Readers’ wildlife photos

January 30, 2022 • 8:30 am

It’s Sunday, and we have a themed batch of bird photos from John Avise. John’s IDs and commentary is indented, and you can enlarge the pictures by clicking on them:

Derisible Bird Names

Birders are often ridiculed as nincompoops who go to great lengths to spot Bristle-thighed Curlews, Great Tits, or Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers.  Such derision is not entirely without merit, as many birders are indeed quite fanatical and many avian species do have rather laughable names.  Several such birds comprise this Sunday’s wildlife theme.  So, chuckle along as I picture about a dozen birds with particularly odd English names.  The Tits were photographed in Europe, the Kookaburra in Australia, the Boobies in Ecuador, the Curlews in Hawaii, the Bananaquit in Brazil, and the other species in North America.  If you don’t find these official Common Names to be amusing, don’t blame me—I’m just the messenger.  And, no doubt some of you can think of several other examples of odd or funny avian monikers.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius):

Bristle-thighed Curlew (Numenius tahitiensis):

Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus):

Common Loon (Gavia immer):

Laughing Gull (Leucophaeus atricilla):

Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae):

Great Tit (Parus major):

Eurasian Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus):

Phainopepla, adult male (Phainopepla nitens):

Pyrrhuloxia (Cardinalis sinuatus):

Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola):

Blue-footed Booby (Sula nebouxii):

Wandering Tattler (Tringa incana):

Eastern Whip-poor-will (Antrostomus vociferus):

22 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Chuckle. So I looked up the reason why some birds are called tits. The name comes from an old English word for “small”. The great tit is a larger species of these small birds.

    1. Probably has same origin as the French word “petit”, for little. PS: are you sure that isn’t a Chuck Will’s Widow? Last time I saw a Whipper will it was on the ground. at night.Last time I saw a Chuck Will’s Widow was on a tree branch in broad daylight. Photo doesnt provide enough clues either way.
      Nor does it show size difference, which is considerable.

      1. Not 100% sure, but it’s my best guess for these two closely similar species. In any event, “Chuck Will’s Widow” surely would also qualify as a funny name!

  2. A few other weird ones: Horned Screamer, Noddy Tern, Hoary Puffleg, the many Tapaculo species (whose name comes from a Spanish phrase). Some mammals also have risible names, such as the dik-dik,

    It would be nice to do another one on beautiful or evocative names, like Great Sapphirewing, Tourmaline Sunangel, Fiery Topaz, Rainbow Starfrontlet…

    1. Great idea for another theme– but unfortunately I don’t have photographs of any of those beautiful species you mentioned.

        1. Great set, good theme John. Lou, please do develop a set for birds with beautiful names. The pictures, names and commentaries with these Wildlife sets are very interesting.

  3. Some other odd ones (though quite apt): shoebill, spoonbill, hammerkop (= ‘hammer head’), various drongo species and the zitting cisticola.

  4. Fun category and names! I wonder why the names Laughing Gulls and Laughing Kookaburra? I wonder if they chirp in some odd way to be called that.
    Photos are fantastic as always.

  5. Pyrrhuloxia is interesting as it’s one of the few scientific names that are also common names. Doubly interesting as it’s not (now) the scientific name of the bird.

  6. Great photos. We had a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker on our feeder this morning. Not a common sighting in Albuquerque.

  7. Over this side of the Pond, the Common Loon is known as the Great Northern Diver, which I think is a much more evocative name.

  8. It’s the adjectives that get me laughing about some bird names – maybe some ornithologist had a long hard day out in the field and is over it with the birds. Thus we have the monotonous lark, the drab seedeater, the sad flycatcher, and my personal favourite, the typical swift.

  9. IIRC, I read this somewhere as a teenager:

    “But for its unfortunate name, the state bird of New Mexico could have been the beautiful and valiant Greenish Flem…”

  10. I saw some Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers last month and was pretty happy about it. Anyone I mentioned that to made a quick “what did you call me?!” joke.

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