More bird names

  • Blog Post by: Jim Williams
  • August 29, 2013 - 3:09 PM

 The Wednesday birding column in the StarTribune's Home and Garden section discussed the origin of bird names. Here are some that didn't make the column cut.

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 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.

Robin -- English settlers often gave this name to any bird with red on its breast. They were familiar with a robin in England.

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.

Prairie Warbler -- misnamed. Not found on prairies.

Clark's Nutcracker -- named for the famed explorer.

LeConte's Sparrow -- Dr. John LeConte was a college professor who during the Civil War ran a gunpowder factory for the Confederate Army. Unknown who chose to honor him or exactly why.

Lincoln's Sparrow -- 21-year-old Thomas Lincoln was with Audubon when this bird was first identified.

Spague's Pipit -- Isaac Sprague was an artist who accompanied Audubon on a trip up the Missouri River.

Townsend's Warbler -- its namesake, John K. Townsend, intended to name the bird (but not for himself) when he learned that another ornithologist was about to give Townsend's name to his discovery of the same species. Townsend graciously let the other's action take precedence.

Sora -- named by American Indians, one of the few such names that have survived.



© 2018 Star Tribune