So You Think You Know Your Bird Names

I love complicated and ridiculous bird names — Marbled Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, and Flammulated Owl are a few of my favorites.

But when I am reading very old bird books, I sometimes come across names I’m not familiar with — grass finch, summer bird, poke.  Sometimes these old names are much more evocative of the species’ appearance or behavior than the names we use now, and a lot of them are easier to remember, if you ask me.

I have recently come across a great resource for these old names, but before I share it, let’s take a little quiz, shall we?

Match the old name in Column 1 with the current name in Column 2.  There are even photos to assist you!  (Although on two species, the photo does not show the actual bird named, but a very close species.  Extra points if you can figure out which two and tell me in the comments.)

Answers tomorrow!

Column I

old name

 Column 2

photo and current common name

1 burrion A

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

2 dabchick B

Green Heron

Green Heron

3 Bouchard’s summer finch C

Semipalmated Plovers

Semipalmated Plovers

4 fly-up-the-creek D

Rufous-crowned Sparrow

Rufous-crowned Sparrow

5 raincrow E

House Finch

House Finch

6 mudhen F

Chuck-will's-widow

Chuck-will’s-widow

7 oxeye G

Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs

8 snakebird H

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

9 tell-tale I

American Coot

American Coot

10 twixt-hell-and-the-white-oak J

Anhinga

Anhinga

Here is an example that is not part of the quiz.

Black-necked Stilt

What we call a Black-necked Stilt was once known as a Lawyer bird. Photo By Everglades NPS from Homestead, Florida, United States (Black-necked Stilt, NPSphotos.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The names in the quiz come from a US Fish & Wildlife Service Report from 1988, Obsolete English Names of North American Birds and Their Modern Equivalent,  here in its entirety.  Unfortunately the report does not explain the old names or give the sources for most of the names, so we will just have to take author Richard C. Banks’ word for them.