What’s in a Name: A Perfect Pair
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In nomenclature of United States birds, there are two husband-wife couples for whom bird species are named. Read on to see who they are.
Charles Lucien Bonaparte, Napoleon’s nephew, was a 19th century ornithologist who was widely considered to be the father of American systematic ornithology. Bonaparte’s Gull Chroicocephalus philadelphia bears his name. Bonaparte honored his wife, Zenaida, by naming Zenaida Dove Zenaida aurita after her, along with an entire Zenaida genus of doves.
While Charles and Zenaida presumably spent ample time together, it would be near-impossible to see their namesake species at the same time. Bonaparte’s Gulls are a familiar wintertime bird on the east and west coasts, but the dove is a very rare accidental visitor from the West Indies. We had the good fortune of seeing a Zenaida Dove on our South Florida trip in 2002!
The Duke and Duchess of Rivoli are each memorialized by beautiful hummingbirds. The 2nd Duke of Rivoli, born Francois Victor Massena, was an amateur ornithologist who amassed a huge collection of bird specimens which is now housed at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. Rivoli’s Hummingbird is named after him. The species is truly magnificent, with bold iridescent violet crown and glittering emerald throat. Interestingly, Magnificent Hummingbird was originally named Rivoli, then changed to Magnificent in 1983. When the Magnificent species split in 2017, Rivoli was elevated once again! Second in size to the Blue-throated Mountain-Gem, Rivoli’s Hummingbird is an uncommon inhabitant of montane pine-oak forests of southeastern Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
In 1823, Massena married Anna Debelle, Princesse d’Essling. In deference to her husband’s role in ornithology, the Anna’s Hummingbird was named for her. The species is common along the west coast from coastal Washington state to Southern California and eastwards into Arizona. Males sport a helmeted look with hot-pink gorget and crown.
Rivoli’s and Anna’s hummingbirds can both be seen on our Arizona: Sky Island Specialties tour in August.