Let’s change stupid bird names.

A second “guest essay” comes to us from Bob Grump. It’s ironic that Bob’s essay is about stupid names. His own name is, well, let’s just say…hard to buy. That’s okay. Sometimes writers use pen names. We don’t mind. Once again Bob Grump makes good points, as he did in “What the hell is a hectare.”  After his essay, we might weigh in with an opinion of our own about what he says here, if you want to read that far. You may not agree with the guy, but he’s interesting…

By Bob Grump

Okay, Mr. Two-Fisted Birdwatcher, I’ve got a suggestion for you and your readers out there.

I think you’ll like it, because I’ve seen that on your website you often grouse about birds having stupid names. No pun intended.

By the way, ever notice how people say “no pun intended?” That’s bullshit. It’s always intended.

So, here’s my idea:

Start a groundswell movement…get your readers to suggest better names for birds. Not all bird names, just the stupid ones.

"...a dick what?"

“…a dick what?”

Come on, two-fisted birdwatchers, does anybody really want to see a Peewee? How about a Hudsonian Godwit. Can you say Hudsonian Godwit with a straight face?

The Indigo Bunting sounds like something in your grandma’s knitting basket. Can you tell your girlfriend you saw a Yellow-Breasted Chat, or a Dickcissel? Dick what?

I think you mentioned these names in your blog. That’s why I bring them up again. I figure you’re gonna support me because you’re already on my side.

I KNOW you recently wrote that a Green Heron isn’t green, and a Great Blue Heron isn’t blue…and a Great Crested Flycatcher isn’t crested. Or great. We’re on the same page, right?

You, and other regular folks who are interested in birds, have been saddled with using stupid names that have been passed down to us from bird namers who were cuckoo.

Hey, that’s another one. Cuckoo. Yellow-billed, Black-billed…the clock.

Okay, what do we do about it?

Trust the people, that’s what I say. They have a way of righting things. Just give ‘em time, and a voice. Ask your readers to pick a bird name that bugs them. Let ‘em write in with their idea for a better name.

"Bark Hammer?"

“Bark Hammer?”

Say somebody doesn’t like “Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.” So they suggest another name. Like, for example, “bark hammer.” That’s one I kinda like.

Somebody else (maybe you, right?) says they don’t like “Bald Eagle,” because (as you also pointed out in one of your stories) this eagle ain’t bald. Maybe the person says we should call it a “fierce fish-eater” instead. Personally, I’m not wild about that one. But run it up the flagpole and see who salutes.

So that’s my idea. Have people get caught up in this thing. Let’s see what happens. It’s about time, you know. And it’s something we can do something about.

We can’t do much about the collapse of the economy, military unthinkables, kids squawking in restaurants, new human and computer viruses, all the crap that’s coming down the pike every day…but we can do something about stupid bird names!

Spread the word!


Bob Grump

Bob wants us to spread the word. Okay, if you’ve got any bird names that you could improve, let us know. If there’s enough interest, maybe we’ll make a another contest out of it. Like our “hidden bird” contest. And the best name wins a prize. Or maybe we’ll invite everyone to vote for a winner. Might even send winning ideas to the American Ornithologists’ Union and get the bird officially re-named. Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Maybe this will go nowhere. If that happens, all we can say is: Sorry Bob Grump, whoever you are.

20 Responses to “Let’s change stupid bird names.”

  1. sandy komito says:

    In order to solve the problem with stupid bird names, you have to first realize where they come from. Now, I’m going to reveal to you a deep, dark secret known to only a few (up to now). These name changes come from a secret group calling themselves, “taxonomists” but some of us better know them as bird-nerds. Their job is to wait until you’ve finally learned the name of a bird and then go and change it. These weird guys think that’s pretty funny.

    There are hundreds of birds that have had two different name changes and a few with three and now we’re getting one with a fourth change. Yes, it’s the one called the Common Moorhen.

    How did this happen? For a while these bird-nerds argued our gallinule was just like the bird the English call the Moorhen and so we went from Florida Gallinule to Common Gallinule to Common Moorhen and now back to Common Moorhen. Why did we ever agree to moorhen in the first place? We don’t even have any moors. Is there money changing hands under the table? Nothing else makes any sense.

    I’ve got some advice for these soon-to-be out-of-work guys. If it aint broke, don’t fix it.

  2. Nyla T. says:

    GeeWHIZZ NOT another list!! I have many of the bird names in my Guide to Field Identification of North American BIRDS memorised. DO I have to start all over again???

    It would be hard to rename them as everyone who is a bird watcher has their own way they remember names.

    BY the way WHY”Sandwich Tern”. Seen the picture and it does not remind me of a sandwich.

    I’ve had my book since 1989 and no way could I get all the notes transfered to another BIRD BOOK for birds with FUNNY names.

    Enjoy reading “Two-Fisted Bird Watcher”.

