Double Names

On one of my many Googling trips across the Internet I learned the scientific name of the red-footed booby and it made me laugh.

Sula sula?  All I could think of was the Yale fight song whose second verse begins, Boola, Boola.

Are there many North American birds with double scientific names?   I searched my field guide and found about 20 birds, most of which also live in Europe where scientific naming began.

The names are sometimes fascinating:

  • Nycticorax nycticorax = Night raven, Night raven = Black-crowned night-heron
  • Anhinga anhinga = a Tupi (Brazilian Indian) name meaning Devil Bird = Anhinga
  • Histrionicus histrionicus = this bird is Theatrical, Theatrical = Harlequin duck
  • Tyrannus tyrannus = This Tyrant, Tyrant is very aggressive toward predators = Eastern kingbird
  • And, since first published in July 2010 this species has split!  A prehistoric cave dweller = Troglodytes trodlodytes = the Eurasian wren.  Our winter wren is now a different species without a double name: Troglodytes hiemalis.

And finally, Ajaja ajaja used to be my favorite scientific bird name, a fun word to say if you pronounce the J's as H's.  Alas, scientists renamed this bird to Platalea ajaja and took half the fun out of the Roseate spoonbill.


(photo of a Red-footed Booby by Deborah Acklin)

p.s. Just found this cool website that lists the meanings of some scientific names of birds.

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