Thursday, May 15, 2003

Anatomical Birds

Following my recent serendipitous discovery (thanks to the Dave Barry Blog) of a Web site describing and illustrating an amazing appurtenance of the male Lake Duck (Oxyura vittata)–a resident of southern South America–I began thinking about the ways in which ornithologists have incorporated the color, size, and shape of various anatomical features into common names.

These features include (but are perhaps not limited to) the back, beard, belly, beak, bib, bill, breast, bridle, brow, cap, cheek, chest, chin, collar, crest, crown, ears, eyes, face, flank, foot, front, gape, girdle, goggles, head, hood, legs, lores, mantle, nape, neck, nose, plumes, rump, shoulders, sides, tail, tips, toes, tooth, throat, tuft, vent, wattles, whiskers, and wings. Whew!

How many birds on the West Virginia list are named for some part of their anatomy? Probably way too many to list here individually, but some examples of West Virginia birds with anatomy-inspired appellations include Great Black-backed Gull, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Black-capped Chickadee, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Double-crested Cormorant, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Short-eared Owl, Dark-eyed Junco, Red-headed Woodpecker, Hooded Warbler, Black-legged Kittiwake, Red-necked Phalarope, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Red-shouldered Hawk, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Long-tailed Duck, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Tufted Titmouse, and Golden-winged Warbler.

We have to venture outside West Virginia, however, to find birds described for other anatomical features. Elsewhere in the AOU Check-list area we have, for example, Eyebrowed Thrush (why no hyphen in Eyebrowed?), Crimson-collared Grosbeak, Red-faced Warbler, Red-flanked Bluetail, Blue-footed Booby, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Hooded Warbler, Light-mantled Albatross, Red-naped Sapsucker, Yellow-nosed Albatross, White-tipped Dove, Double-toothed Kite, Long-toed Stint, Black-vented Shearwater, and Black-whiskered Vireo.

And elsewhere in the world, we can find such exotic and mysterious-sounding species as Silver-beaked Tanager, Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, White-bibbed Ground-Dove, Buff-bridled Inca-Finch, Coppery-chested Jacamar, White-chinned Thistletail, White-gaped Honeyeater, Black-girdled Barbet, Black-goggled Tanager, Red-lored Parrot, and Golden-plumed Parakeet.

And finally, do ornithologists appear to exhibit an inordinate amount of interest in a certain anatomical feature common to both birds and mammals? That sounds like a topic for another post!


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