  3. Allen says:

    Texas John,

    In lieu of Yellow-rumped Warbler you might use the name that I was told the Port Aransas natives use: Butter-butt

  4. Abe Zion says:

    On Grump’s Gripe

    By Abe Zion

    For Molly’s poem I’ve patiently waited
    Mulling the gripes of Robert the Grump
    Who tends to become quite agravated
    By some yellow warbler’s icteric rump

    Misnaming a warbler is really quite horrible
    Repugnant to birding humanity
    The bird in question does not even warble
    Confirming taxonomic insanity

    If Collared Doves are Eurasian
    And a Northern Shoveler’s a duck
    It may offer a birder occasion
    In confusion to mutter “WTF!”

    Bob Grump has a valid complaint
    To taxonomy’s blatant neurosis
    Driving the bird-watching saint
    Into certifiable psychosis

    Instead of a Loggerhead Shrike
    I suggest a tuxedo-clad bird
    Sporting a stylish vanDyke
    That’s my last birding word.

  5. Texas John says:

    My least favorite name? Yellow-rumped Warbler. It’s wimpy and it strips the poor bird of a name honoring one of the true greats in American ornithology (Audubon) in favor of a lame name that lacks any imagination what so ever.

    And Molly, if you want to right a poem, how about one about the Oldsquaw (a name dating to the early 1800’s overturned some ten years ago by the taxonomy geeks in favor of Long-tailed Duck).

  6. George says:

    Molly – how about a poem about the Bananaquit?

  7. Bob Grump says:

    Molly’s question…isn’t anybody going to give her a name? She said she’d write a poem. Probably wouldn’t be a long poem. You all too busy? Well, we’ll see I guess.
    Bob Grump.

  8. Molly says:


  9. Molly says:

    Just discovered the 2-fisted site. Very enjoyable reading for a novice watcher. I’ve always liked coming up with bird names for people, like plump-breasted wiggly walker, full-bellied wobbly weaver, etc. I’d be interested in learning the origins of birds’ real names, too.
    Birds are fascinating, indeed. Send me a name and I’ll write a poem.

  10. Bill Bossman says:

    Ruddy Duck is one of those names that emphasizes a secondary feature of the bird, the ruddy coloration in breeding plumage, but totally ignores the little duck’s obvious defining characteristic: THE AWESOME PERIWINKLE BLUE BILL! Why in the world aren’t they named Blue-billed Duck?

  11. Burt says:

    I think “name” is a stupid word. We should refer them ONLY as “monikers”.

    That’s my opinion so, like the opinons above about what is stupid, it MUST be true.

  12. Riley says:

    “Bald” legs? I’ve heard this error before. Common, it’s because of the white head.

  13. David C. says:

    A note to Bob: bald eagles are bald, their distal legs lack feathers compared with golden eagles feathered feet. And I like the ‘really freakin red headed woodpecker’ suggestion.

    Thanks for the entertainment.

  14. Lee Dager says:

    Great place to put this bird, the really freakin red headed woodpecker. Keep up the good work. I may be making a trip to North Dakota soon, any hint about what kind of birds to look for?? Thanks, Lee

  15. Merideth says:

    I think “Junco” is a stupid name. In fact, I think the birds themselves object to it. They’d rather be called “Winged Terrors,” but I think “Mild-Mannered Tail Stripers” would be more suitable.

  16. Bob Grump says:

    Jeff, nice idea. Obviously you’re a learned and wise guy. For example you used the word “nomenclature” and also the word “sidle.” Your human beings have names that mock the silliness of bird names. This makes my point exactly. Stay in touch, guy. By the way, today I saw a Bald Legal coming out of an office building. Add that to your list while you’re at it.

  17. Jeff says:

    In the spirit of this topic, Mr. Grump, I suggest we also rename human beings with more appropriate nomenclature. For example, just the other day I saw an Orange-Crowned Mouth-Breather, with his mate, a Double-Bellied Lip-Smacker sidle up to an all-you-can-eat buffet, with their children in tow…I believe I was able to identify them as a Common Screecher, and a Drooling Loon.

  18. Kirby Adams says:

    I’ve always thought the red-bellied woodpecker should be called the “red-headed woodpecker” and the current red-headed should be renamed the “REALLY FREAKIN’ RED-headed woodpecker”.

  19. brian says:

    I always laugh at the tufted titmouse.

    I like the tufted titmouse but it’s name is entirely crap.

    how about Mini Jay. it looks like a small Jay.

  20. Anita K Booth says:

    Bushtit? C’mon…who thought up this one? I can’t lead a bird walk but what I don’t get asked, “Oh! Look at all the little birds in that bush, what are they called?” When I answer there’s ALWAYS a little twitter and I’m not talking about the birds OR the website. I nominate a change to: Chatterbirds or Chitterbirds or Bushbirds, and leave the ‘tit-part’ to the mammals.

    Ornithologically yours,
    Anita K Booth

    P.S. Does anyone else think hepatic tanager sounds like a liver disease?