Blue, Gray, or Grey?
Does anybody know which part of the Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias is referred to that entitles it to use the colour blue in its name? Perhaps Occasionally White Heron Ardea cinerinoncaeruleumalbanuncenimfiunc might be more appropriate?* Little Blue Heron, Egretta Caerulea I can live with, but the Little becomes redundant in the circumstances.
I have often been struck by the similarities of the Great Blue Heron and the Gray Heron, Ardea cineria but therein lies another anomaly. Why Gray? Why not Grey Heron? It is a Eurasian bird. Surely its common English name should respect the spelling used across most of its (where proper English is used) common range?
Even Sibley suggests that identification between the species can be challenging, with the Great Blue Heron “grayish (sic) overall”.
…..in welcoming and celebrating the diversity that geographical isolation brings to a language, the Great now becomes redundant and we are left with Grey Heron and Gray Heron.
Good. I hope we’ve cleared that one up.
*Latin translation – Ardea cinerinoncaeruleumalbanuncenimfiunc – Greyish heron, not blue, but sometimes white, in some places, so live with it.
Most birds were named by now dead white men who didn’t appreciate that most of the species they were “discovering” had already been discovered and had names. Most of the birds so named were named by men with the dead remnants of a bird in their hand and often the men doing the naming had never seen the bird in life. Geographic, honorific, horrific, and overly specific names abound much to the detriment of those who would like names to actually fit the creatures being described. And we poor birders have to use those names because otherwise no one will know what bird we are checking off our list and bragging about having spotted to fellow birders, bored families, and unimpressed romantic interests. Well, no more! We here at 10,000 Birds have decided to right some wrongs and improve the birding world by renaming birds the way they should have been named from Linnaeus to the present. (Or, at least, pointing out some names that suck.) Welcome to Bird Renaming Week, our week-long exploration of the names we put to birds and how they can be improved!