Saturday, 9 February 2019

What's in a name?

I have wondered so many times - the only names of the birds that are understood the world over are the Latin names - or referred to as the scientific names of the birds. The only hurdle was that the meanings of the names were difficult to understand. I had to search the net often to get the meanings and of course, that was time-consuming.

My desire to understand the meanings took me to search and search until I finally hit a gold mine - a publication by Helm - 'Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names by James A. Jobling. Finding the gold mine did not mean that I jumped at it and got gold - the price of the book was prohibitively high and it took me another few months of thinking if I really want it. At more than Rs 5,500/- it was enough to make me stop and think...

Fortunately - this period of hard thinking did not last long - and on one of those gloomy, depressing days - when I had not birded for a month - I feigned depression to myself and bought it. It was basically - that impulsive buying where you numb your inner voice to stop listening to the noise. The noise of sanity if I may say. The book took its time to land on the Indian shores and then on to my waiting lap. Today - a week down the lane I am absolutely loving it and it is important enough for me to keep it at my bedside.

One of the few bird names I have looked up and now writing in this blog are the birds that I saw in last few days and will include these meanings of bird names in all my blogs in times to come. Enjoy the first two woodpeckers...


Lesser Yellownape (Picus chlorolophus)
An extremely beautiful woodpecker, Picus chlorolophus. Picus is a woodpecker, also described as a climbing oriole. and the word chlorolophus comes from a combination of khlõros = yellow and lophos = crest. Now this bird being called as a woodpecker with a yellow crest, made me wonder what they would call a Greater Yellownape - another woodpecker found in this area. Greater Yellownape is called Picus flavinucha, Picus again is a woodpecker and flavinucha is combination of flavus = yellow and nuchus = nape. 

Okay, so on the whole, the above names made sense somewhat - so it is time to move on to the second woodpecker that I saw a few days back.


Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos macei)
This bird does not have Picus in its name and made me wonder - Oh hell - what now? well Dendrocopos breaks down into dendron = tree and kopos = striking (derived from koptõ = to strike). macei on the other hand is  on name of Marc Joseph Macé (1724-1772) a french explorer in the Indian and Pasific oceans. Interestingly he was a Chevalier, a knight, who was killed by Maoris in a feast because he had cut a taboo tree. Maoris is plural of a member of aboriginal people of New Zealand.

Now that my initial inquisitiveness has been awakened, and the fact that I have invested in this book - we will see more and more birds with latin names described in times to come. Infact - I will try to dig up more photographs of the woodpeckers I have seen around my area - keep building this article to cover some more woodpeckers of my area.

Google Plus is shutting down and I do now know how I will now share the blog and my writings - if you have a suggestion - do pen down.


1 comment:

Shailja Karki said...

On your recommendation I bought 2books online and realised though it was good to go through pictures the print was not for my eyes... And, found it easier to just refer my queries to you Sir Alexa...
So now you're not going to tempt me into buying this one. I'll simply post my queries to you or wait for you to update your blog.

PS I enjoy your style of writing, immensely.