In the 12 years I've been actively watching birds I’ve often found myself intrigued - and sometimes confused - by some of the names, both common and scientific (Latin). Currently in the midst of a top secret bird -related project, I've had a chance to go over the complete A.O.U. checklist and, along with some I've known about for a while, found a few interesting names along the way.
|Male Painted Bunting|
|Captain Meriwether Lewis's Woodpecker|
|Clark's Grebe - not named for Lt. William Clark|
Frequently, birds are named after the discoverer as in the examples above, but sometimes names were (are?) used to honor a friend or a member of a friend’s or discoverer’s family. Lucy’s Warbler is named for the daughter of Spence Fullerton Baird (of Baird’s Sparrow and Sandpiper fame), while Virginia’s Warbler is named after the wife of the man who discovered the species. Quite often the person’s name is latinized and used in the scientific name also and, other times, you’ll just find the person’s latinized name in the scientific name and not in the common name. Going back to Baird for a moment, the (almost certain to be extinct) Cuban Ivory-billed Woodpecker’s scientific name is Campephilus principalis bairdii, the “trinomial” or subspecies designation, honoring Mr. Baird.