Bird Names, Part 2

We continue looking at the 10,721 species names from the updated Clements taxonomy. Well, not all of them at once, but various interesting subsets. Previously we looked at the number of words in bird names, comparing their structure with human names and “surnames.”

A natural step from here is to look at an even more direct intersection: species named after people.

This is a terrible way to name a bird, I think. Honoring the individual that first described a bird is all well and good, and can be done in the latin name, as is often the case. But the common names that birders must commit to memory should be descriptive, and I submit that there is simply nothing descriptive in the name “Ludlow’s Fulvetta,” for example.

Here are some trivia questions to get us thinking about these matters:

Question #1:

Of the 10,721 species, how many are named after people?

(a) 498

(b) 828

(c) 1,333

(d) 203


Question #2:

How many different individuals have birds named after them (with a name of the form “Ludlow’s Fulvetta”)?

(a) 92

(3) 221

(c) 506

(d) 788


Question #3:

Which one individual has the most species named after them?


Question  #4:

Following up to the above question, how many species were named after this person?


When naming a bird after a person, the name is almost always of the form “Wilson’s Warbler”; it uses a possessive adjective. There are, however, 21 species that are named after specific people, but that do not use this form.

Question #5:

Can you give an example of a species named in honor of a specific person, but which does not use an apostrophe in the spelling?


Bonus Question #6:

Provide a species name which references a human name, although the bird is not named specifically for them.


EdwardBlyth
The answer to Question #3 is pictured here. Sadly, he did not work on neotropical birds, and so did not get to have a Tuftedcheek named after him.

Answers

1: Of the 10,721 species, how many are named after people?

(b) 828, by my accounting. There are 806 birds in Clements that have an apostrophe, not including the Chuck-will’s-widow, which is not named after someone called Chuck-will. See the answer to number 5 below for the other birds.

2: How many different individuals have birds named after them?

(c) 506 that use the possessive form, see the answer to number 5 for the others.

3: Which one individual has the most species named after them?

The individual with the most species named after him is Edward Blyth (1810-1873)

4: Following up to the above question, how many species were named after this person?

Mr. Blyth has 12 species, per the Clements taxonomy:

Blyth’s Tragopan
Blyth’s Frogmouth
Blyth’s Swift
Blyth’s Hawk-Eagle
Blyth’s Hornbill
Blyth’s Kingfisher
Blyth’s Shrike-Babbler
Blyth’s Paradise-Flycatcher
Blyth’s Reed Warbler
Blyth’s Leaf Warbler
Blyth’s Pipit
Blyth’s Rosefinch

By the way, the Top Ten, and the number of species they each have, are:

Blyth 12
Cassin 9
Pallas 8
Hume 8
Finsch 8
Jerdon 8
Salvadori 8
Shelley 8
Rüppell 8
Temminck 7

5: Can you give an example of a species named in honor of a specific person, but which does not use an apostrophe in the spelling?

I have found 22 species instances where a species is named in honor of a specific person, but the name is not of the form “Johnson’s Wren.” There are fourteen people involved:

  • Victoria Crowned-Pigeon (for Queen Victoria, who else? She also has the Victoria‘s Riflebird)
  • Gouldian Finch (for ornithologist John Gould’s wife)
  • Blackburnian Warbler (for the botanist Anna Blackburne)
  • Alexandrine Parakeet (for Alexander the Great)
  • Derbyan Parakeet (for Edward Stanley, 13th Earl of Derby)
  • There are seven “Magellanic” birds: Penguin, Plover, Oystercatcher, Diving-Petrel, Cormorant, Woodpecker, and Tapaculo (for Ferdinand Magellan)
  • Goliath Coucal and Goliath Heron (for the noted gargantuan Philistine and sling-victim)
  • Mikado Pheasant (for the Emperor of Japan)
  • Montezuma Quail and Oropendola (for the Aztec Emperor)
  • Narcissus Flycatcher (for the mythological narcissist)
  • Narina Trogon (name of Francois Levaillant’s mistress)
  • Princess Parrot (for Princess Alexandra of Denmark)
  • Raggiana Bird-of-Paradise (for the Marquis Francis Raggi of Genoa)
  • Zenaida Dove (for Zénaïde Laetitia Julie Bonaparte, wife of the French ornithologist Charles Lucien Bonaparte and niece of Napoleon Bonaparte)

6: Provide a species name which references a human name, although the bird is not named specifically for them.

This happens when the bird name references a place that was named after a person. There are over 48 names in this category:

Baltimore Oriole, Hudsonian Godwit, Colombian Grebe, Bolivian Spinetail, Juan Fernandez Tit-Tyrant, Lord Howe Swamphen (extinct), Santa Marta Warbler, San Andres Vireo, Virginia Rail, St. Lucia Black Finch, Henderson Island Reed Warbler, Bismarck Black Myzomela, Nashville Warbler, Atherton Scrubfowl, Chatham Albatross, Crozet Shag, Geelvink Pygmy-Parrot, Gough Island Finch, Gough Moorhen, Gunnison Sage-Grouse, Heard Island Shag, Humboldt Penguin, Isabela Oriole, Isabelline* Shrike, Kimberley Honeyeater, King-of-Saxony Bird-of-Paradise, Macquarie Shag, Magdalena Antbird, Mascarene Coot, Mauritius Blue-Pigeon, Nariño Tapaculo, Nightingale Island Finch, Norfolk Ground Dove, Noronha Elaenia, Pitt Island Shag, Rennell Fantail, Rodrigues Fody, Rondonia Bushbird, Rote Leaf Warbler, Solomons Boobook, St. Helena Crake, St. Lucia Oriole, St. Vincent Parrot, Stephens Island Wren, Stewart Island Shag, Sucre Antpitta, Torresian Crow, Wake Island Rail, Wallacean Drongo, Wonga Pigeon, and Zapata Rail. Two species are named after Esmereldas, the northernmost province of Ecuador:  a Woodstar and an Antbird. This refers to “emeralds” and not the  name of anyone.

*The origin of the color isabelline is not clear. There is a disputed story that it refers to the color of the undergarments of either Isabella I of Castille or Isabella Clara Eugena of Spain. The hue became distinctive because it resulted from the discolored underclothes never being removed from the royal person for months or years due to an ongoing siege.

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