2009/08/11

The Violin Player

As you know, I'm on 'thesis mode', so, no birding time for me, not even on weekends (for a few weeks at least).

Tommy, however, has some time after classes and can walk around watching beauties and taking some pictures. Here is his photo of a Blue-gray Tanager.



Here, this Blue-gray Tanager was introduced some time ago in the capital (Lima) from the Amazon. Some people brought birds as souvenirs from jungle trips or to sell in the black market and somehow a few escaped and started a colony in the city. It is very common to see them now in parks and gardens in the city, mostly in pairs.

Something that interests me a lot is the different names of birds around the world. Sometimes there are discussions about the 'correct' scientific name, the common name, the English name, etc. But, it gets even harder if you are - like in my case - living in a Spanish speaking country, and there is no agreement on how to call a bird.

Locals from all over Latin America give them different names, which can be quite annoying if you are in another country trying to ask a non-birder about a particular bird and have no image refference to show.

Let's take this Blue-gray Tanager (Thraupis episcopus) as an example. The most literal translation to Spanish should be 'Tángara Azuleja'. In Colombia it is called 'Azulejo' (azul means blue), in Costa Rica it is 'Viuda' (name given to a female widow), and in Peru it becomes a 'Violinista' (violin player), this last one explained due to the song of the bird. I bet there are many more names for it all over the world, given by local non-birder residents or ancient cultures.

Do you have problems like these with the English names?? I know that there are some discrepancies, but most of the times it is a unique name, isn't it? Please, tell me about it!

Oh, did you know that
in Trinidad and Tobago this bird is called Blue Jean?? Cool!

14 comments:

Meggie said...

Hey Mel! Didn't know that birds have so many different names in your area. I haven't had that problem in the US...not with birds. Now plants....that's a different story! The formal name may be the same but folks in different parts of the US know the same plant by different names. Can get very confusing.

Meggie said...

He Mel! Can't say I've had that problem with birds, but have had it with plants. The technical name of a plant may be the same but it is known by many different names depending on the part of the US where you live.

Gallicissa said...

Hola Mel!

'Violinista' - sounds very soothing and I like its meaning - very cool.

We do have the same issue concerning bird names - I think every country does! Opinions differ on matters like that and some people get very emotional in our part of the world!!

The Ceylon Bird Club argues that Junglefowl in Sri Lanka (national bird) should be called as Ceylon Junglefowl, just as the colonials called it. The Feild Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka argues that we should get rid of the colonial mentality and call the Junglefowl as Sri Lanka Junglefowl instead - the country name since 1972 -- which the colonials themselve changed in the Sri Lanka Republic Act.

I as a person in bird tourism selling Sri Lanka at present, prefer the latter name (okay, partly for selfish reasons.)

Good thing aforementioned bird bodies is they both agree on one thing. That its scientific name should be Gallus lafayetti Lesson, 1831.

This is despite the bird in question being named in honour of Marquis de La Fayette - French soldier, liberal republican statesman and the hero of the American War of Independence!

Jochen said...

Mel, the English names can be a mess sometimes, although they are fairly stable in North America and Europe. Africa though, a completely different matter: two or three different names for the same species are quite common, e.g. if the bird occurs both in southern Africa, eastern Africa and also has a name given to it by the UK birders.
And then, there are cases in which different birds on different continents were given the same name: the name "black vulture" for example exists in Eurasia and the Americas but the respective species are of course not the same and actually (apparently) not even closely related to each other.

P. Ollig said...

Great post! Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately) we don't seem to have that problem in the US. Personally, I think the regional names for a species just add that much more to our understanding of the bird. Not it's biology, of course, but the values we place on these species by assigning meaningful names to them. Cool discussion!

On a seperate note, my wife and I are planning our first ever Peru trip for this fall and I had a question for you about it. Could you email me (pjollig@gmail.com) when you get a chance? I'd love to be able to get some advice from a local!

Cheers,
Paul

Estrella said...

Oh, creo que nunca me habia topado con un blog de avistamiento de aves, creo de hehco nunca he conocido a nadie que haga esta actividad, esto es nuevo para mi!
En fin, se ve muy proactivo tu blog! sobre todo por eso de ir a limpiar!felicdades!! muchos saludos, oajal te puedas dar una vuletita por el mio, saludos!


www.thatcrazycat.blogspot.com

Q said...

Dear Mel,
We also have local names for birds!
Non-birders often use the names they grew up with even when they move to different parts of the country. I am aways amazed at how many names one species has. It is comforting to know birds are paid attention to even by the non-birding community. I would love to read the history of any given bird!
An American Robin is very different than a English Robin. I know when the English came to North America they named the bird after the one they knew in their English gardens. They are not even in the same family!
Great discussion.
Thank you Tommy for the photographs. WOW, beautfiul by any name.
Thinking of you and sending lots and lots of energy....
Hugs,
Sherry

S.C.E. said...

You should borrow Tommy's camera (or get him to buy you one)...........

There are often multiple English names, usually differences between US/UK English (eg Loons vs Divers) and there are also old names from regional dialects too.........

wanda said...

Bird watching is a great activity!, you must visit this site, in Peru you'll find excelent places for this

http://www.globalexpresstours.com/viajes-de-placer/birdwatching-en-lima.html

Laurent said...

Mel, you should take a look at this article in the NY times. It's about bird names in peru


http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/08/11/science/20090811-NAMING-QUIZ.html?ref=science

RuthieJ said...

What a pretty bird. I love that blue color in his wings. I hope your thesis work continues to go well and you have some time for birding adventures again soon!

Mel said...

Hola a todos :)

Meggie,
I'm trying to learn as many names as possible, although it's not easy to remember all of them :S

Amila,
I'm with you, I would preffer Sri Lanka Junglefowl, it makes more sense after the Act.

Jochen,
I didn't know that about the Black Vultures! It's cool to learn things like this.

Paul,
Hope to see you around here!

Estrella,
Pasaré por tu blog pronto.

Sherry,
They are beautiful in any name as you said. I wouldn't mind reading a book with details on differences on names of some birds, especially the most curious, just for fun.

Stuart,
I'll try to 'borrow' the camera soon ;) muahahaha

Wanda,
Thanks, I'm Peruvian, I'm aware of that.

Laurent,
Thanks for the link!! I tried it and got 8/10. How much did you get??

Ruthie,
I hope that too. Miss reading you!!

dAwN said...

Beautiful bird..I like the name Blue Jean!

BONIL said...

¡Qué fotos taaaaan hermoooosas!
Gracias