At the Marsh Madness event earlier this month I had a chat with Eric Simpson about birding traditions in Linton, Indiana. He told me that his wife, Barbara Simpson — now director of the Indiana Wildlife Federation, had begun birding under under the direction of a beloved classroom teacher. (How often I’ve heard similar stories!). The discussion turned to how he began birding and then onto the local and common names that we gave to birds when young.
“You know that bright yellow bird that bobs up and down in flight?” he asked. “That’s a yellowhammer!”
My mind shot back to a similar bird shooting across our gravel lane from one meadow to another. “We called it a wild canary.” I answered.
Of course we were both talking about the American Goldfinch.
Later I remembered that our native Maine neighbors called the double crested cormorants shags and coots. the terms seemed to be interchangeable.
Last week when I began to read Our Birds and How to Know Them, by John B. Grant I shared with my wife that the great horned owl was labelled a hoot owl.
“That’s what we called them when I was a girl”, she shared. I was surprised.
I thought it might be interesting to share John B. Grant’s bird names to see what our favorite birds have been called. John birded the Hudson Valley and published his book in 1891. They are listed in the order they appear in the book. Birds without archaic alternate names have been omitted. See the entire text here.
Acadian Owl, Saw-Whet Owl
Great Horned Owl, Hoot Owl
Little Horned Owl, Screech Owl, Red Owl
Flicker, Golden-Winged woodpecker, High-Hole
Baltimore Oriole, Firebird
Purple Grackle, Common Crow Blackbird
Pine Siskin, Pine Finch, Pine Linnet
Snowflake, Snow Bunting
Vesper Sparrow, Bay-Winged Sparrow, Grass Finch
White Throated Sparrow, Peabody Bird
Grasshopper Sparrow, Yellow-Winged Sparrow, Yellow Winged Bunting
Chipping Sparrow, Chippy, Hair-Bird
Slate-Colored Junco, Junco, Snowbird
Cardinal Grosbeak, Cardinal
Indigo Bunting, Indigo-Bird
Summer Tanager, Summer Redbird
Cedar Waxwing, Cedarbird
Northern Shrike, Butcher-Bird
Yellow-Throated Vireo, Yellow-Throated Greenlet
Red-Eyed Vireo, Red-Eyed Greenlet
Blue-Headed Vireo (or Greenlet), Solitary Vireo (or Greenlet)
White-Eyed Vireo, White-Eyed Greenlet
Black and White Warbler, Black and White Creeper
Parula Warbler, Blue Yellow-Backed Warbler
Yellow Warbler, Summer Yellowbird
Myrtle Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Myrtlebird
Black and Yellow Warbler, Magnolia Warbler
Yellow Red-Poll Warbler, Palm Warbler
Oven-Bird, Golden-Crowned Thrush
Brown Thrasher, Brown Thrush
Chickadee, Black-Capped Titmouse
Wilson’s Thrush, Tawny thrush Veery