Jul 25 2010

Double Names

Published by at 8:03 am under Musings & News


On one of my many Googling trips across the Internet I learned the scientific name of the red-footed booby and it made me laugh. 

Sula sula?  All I could think of was the Yale fight song whose second verse begins, Boola, Boola.

Are there many North American birds with double scientific names?   I searched my field guide and found about 20 birds, most of which also live in Europe where scientific naming began.

The names are sometimes fascinating:

  • Nycticorax nycticorax = Night raven, Night raven = Black-crowned night-heron
  • Anhinga anhinga = a Tupi (Brazilian Indian) name meaning Devil Bird = Anhinga
  • Histrionicus histrionicus = If this word means histrionic, then the bird is Theatrical, Theatrical = Harlequin duck
  • Tyrannus tyrannus = This Tyrant, Tyrant is very aggressive toward predators = Eastern kingbird
  • Troglodytes trodlodytes = A Troglodyte is a prehistoric cave dweller.  How do caves apply to the Winter wren?

And finally, Ajaja ajaja used to be my favorite scientific bird name, a fun word to say if you pronounce the J’s as H’s.  Alas, scientists renamed this bird to Platalea ajaja and took half the fun out of the Roseate spoonbill

(photo of a Red-footed Booby by Deborah Acklin)

p.s. Just found this cool website that lists the meanings of some scientific names of birds.

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Double Names”

  1. Danielon 25 Jul 2010 at 11:52 pm

    Let us not forget the most populous bird in America: Gallus gallus (the chicken) :)

  2. Barb Simonon 30 Jul 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Don’t forget cardinalis cardinalis – our own red cardinal.

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