How do birds get their names? Why is a Roseate Spoonbill called a Roseate Spoonbill…and not a Pink Ladle-bird? Nomenclature is the term used to describe the process of naming things. But how do birds get their names?
Pileated Woodpecker. The word, “pileate,” means to have a crest extending from the bill to the nape, as some birds. Why not just “Crested Woodpecker?”
White-throated Sparrow. Most bird names are descriptive, but they can lead to confusion. For example, the first thing I notice on a White-Throated Sparrow is the white cap and speck of yellow–not the white throat. But, of course, there is also the White-crowned Sparrow.
Northern Oriole. In the ever-changing taxonomy, two species of orioles–Baltimore and Bullock’s–were determined to be the same species, and they became known as Northern Orioles. But–alas. The Northern Oriole is no more–the two are considered separate species once more.
The way we look at birds and classify them is ever changing as new advances in studying DNA brings surprising results. The Red Crossbill could be eight or more different species based on differences in flight calls and bill shapes. Some western gull species could be lumped together in the near future.
No matter how they change over time, bird names effect birding and give us a look into history.