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Have you ever looked through the names in a bird book and thought "It's all Greek to me!"? This entertaining and informative guide to bird names explains the meanings behind the names, many of which have fascinating origins and stories behind them.
The universal system of scientific names, based largely on Greek and Latin, is used in all good bird books and assists birdwatchers around the world in figuring exactly what they are looking at. While some of the names are fairly self-explanatory – such as Troglodytes for the wrens, meaning "cave-dweller" – others are more mysterious. For example, did you know that the scientific name for the Ruff compares the bird to a jousting horseman – a reference to its spectacular display in the breeding season?
Covering 600 bird species from around the world, Birds: What's in a Name? includes explanations for names for everything from avocets (these birds resemble a French lawyer, or L'avocat, with their black-and-white livery) and Chaffinches (its scientific name, coelebs, means celibate – a reference to the fact that males and females often gather in separate flocks in winter) to the Great Bustard (Otis tarda means "slow whiskered bird") and the nightjars (Caprimulgus being a reference to the ancient belief that these birds drank the milk of goats).
The entertaining text is accompanied by line drawings and photos. In short, the book is a fascinating read for anyone with an interest in birds and the intricacies and meanings of language.
Author Peter Barry lives in Aberdeen. He has travelled extensively around the world and has a lifelong fascination with birds and a special interest in the meanings of their names.