Oct 13 2008

What’s in a name?

Published by at 4:18 pm under Songbirds

Palm Warbler, non-breeding plumage (photo by Chuck Tague)Yesterday I saw this bird in Beaver County while hiking at State Gameland #285

If you’re not familiar with warblers and you try to identify this bird by his picture alone, he’s pretty confusing.  However, he has a telltale field mark that’s obvious when you see him in person – he incessantly wags his tail up and down.  He’s the only warbler that does this, so when I encounter him in the field I don’t even need to see what color he is.  His movement gives him away.  He’s a palm warbler.

If you relied on his name to locate him in palm trees, you’d never expect to see him in Pennsylvania.  Actually palm warblers were named from a specimen found in winter in Hispaniola, the island that contains Haiti and the Dominican Republic.  In winter, palm warblers may hang out near palm trees but in summer they breed in the bogs and fens of Canada.  They’re the second most northerly nesting warblers.   So much for the name!

And there was another naming twist on my hike:  “green frogs.”  I found five green frogs standing under a waterfall, but all of them looked brown.  If I hadn’t learned their field marks from April Claus at Fern Hollow Nature Center, I would have been fooled.  Green frogs have two raised ridges that run down their backs and their tympanum (outer eardrum) is easy to see.   Indeed they are not always green.  Click here to learn about the many colors of green frogs.

So, what’s in a name?   Well, sometimes it’s just there to fool you. 

(photo by Chuck Tague)

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