What’s In A Name?

What’s In A Name?

Posted by Eric Dempsey, With 0 Comments,

I just love when a bird’s name suits a bird down to the ground.


Here in Ireland we have some good names that match their respective birds…Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Blue Tit match the colours you see while Treecreeper, Turnstone and wagtails suit the bird’s behaviour. There are even names that match the birds habitat such as Reed Bunting, Meadow Pipit and Marsh Harrier.


However, we also have some pretty boring names too…Dunlin, Dunnock and Linnet to name but three. Of course, there are also some names that only serve to confuse: Oystercatchers don’t eat oysters and Iceland Gulls come from Greenland!



Having visited South America on a few occasions, I am always struck with the wonderful names of the bird species there. Two weeks ago I was in Argentina for a very short visit and once again I found myself enjoying the colourful and descriptive array of great names of the bird species to be found in South America.


Some of the many species we saw were Glittering-bellied Emerald, Straight-billed Reedhaunter, Sooty-fronted Spinetail, Freckle-breasted Thornbird, Lark-like Brushrunner, Vermillion Flycatcher, Black-and-Rufous Warbling-Finch, White-naped Xenopsaris (you try and pronounce that one!) and Rosy-billed Pochard. It is as if the taxonomists who named these species were running out of superlatives.


Even here, one bird stood out from the rest….it was a small flycatcher-type bird which flitted about low in the reedbeds. Catching initial glimpses of the bird, I was struck by the many colours that were jumping out. I managed to snatch a poor shot or two (see image above) but at least the image captures just some of the colours that shine from this bird. Subtle blues on the side of the head, yellows and greens of varying hues and a bright rufous undertail. It had such character and so many colours that it was hard to describe.


That is what the taxonomists must have thought when they saw this bird for the first time so they called it a ‘Many-coloured Rush Tyrant’.


Can’t deny it…they got it spot on. Don’t you just love a bird that has a name like that?


Eric D Birdman


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