Sunday, 13 July 2014
What do the scientific names of birds mean?
While I have been using HBW Alive over the last few months, I have noticed that as my mouse passes over a bird name, a box pops up with a surprising amount of etymological information. I have come to spend some time exploring this. I've always had a soft spot for Xiphocolaptes promeropirhynchus ("Sugarbird-billed Swordpecker"), the rhythm of the scientific name being almost poetic, its heft matching that of the bird – which is perhaps better known as Strong-billed Woodcreeper.
Only now have I found out that the person responsible is the very same James Jobling. Apart from adding this information to the species accounts, he has produced a Key to Scientific Names in Ornithology, which enables the user to determine the meaning of any scientific name, together with a fascinating introduction to the subject. So, if you have ever wondered what a bird's name means, look no further than this wonderful on-line resource. More information is to be found here.
Jobling, J.A. (1991) A dictionary of scientific bird names. Oxford University Press: Oxford. 272 pp.