Public perceptions of avian taxonomy

Subject: Public perceptions of avian taxonomy
From: Bill Venables <>
Date: Mon, 21 Aug 1995 21:19:02 +0930
Most of us would regard avian taxonomy as a complex and subtle
business and a source of endless argument and debate over the
most minute of details.  So it always comes as an amusing
surprise to me to catch a glimpse of that broad brush taxonomy so
prevalent in the population at large.

Two little examples.

I saw a young child in the Botanical Gardens one day pointing to
an Australian magpie-lark in the gutter and saying in an excited
way to his mother "Duck, duck, duck!"  His mother corrected him:
"No, that's not a duck, that's a bird."

In Adelaide busses there is an anti-alcohol advertising sign
showing a cockatoo in shirt and tie seated between two adults on
a bus who are looking at it with a very curious expression.  The
slogan says something to the effect that "If you drink it's not
just your friends who will think you're a galah."  The only
problem is the cockatoo is white with a very yellow erect crest!

William Venables, Department of Statistics,  Tel.: +61 8 303 3026
The University of Adelaide,                  Fax.: +61 8 303 3696
South AUSTRALIA.     5005.   Email: 

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