Chthonicoline reflections

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Subject: Chthonicoline reflections
From: "Geoffrey Dabb" <>
Date: Sat, 12 Nov 2005 12:10:57 +1100
A possible reason that this is the only Australian bird to be allowed the doubtfully appropriate name of 'Warbler' is that the contending alternatives were 'Speckled Jack' and 'Chthonicola'. There are quite a few of these around locally where there is a bit of shrubby growth in the woodlands, although I doubt we will still have them if the briars, brambles and hawthorn are ever finally eliminated.

The scientific name is one of those unattractive 'cola' constructions (the Latin 'cola', usually given as 'dweller', being attached in this case to the Greek 'khthonos' meaning 'ground'). You would think a name like 'ground-dweller' would not be applied to a bird that spends a lot of time up in trees and shrubs but would be kept for things like quail, but, oh no, the Romans called those 'coturnix' (as in 'oh look, there go a couple of coturnices') and when the new namers came across the similarly-ground-dwelling button-quail they called that a 'Turnix' because it was smaller than a Coturnix, the Little Button-quail unfortunately not qualifying for separate generic status where it might have been known as a 'Nix'.

               Geoffrey Dabb
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ph/fax   :   02 6295 3449


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