While writing up yesterday’s post, my inherent weakness for alliteration got the better of me. I eagerly described the season’s bounty of warblers as a “procession of precious passerines.” Now, it is definitely not my style to insert the word “precious” into a conversation, but it seemed to fit with the surrounding words. Yet, when Sara read over my post, the constant repetition of a single consonant throughout a string of words isn’t what bugged her. Instead, she said something like, “You’re hitting that passerine drum pretty hard, aren’t you?”

Hitting the passerine drum too hard?

Passerine, a term defined in greater detail in this celebrated post, describes any bird in the order Passeriformes. This is easily the largest order of birds, comprising more than half of all known species, including just about any bird one would consider a songbird. It’s possible that I’ve used the term passerine overmuch of late. After all, the topic of birds comes up fairly often on this blog. The Core Team hit the woods frequently this past month, so each excursion has naturally become blog fodder. Our target species these past weeks were not raptors, waders, or waterfowl, but were, in fact, songbirds, specifically warblers. The month of May presented, if you can remember that far back, an absolute birding bonanza for us. So we spotted new warblers every weekend along scads of other interesting species and I wrote about every outing. Do you see yet why I might have leaned a bit heavily on such a technical term?

In describing warblers, as I do so lovingly, one can draw upon words like avifauna, avians, birds, songbirds, and, of course, warblers. But even after peppering my dialogue liberally with that language, I still had need of other words for warblers. Effective written English, they say, utilizes diverse vocabulary. As a birder speaking to others at least tangentially interested in birding, I’m comfortable making use of ornithological terms. I could, therefore, refer to warblers as parulids, as most of them are members of the family Parulidae. I’m just more partial to passerine, since it is inclusive of all the songbird species and not just warblers. Passerine is a wonderful word, admirably taxonomic yet still evocative, conjuring images of brightly colored birds ‘passing’ through our lives. Nonetheless, I’m giving the word a rest. Since the spring warblers seem to have moved on, I wager I can go at least a week without hitting the passerine drum too hard. Watch and see.

By the way, the objectionable phrase from yesterday’s post was published instead as “succession of stunning songbirds.” At least I haven’t annulled all alliteration.

Written by Mike
Mike is a leading authority in the field of standardized test preparation, but he's also a traveler who fully expects to see every bird in the world. Besides founding 10,000 Birds in 2003, Mike has also created a number of other entertaining but now extirpated nature blog resources, particularly the Nature Blog Network and I and the Bird.