a pine tree. Confusingly, ocotillo is a more international name for a completely different Latin American plant - a desert shrub.
What makes ocotero less informative than vireo or sibia?
In fact, "warbler" may be one of the most uninformative words to describe a bird, because it can be anything from a drab brown bird to a small colourful one... with only the "thin pointy bill" a constant feature.
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Czech Republic
Yes – I deal a lot with people in various nations with interesting diacritics, which I try to use as much as possible.
The ř is a particular challenge in more ways than one!

A case against accents is that they present an issue when searching, because most programmes don't recognise an "é" as an "e".

I am sure the change to Ménétriès's Warbler would not be overly popular (although it might at least ensure a more accurate pronunciation).

Firefox, chrome and google drive all work in the way you want now while searching. It's immensely useful particularly for bird names, which are one of the few things on our computer that we still use Czech for :) Google Picasa on desktop doesn't though, which is a bit annoying.

Ř is a silly letter, I am Czech and I can't say it, the possibly most famous Czech person of the 20th century (Václav Havel) could not say it either!
 

Dave Ball

Well-known member
Firefox, chrome and google drive all work in the way you want now while searching. It's immensely useful particularly for bird names, which are one of the few things on our computer that we still use Czech for :) Google Picasa on desktop doesn't though, which is a bit annoying.

Ř is a silly letter, I am Czech and I can't say it, the possibly most famous Czech person of the 20th century (Václav Havel) could not say it either!
This made me curious, so I googled ‘Menetries Warbler’ on my iPhone (6, so quite old) and found it easily enough on Wikipedia, which offered both spellings, with or without the accents, in its entry. I then switched to a French keyboard, which is one I sometimes use to get accents (Icelandic is also good for things like æ, ö and the th letters, ð and þ, which were used in Old English). This autocorrected ‘Menetries’ to ‘Ménétries’, which Google still found on Wiki. Will have to try a Czech keyboard sometime ;)

Shoutout to Václav (German keyboard autocorrects him - go figure). Always thought there could not be much wrong with a country that elected a playwright as president (or had a king who was still sung about as ‘Good King Wenceslas’ a millennium later in a distant country).

Been following the Polish Odonata thread as well.
 

MJB

Well-known member
Ř is a silly letter, I am Czech and I can't say it, the possibly most famous Czech person of the 20th century (Václav Havel) could not say it either!
You're in very good company! I like that fact that Havel became very good friends with another Czech-born playwright, Tomas Straussler (aka Tom Stoppard), whose recent biography is an excellent read...
MJB
 

Xenospiza

Distracted
Supporter
A bit of a side track travelled before, based on Jurek's remark that "foreign names are uninformative".

In Dutch, Ruddy Shelduck "Casarca", which is obviously from Russian "Kazarka" (Казарка). However, this means "Branta goose"...
In Dutch "Brandgans", does not mean Brent Goose/Brant, but Barnacle Goose.
To add to the confusion, German "Brandgans" is Common Shelduck, which in Dutch is called "Bergeend" ("mountain duck").
This should not be confused with German "Bergente", which is Scaup!
In Dutch Scaup is called "Topper", which can be translated as "the top one" (in a figurative way).
 

jurek

Well-known member
Ruddy Shelduck is also kazarka in Polish and casarca in Latin, as defunct name Casarca ferruginea.

My guess is that casarca and brant used to be folk names of some small geese. Prominent ornithologists in different countries applied them to one particular species, and picked different species unaware of each other, and stabilized them. So Russians picked a different Casarca than everybody else.

Anyway, complicated and wrong bird names were created in the past, but this is no excuse to make more of them.
 

mjh73

Well-known member
Australian birders learn a trick to differentiate two of our woodswallows quickly....

Black-faced Woodswallow just has a black mask.

Masked Woodswallow has a black face.
 

MJB

Well-known member
Australian birders learn a trick to differentiate two of our woodswallows quickly....

Black-faced Woodswallow just has a black mask.

Masked Woodswallow has a black face.
And I thought I was being original when I devised that reminder for myself after seeing the birds in question...! Afterwards, I found I was getting into arguments with Oz newbie birders....:oops:
MJB
 

alanc

Just an earthbound misfit
England
I've now lost count ............... I accept that we should treasure our historical traditions but it seems pretty obvious to me that some internationally acceptable birding authority/organisation/committee should get around to updating some of these plainly ridiculous common names.
alan
 

cajanuma

Well-known member
I think it's time for me to repeat my all-time favorite bird nomenclature anecdote.

Basically, knowing both Czech and English names of gulls will completely mess up with your head.

The Czech name for Lesser Black-Backed Gull translates to "yellow-legged gull",
the Czech name for Yellow-legged Gull translates to "mediterranean gull",
the Czech name for Mediterranean Gull translates to "black-headed gull",
the Czech name for Black-headed Gull translates to "laughing gull".

All the translations are straightforward and literal.
And in Italian, Black-headed Gull is called "Gabbiano comune", which translates as "common gull", while Lesser Black-backed Gull is simply called Zafferano, which is the same word used for Saffron (I presume it's a reference to the leg color)

The two Italian species of Monticola - Blue Rock Thrush and Common/Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush - are known respectively as "Passero solitario" and "Codirossone", which translate to "solitary sparrow" and "greater redstart". Wildly inaccurate as they may be in terms of reflecting taxonomy, no one in Italy has ever been confused by these names
 

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