10 Birds and how they got their names

T – 97 … Day 4 of 100 Days of Blogging

Today’s listicle is a kind of Who’s Who? of the avian world, or perhaps better, a Whoooo’s Whooooo? What exactly did Swainson do to get a warbler named after him?  Ever wondered who Baird was but were too lazy busy to look it up? Well the works been done for you! The 10 birds on today’s list are part of the group of the 19 of 319 species on the The Bird Protection Quebec Checklist  whose common English names commemorate people. 

#1. Bicknell’s Thrush (Catharus bicknelli )

French: Grive de Bicknell          BPQ Bird Checklist: Migrant, rare

This medium sized Medium-sized thrush has brownish gray upperparts, a plain gray face with some light streaks. The species is considered a conservation priority because of its restricted habitat and limited range. It breeds only in dwarf conifer forests on Mountain tops in the US and Canada along the northern Gulf of the St. Lawrence and Nova Scotia, south through the mountains of New England and New York.

Named after Eugene Pintard Bicknell (September 23, 1859 – February 9, 1925) Bicknell was an American botanist and amateur ornithologist as well as a founding member of the American Ornithologist’s Union. After his death an article in the  Auk described him as a lifelong student of Natural History and “one of very few ornithologists of his time who habitually used the field glass more than the gun.” He is credited with discovering the thrush that is named after him in the Catskill Mountains in 1882 although it was thought to be a subspecies of the Gray-cheeked thrush at the time. The two species were re-categorized as separate species in 1995 by the AOU. Bicknell  helped establish the Linnaean Society of New York, a  a naturalist and birding club in New York City which is still active today, in 1878. If you want to do some birding on your next trip to New York City area a visit to their website is worthwhile.

#2. Bonaparte’s Gull (Chroicocephalus philadelphia)

French: Mouette de Bonaparte     BPQ Bird Checklist: Migrant

This is one of the smallest and most common gulls in North America. The only gull that regularly nests in trees, it breeds by the lakes and marshes of the boreal forest. In winter look for it along lakes, rivers, marshes, bays and coastal beaches.

Named after French biologist and ornithologist Charles Lucien Jules Laurent Bonaparte, (24 May 1803 – 29 July 1857) who, if you haven’t guessed already guessed , was the nephew of Emperor Napoleon I.  Bonaparte came to America from Italy in the early 1920s and spent eight years in the studying the birdlife and updating Wilson’s American Ornithology. The revised edition was published between 1825 and 1833.

#3. Baird’s Sandpiper (Calidris bairdii

French: Casseau de Baird     BPQ Bird Checklist: Migrant

This small to medium sized Sandpiper Breeds in dry coastal and alpine tundra of the Canadian Arctic. It winters in the high-Andes of South America and can sometimes be found as far south as  Terra del Fuego.

This Sandpiper was named in 1861 by Elliot Cowes in honour of Spencer Fullerton Baird, who I already mentioned in the first listicle of this series. Both Cowes and Baird were founding members of the AOU Baird was the first curator to be named at the Smithsonian Institution and was responsible for expanding its natural history collections 6,000 specimens in 1850 to over 2 million by the time of his death. He published over 1,000 works during his lifetime.

#4. Blackburnian Warbler (Setophaga fusca)

French:  Paruline à gorge orangée   BPQ Bird Checklist: Summer resident

A Small songbird. unmistakable since it is the only north American warbler with a Brilliant orange throat. Breeds in the coniferous and mixed forests from Alberta all the way east to Newfoundland and south into the Appalachians of Georgia. It migrates to winter as far south as Peru.

Named after Anna Blackburne (1726-1793), the daughter of a wealthy Chesshire salt dealer who had an interest in natural history and was famous for his greenhouses. She followed in his footsteps and developed an interest in insects as well as birds. She worked on studying samples sent to her by her brother from the US and collaborated with naturalist s of the day, including Linné ( akd Linneaeus) sending him samples that he had not previously described in his Systema Naturae.

