Follow by Email

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Calling birds by their right names avoids confusion

The names of birds change frequently, thanks to the governing organization - American Ornithological Union. Most of the time the name-change doesn’t concern an amateur birder, but it can as one gets more into the activity. For instance, the Robin, Cardinal and Mockingbird were modified several years ago to American Robin, Northern Cardinal and Northern Mockingbird (in order to avoid confusion with, for example, the rarely seen Clay-colored Robin – and so on).

Sometimes names have changed to correct incorrect or outdated customs. Like:  the “chicken hawk” is now the American kestrel or Kestrel in everyday conversation. It really never attacked chickens. In fact, a chicken is larger; the Kestrel being about the size of a Blue Jay.
The Baltimore Oriole went away, and then returned. Several years ago it was lumped with the Bullock’s Oriole as the Northern Oriole. Further DNA testing, however, showed that they were two distinct species, so the original names were reinstated.

This sort of thing happens quite a lot, and probably some bird’s name was changed while I was writing this. But it rarely has much impact on amateur birders.



The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is the granddaddy of all birding events – with over 1500 separate events and at least 50,000 participants each year, across the country. The way the CBC got started, however, is unique.

It began in 1900 as an alternative to the Sidehunt tradition. At the time, the Sidehunt was an informal custom involving going outside on Christmas morning for several hours and shooting (with a gun) every bird and animal encountered (not popular with neighbors). Frank Chapman, a noted ornithologist of the time, started the CBC to counter the hunt. He encouraged some friends to go out on Christmas morning and count, not kill.

It grew from there. The CBC has not only provided a lot of good, raw research material. It has also uncovered and created many strong friendships centered on birdwatching.

PS: There is almost certainly a Christmas Bird Count scheduled to take place in your part of north Texas. All skill levels can participate, and it takes place during Christmas season (not necessarily hristmas Day). To find one near you, try an internet search, or contact a local birding organization.

OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at in Denton.

No comments:

Post a Comment