Sunday, January 6, 2013

what's in a name?

Just a moniker musing: not all red-tailed hawks have red tails, not all ruby-throated hummingbirds have ruby throats, not all bald eagles are bald or even white-headed, not all black-throated blue warblers have black throats and not all pied-billed grebes have pied bills. However, all three-toed woodpeckers DO have only three toes (on each foot), or at least I think so, I've never actually seen one and counted their digits. 

I do have it on good authority that sharp-shinned hawks do have sharp ridges that run the length of their leg bones.

These curiosities come to mind because yesterday, on the local Christmas Bird Count, Shearwater and I found six pied-billed grebes. None had noticeable spots on their bills because in their winter non-breeding plumage the spots are negligible, which reminded me of other birding caveats: immature red-tailed hawks have brown tails; female and juvenile ruby-throated hummingbirds have white throats; for the first two years, bald eagles have brown heads; and female black-throated blue warblers have olive throats.

To paraphrase the Bard: So what's in a name? That which we call a pied-bill by any other name would still be a pied to me.

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