#5. Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)

French Epervier de Cooper  BPQ Bird Checklist: Permanent Resident

 The Coopers Hawk is a nedium-sized common hawk that can be found from southern Canada to Mexico. Although considered a woodland species, they are also frequently found in cities and towns, attracted it is assumed by the prevalence of tasty pigeons and mourning does

The Cooper’s hawk was first described by French naturalist Charles Lucien Jules Laurent Bonaparte, in 1828 and named it after naturalist William Cooper who sent him the specimen. Cooper is one of the founders of New York Academy of Sciences ( Lyceum of Natural History)Although he did not publish any works on ornithology himself, his specimens were of great use to xAlthough he was not an author himself his specimens were of great help to others, such as John James Audubon, Charles Lucien Bonaparte 

#6. Foster’s Tern  (Sterna forsteri)

French: Sterne de Forster     BPQ Bird Checklist: Irregular

This is a medium sized tern that breeds in freshwater marshes in the summer and migrates south to winter in Central and South America.Named after Johann Reinhold Forster a Scottish naturalist who contributed to the early knowledge about the ornithology ofEurope and North America. He and his son served a snaturalists on Cook’s second voyage to eh Pacific. They made extensive collections of natural history specimens (a nice way to say they shot, killed and stuffed lots of birds and other animals in the name of science).

#7. Franklin’s Gull (Leucophaeus pipixcan)

French: Mouette de Franklin          BPQ Bird Checklist: Irregular 

A small gull that never looks scruffy because of its unique ability to moult its plumage twice a year,  it breeds in the Canadian prairies. Migrates to winter along the pacific coast of South America.

Although this not a gull you’ll commonly see here, it is an interesting example of how species naming works and is a somewhat timely given the recent rediscovery of the lost Franklin ships in the Canadian Arctic.

This gull was first collected during the first of Franklin’s Arctic expeditions in 1823. Sabine (of Sabine’s Gull  a.ka.a Xema sabini fame) mistook it for a Laughing Gull. After the second expedition,  William John Swainson and John Richardson named it the Franklin’s Rosy Gull (Larus franklini). The paper in which Richardson named the gull was  published in 1832. Now It just so happened that J.G. Wagler had found the bird in Mexico and named it Larus pipixcan and published his discovery in 1831. Awkward…what to do,what to do?  Well, fortunately, the naming rules of science came to the rescue and today the Latin name stands as the one given to it by Wagler, but its official common name still bears reference to Franklin. Finders keepers so to speak!

#8.  Lincoln’s Sparrow  (Melospiza lincolnii)

French: Bruant de Lincoln       BPQ Bird Checklist: Resident

This streaky little brown songbird breeds in boreal bogs across Canada, southern Alaska, and into parts of the north central United States. It winters along the Pacific coast, the southern United States, Mexico, and parts of Central America.

This bird was named by John James Audobon in 1834 to honor of his friend Thomas Lincoln Lincoln shot the bird while on a trip with Audubon in Labrador. Audubon first named it “Tom’s Finch” in his honor. It was later re-reclassified into the Sparrow family

#9. Swainson’s Thrush (Catharus ustulatus)

French: Grive à dos olive   BPQ Bird Checklist: Migrant

The Swainson’s has a beautiful flute like song which distinguishes it from other thrushes. In the east it breeds in coniferous forests and migrates to South America.

Named after English ornithologist, malacologist, conchologist, entomologist and artist William John Swainson (8 October 1789 – 6 December 1855) He is known for his illustrations and is the first illustrator and naturalist to use lithography.

 #10. Wilson’s Snipe (Gallinago delicata)

French: Bécassine de Wilson        BPQ Bird Checklist: Summer Resident, breeding

One of the most numerous shorebirds in North America, it also goes by the name of Common Snipe. You can find it probing for food in shallow water or mud. It prefers larvae but won’t turn its extra long bill away from crustaceans, earthworms and molluscs either.

It owes its common name to Alexander Wilson (July 6, 1766 – August 23, 1813) . Wilson was a native of Scotland who was trained as a weaver but had a passion for the arts. He came to the US in 1794 where he met and was encouraged by naturalist William Bartram to pursue his interest in ornithology and painting. He decided to publish his illustrations of all the birds of America.

He travelled widely collecting (shooting) birds, painting them and selling subscriptions to his work. This was a massive undertaking during which he met Audubon. The product was the nine-volume of American Ornithology (1808–1814) illustrated 268 species of bird, of which 26 had not previously been described.