What's In a Bird Name?

Hi, Rhonda Greytuft here. Did you know humans have their own names for us? And not just names like Bob or Jamal - but names that they gave us without ever even asking us what we want to be called?? Some of these names kind of make sense as they are based on how we look — like a “Grey Wagtail” for those grey birds who wag their tails a lot. Or the “Pine Warbler” for those birds who like to live in pine trees and warble. Makes sense to me. We birds kinda do the same thing too when we go human-watching. Like how we call those humans who always make a LOT of noise “The Shouty Ones”.

But sometimes the names they give us are downright odd — like Bachman’s Sparrow, or Audubon’s Shearwater, or Cooper’s Hawk. What’s up with that, you ask? Well, these were the names of the men (almost always human males) who, it is said, “discovered” the bird. As if the bird did not exist before Bachman or Audubon or Cooper spotted it and named it (after himself). I know, right… it’s very human… Like imagine if we did that — pretended the humans we spotted were “owned” by the birds who spotted them! So we’d have Jamal’s Shouty One or Bob’s Smelly One. 

Anyway a lot of humans can see how ridiculous it all is, especially because some of those humans who named these birds were not very nice people, either to birds or even other humans! In fact, some of these humans only got to name the birds after SHOOTING A LOT OF BIRDS!!! But there’s an organization of humans called Bird Names for Birds that wants to change their names for us to ones based on how we look — instead of the name of whatever human spotted us (or shot us!) first. I like this idea, even though it means I’d prob be known as Rhonda Messy Feathers!