Any hope (or fear) that any of you may have that is going to be serious science type diary should be put to rest by the fact that I am going to start out by talking about Tara Reid, one of the recent stars of 'film' Sharknado. Ms. Reid, by virtue of her appearance in this piece of cinematic history, was a guest on some kind of talk show that was part of the Discovery Channel's Shark Week. I forget how I stumbled across this but it is now branded in my brain forever. Here it is (the relevant part is about half way through)
I'm not putting this up here to disparage Ms Reid for her notions of cetacean/shark miscegenation. She had either dutifully if ineffectually studied up on her topic or was gamely playing along with a script written to make her look stupid. Rather her discussion of whale sharks is what gave me the idea for the today's Dawn Chorus.
Let's go below to look at some bird names.
The whole reason that Ms Reid's confusion over the term whale shark strikes many of us as comical is that animals named after other animals are quite common. As one of her fellow discussants says there is the well-known Tiger Shark. In fact animal names are quite common among sharks. In addition to the two already mentioned there is the bull shark, the leopard shark, the crocodile shark, the cat sharks (over 100 species), the weasel sharks, and a variety of sharks named after dogs (spurdogs, dogfish, smooth hounds).
So, whilst desperately casting about for a topic for today's diary I recalled Ms Reid's performance and decided to write about birds named after other animals. I looked for some examples.
There are quite a few birds in North America whose names are derived from animals which they eat: flycatchers, oystercatchers, kingfishers, and the snail kite.
Internationally there are bee-eaters, fishing owls, fish eagles, the bat falcon, and so on. There are also birds named after animals that the birds are associated with ecologically in other ways such as the cattle egret and the various cowbirds. And all the Central and South American ant birds which follow army ant swarms.
There are also all kinds of birds named after other kinds of birds: hawk owls, hawk eagles, eagle owls, cuckoo shrikes, and so on. Australia is particularly rich in this kind of name with: shrike-thrushes, quail-thrushes, and my personal favorite, emu-wrens!
Alas there were no Emu-wren videos in youtube. However the hawk owl video is worthwhile for its 80s electro-pop soundtrack and the rather unorthodox netting technique used (are familiar with this lineatus?).
However, at first thought, I was stumped for very many bird names that were similar to the shark names. A name where there was no ecological association between the two species and they were also not closely related evolutionarily. My first thought was Tiger Herons, a genus of wading birds (Tigrisoma) in the New World tropics. By going through Sibley and sampling a few other field guides I came up with some other examples.
Cat Bird - Here in North America we have the gray catbird but there are other cat birds, some in completely different families. I assume that all are named, like our own Gray Catbird for the cat like quality of the call.
Grasshopper Sparrow - I'm assuming this species is also named for its call (sounding like a grasshopper).
Rhinoceros Auklet - Named for the hornlike projection on its beak.
Barnacle Goose - This one is completely mysterious to me. I've never seen one and have no experience with them. I assume they eat plant matter like other geese. The Goose Barnacle is marine crustacean given the name goose because of its long neck.
There are a couple of examples that I assume are based on feeding but the link seems tenuous enough that I thought I would name them separately
Fish Crow - I guess named because of eating fish but other corvids would also eat fish and fish crows would certainly eat other things as well.
Herring Gull - I'm sure they do eat herring but more so than other fish?
Casting my net a bit wider I found a few other international examples: Cicadabird (Australia), Frogmouths, Bullfinches, and the smallest of all birds, the Bee Hummingbird.
There are also a couple of birds with commonly used 'unofficial' common names that apply here: the Anhinga (snake bird) and the oddball African bird the Shoebill (Whale-billed Stork).
The Flip Side
Are there non-birds named after birds? The only mammal I can think of is the duck-billed platypus but I haven't thought very hard. Other ideas?
For some reason there are a heck of a lot of fish named after other animals (catfish, frogfish, wolf-eel, etc.). How about birds in particular. Here's what I got from my Atlantic fishes field guide.
Cardinalfish (this may be also directly named for the color of the robes of Cardinals in the Catholic Church rather than named after the bird)
and of course Parrotfish
That's it for me. Do you know of any more examples of birds named after other animals? Or have some other avian related topic to discuss? Pictures to post?
The floor is yours.