Pecker or Picker.

A third “guest essay” comes to us from Bob Grump. This guy’s got a thing about names. He’s already written “Let’s change stupid bird names,” and “What the hell is a hectare?” Well, who can blame a guy named Grump for dwelling on names. Anyway, he makes pretty good sense. His suggested revision for the Oxpecker is cool. But whether or not this bird gets its name changed, it’s still one of our favorites.

By Bob Grump

Hey two-fisted birdwatcher, on Monday, March 14, you wrote on your blog about how we can avoid the news of the day, which has become one shitstorm after another. It was called “No CNN In The Woods.”

True words: No CNN there. No Fox, either. Well, wait a second. Not so sure about the fox thing. More about that in a moment.

I want to write about a bird you mentioned in that blog story. It’s got a great name. “Oxpecker.”

"It's got a great name. Oxpecker."

"It's got a great name. Oxpecker."

I know about oxpeckers. Red-billed Oxpeckers. Yellow-billed, too. Not from reading about them in bird books, but from reading African adventures. Hemingway, Tarzan, stuff like that.

I can get a little critical of stupid bird names, but oxpecker, like I said, is kind of a great name. Still, I gotta say… it can be improved with a slight change. The name of this bird should be “ox-picker,” not “ox-pecker.”

"Pecker versus picker?"

"Pecker versus picker?"

Then it would be more accurate. This is because the bird “picks” bugs off of oxes.

And what’s the deal with “oxen?” Why can’t we just say “oxes,” the way I just did.

But that’s another story.

Does this mean that woodpeckers should have their names changed, too? Should they become “woodpickers?” After all, they spend a lot of time picking bugs out of bark.

We don’t have oxpeckers in my neighborhood, but we do have woodpeckers. Usually Downys. Sometimes Red-Bellieds. Red-headeds are getting rare.

And good luck if you want to find a Pileated. By the way, “Pileated?” What does that weird word mean? Well, if you must know, it means “hairy.”

A stupid way to describe a bird that doesn’t have hair on it, and they oughta change it. But I digress.

On reflection, I have to admit that woodpeckers can keep the pecker part of their name. Because although they do pick bugs out of bark and eat them, they also peck holes into trees. Big holes. They build their nests inside them.

So, these birds are fairly named peckers.

But an oxpecker is never going to peck a hole into an ox to build a nest. And it’s especially not going to peck very far into a rhino. Oxpeckers stick to picking.

grump fox

So my idea about their name being wrong is right. I say that oxpeckers are really oxpickers and they should be re-named accordingly. Red-billed Oxpicker. Yellow-billed Oxpicker. Like that.

We should get the ornithology geniuses to put the “pecker versus picker” issue on the table when they have their next big lets-screw-with-bird-names convention.

Meanwhile, back in the woods. There was no CNN there. And no Fox. Except for the real fox whose picture I snapped.

4 Responses to “Pecker or Picker.”

  1. Jason says:

    I dunno, they don’t pick oxes, they pick bugs. Bugpicker gets pretty generic and bug pecker sounds insulting. ‘Bug Picker on Rhino’ is cumbersome. Might as well stick wih oxpeckers.

  2. Robert E. says:

    Talk about names. What about Grump?

  3. Bruce B says:

    Jason is absolutely correct. The birds are pecking at the oxen. Woodpeckers are pecking at the wood, not picking the wood.

    Look up the word ‘peck’ in the dictionary. Its a sharp quick stab or poke at something. They are peckers!

    Does your spouse give you a pick on the cheek when she leaves for work?

  4. Glenis says:

    Such fun, reading Grumps page LOL. Poor grump hasn’t got a grasp of the English language, I agree with Jason peck and pick are very different in meaning although similar in appearance. They ‘peck’ animals but ‘pick’ bugs. Seemples!.

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