May 16 2011

Mis-Placed Names

Published by at 6:30 am under Migration,Songbirds


Many birds are named for the locations where they’re found — American robin, for instance — but among warblers some place names are incorrect.  That’s because they were first identified, and named, while on migration. 

In May most warblers are traveling from Central and South America to the northern U.S. and Canada so they’re seen across a wide swath of North America. 

May must have been the time when Audubon and his cohorts named a lot of birds.  If they had waited until June they would never have found these birds in:

  • Cape May:  The Cape May warbler is only in New Jersey during migration.  It nests in Canada and northern Maine.
  • Connecticut:  The Connecticut warbler, pictured above, is rarely found in Connecticut.  It nests north of Lake Superior westward to Alberta, Canada.  His name is really far off base!
  • Nashville: The Nashville warbler nests in Canada, northern New York state, New England and the Appalachians.  Nashville is just a rest stop.
  • Tennessee:  The Tennessee warbler nests in Canada, northern New England and the Adirondacks.  He doesn’t linger in The Volunteer State.
  • Philadelphia:  The Philadelphia vireo may stop in Pennsylvania on its way to Canada and Maine, but he doesn’t live here.

Happily, there are two warblers who were named for places where they actually breed.  The Canada warbler nests in Canada and the Kentucky warbler nests in Kentucky.  Both of them also breed in Pennsylvania.

Don’t be confused by the other ones.

(photo by Steve Gosser)

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Mis-Placed Names”

  1. Joshuaon 16 May 2011 at 9:44 am

    Here we have another good example of the value of range maps. Also, the Baltimore Oriole used to live around Baltimore. (Too developed now.)

  2. Steve Bon 16 May 2011 at 2:23 pm

    I’m happy about these names. They show, as do many others, the human touch in the history of ornithology. If left to their own devices today, the birding elite would give only the most coldly rational names to all our birds. Can you imagine someone today coming up with Cardinal, or Chickadee? A good example is the renaming of the Oldsquaw to Long-tailed duck. Booooring. Unfortunately, the renaming fetish is just beginning and much of the romance will be gone. For instance, Kate’s post would not happen in the purely rational world. And I think life is more interesting that we can hear about these very human anomalies.

    And I think it’s a fact that Nashville warblers take a break from their migration to stop at Opryland.

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