Old Bird Names

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Jan 27, 2009 | by Adrian Binns

In a nutshell, the rules of nomenclature (naming species) states that the name given to a new species stands in its initial form even if there are mistakes. While it is a rare occasion when the scientific name does get altered, common names on the other hand often do get changed.

Sometimes two birds (usually from different parts of the world) are known by the same common name. A good example of this was the Black Vulture. Our bird here in the Americas has retained that name and the Eurasian one now goes by the name Cinereous. This is all in an attempt to clear up any confusion amongst common names. If all of us were to learn the scientific names we would find that there is no confusion as each species has a different two word term (binomial nomenclature). This makes it possible for anyone, anywhere, to know exactly what the identity of a specific bird is.

The most recent common name change was renaming the Oldsquaw, the Long-tailed Duck. We are also probably familiar with the former names for the Northern Harrier and American Kestrel, these being Marsh Hawk and Sparrow Hawk respectively. In an earlier blog I mentioned that the Upland Sandpiper was formerly called Bartram’s Sandpiper. Others old names include Maryland Ground Warbler (Common Yellowthroat); Red-back Sandpiper (Dunlin – photo); Canada Jay (Gray Jay); Black-throated Bunting (Dickcissel); Jamaican Shoveler (Ruddy Duck); Long-billed Marsh Wren (Marsh Wren); Short-billed Marsh Wren (Sedge Wren); Arkansas Kingbird (Western Kingbird); Ridgway’s Whip-poor-will (Buff-collared Nightjar) Everglades Kite (Snail Kite) and Lichtenstein’s Oriole (Altamira Oriole).

photo ©  adrian binns 

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