The source of bird names

  • Updated: August 27, 2013 - 2:20 PM

Why is it called that?

Black-capped chickadee: Chickadee is onomatopoeic.

Sandhill crane: Often uses small hills for its courtship dance.

Frigatebird: Named by seaman for its habit of pursuing and robbing other birds.

Harrier: From the bird’s harrying of poultry, dates to 16th century.

Jaeger: German for hunter. Three species, all hunters.

Loon: Not for its maniacal call, but from old Danish or Swedish word loam or lim, meaning lame, in reference to the bird’s awkward movement on land.

Oldsquaw: No longer in use for its insensitive reference to noisy chatter. The bird is now known as long-tailed duck.

Phoebe and pewee: They sing their names.

Vesper sparrow: For its singing at dusk.

Magnolia warbler: First specimen was shot out of a magnolia tree by Alexander Wilson, America’s first true ornithologist. For obvious reasons he also applied the warbler names Connecticut, Cape May, Tennessee and Kentucky.

Mourning warbler: Its black breast suggested mourning clothes to its namer, Mr. Wilson.

Clark’s nutcracker: Named for the famed explorer.

Lincoln’s sparrow: 21-year-old Thomas Lincoln was with Audubon when this bird was first identified.

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