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 a bird names, comparing their structure with people names and “surnames.”

So the next natural step is to look at the direct intersection of bird and human names: that is, species named after people.

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

So, some questions to get us thinking about these matters:

Question #1:

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

(a) 498

(b) 810

(c) 1,333

(d) 203

Question #2:

How many different individuals have birds named after them?

(a) 92

(3) 221

(c) 504

(d) 788

Question #3:

Who has the most species named after them?

Question  #4:

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

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 (at least) three species that are named after people, but that do not use this form, however.

Question #5:

Which species are named in honor of specific people, but do not use an apostrophe?

Bonus Question #6:

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

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.


1. (b) 810, 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 number 5 below for the other birds.

2. (c) 504

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

4. Mr. Blyth has 12 species in Clements:

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

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. I have found four instances where a species is named in honor of a specific person, but the name is not of the form “Bob’s Wren”….and they are:

Victoria Crowned-Pigeon (for Queen Victoria, who else)

Gouldian Finch (for ornithologist John Gould’s wife)

Blackburnian Warbler (for the botanist Anna Blackburne)

Alexandrine Parakeet (for Alexander the Great)

There might be others. I’m still compiling.

6. This can happen when the bird name references a place that was named after a person. For example:

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, Wallacean Drongo, Atherton Scrubfowl, Chatham Albatross, Crozet Shag, and many others, I am sure. I’m working on a definitive list. Two species are named after Esmereldas, the northernmost province of Ecuador:  a Woodstar and an Antbird. This refers to “emeralds” and not a name.

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