White-bellied Sea-Eagle

To: "John Layton" <>, "Canberrabirds" <>
Subject: White-bellied Sea-Eagle
From: "Philip Veerman" <>
Date: Wed, 15 Oct 2008 00:23:34 +1000
Hi John,
A fair question. Sadly a rather simple answer (I hope). Sea-eagles are very close to eagles and thus I guess the decision was made that they should retain the name, even though modified. (Funny, there it seems right to type Sea-eagles rather than Sea-Eagles because it is the general sense not as a formal name. Eagles, kites, buzzards, old world vultures, harriers, etc are members of the same order and the same family, these groups are separated at sub family taxon, sea-eagles and eagles are about as close as a fox and a dog. The difference between sea-eagles and eagles are really pretty small (feathered feet or not, a tendency towards the marine or aquatic hunting environment or not, mostly brown or mostly with large white parts in adult plumage and other dividing points so minor they are barely noticeable). So big kite or little kite or eagle are not that different.  
Button-quails and quails are very different, they are not in the same family or even order. They are about as close as are horses and dolphins. Certainly button-quails and quails are more different in their mating habits than are horses and dolphins (or indeed just about any two mammals you could think about). But then the mating habits of birds are vastly more varied and interesting than mammals. I have previously written on this line about the poor Canberra aviculturist that I came across in about 1972 who was hoping to breed from a pair of "Painted Quails" he had bought (or tricked into buying as a pair, until I pointed out to him that they were one Stubble Quail & one Painted Button-quail and members of two different orders of birds with opposite mating habits. I think they also happened to be 2 females but that is hardly relevant.
Not wanting to go too deeply into word use because of course Cuckoo-shrikes and Shrike-tits are neither of these things. They and probably many others like that are just stupid names that got established from who knows where, mainly because the Eurocentric early namers just recycled old words when confronted with new birds and weren't bold enough to invent something completely new and unconfusing like "Gronk", "Splamm" or "Squaggle".
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