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About this book
About this book
The Bird Name Book is an alphabetical reference book on the origins and meanings of common group bird names, from "accentor" to "zeledonia." A cornucopia of engaging facts and anecdotes, this superbly researched compendium presents a wealth of incisive entries alongside stunning photos by the author and beautiful historic prints and watercolours. Myers provides brief biographies of prominent figures in ornithology – such as John Gould, John Latham, Alfred Newton, and Robert Ridgway – and goes on to describe the etymological history of every common group bird name found in standardized English. She interweaves the stories behind the names with quotes from publications dating back to the 1400s, illuminating the shared evolution of language and our relationships with birds, and rooting the names in the history of ornithological discovery.
Whether you are a well-travelled birder or have ever wondered how the birds in your backyard got their names, The Bird Name Book is an ideal companion.
Customer Reviews (1)
13 Apr 2023
Written for Hardback
Bird names can be fascinating, can’t they? Some are easy to understand – such as woodpecker, kingfisher and shearwater. The name Knot comes from King Canute (actually Cnut). Sitting on a beach 1200 years ago, Cnut commanded the rising tide to retreat on his command, and in the same way, Knots stand on the edge of the rising tide until they are forced to flee. A less obvious example is albatross, which has it origins in Portuguese with the addition of “alba” to indicate the white colouration on most of them. Indeed many worldwide bird names have origins in Portuguese, Spanish and Arabic.
This book runs alphabetically from accentor (the group that includes our Dunnock) to zeledonia (the scientific family name for Wrenthrush, which is only found in Costa Rica). The majority of the 1000 or so names explained are bird families or unique bird names. The book is full of engaging facts and anecdotes, and there are links to over 600 references. In addition to the explanation for each name there is also extra information about each bird or its family. Of course, it is not always completely clear how a name came about, and sometimes several possible explanations are given. Indeed, many names date from a long way back, such a kite, which was used as “kyte” as early as 1335.
Susan Myers has supplied many of her own photographs to add colour to the subject and these are interspersed with paintings by the likes of John Gould from the 1800s. She has also written brief biographies of prominent figures in ornithology who named many of our birds. This is an interesting book that is ideal for dipping into for interesting facts.
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Susan Myers is a senior leader at WINGS Birding Tours Worldwide and has led birding tours in Asia and other regions for more than twenty years. Her books include Wildlife of Southeast Asia and Birds of Borneo: Brunei, Sabah, Sarawak, and Kalimantan.