Bird Names Revisited

by Joe Meche

As I approach the 20-year mark of writing for Whatcom Watch and Beaks and Bills, I have occasion to look back at some of the titles, possibly for inspiration or just out of curiosity. Sometimes I see a column that reminds me of the seasonal need to cover a certain subject and maybe improve or update the original thoughts. One of my favorites to improve or update has been the subject of bird names.

Just when you think you’ve learned who’s who in the avian world, the governing body of all things relating to birds, the American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU) decides to make a change. The most recent change from the AOU has been to rename the mew gull as the short-billed gull. Changes like this have the most effect on those of us who file a lot of images using the four-letter code for birds. The birds, of course, remain the same but we have to adjust accordingly. It’s another in a long line of First World woes.

Other recent changes have renamed the winter wren to Pacific wren, and rufous-sided towhee to spotted towhee. Name changes come about for a variety of reasons and the PC movement stepped into the birding world when the oldsquaw became the long-tailed duck. But when all is said and done, what’s in a name?

Before I forget, Happy New Year from the Beaks and Bills crew!

Bookmark the permalink.