channel-billed cuckoo name

To: "'Geoffrey Dabb'" <>
Subject: channel-billed cuckoo name
From: "Philip Veerman" <>
Date: Fri, 10 Dec 2010 11:28:26 +1100
Hi Geoffrey,
I think it curious that you should dislike this name. But my opinion of your opinion is of no importance. I wonder does anyone else dislike the name. I don't think of it as any more or less nice that most other bird names. Maybe something like Great Grey Cuckoo would be better. Certainly I think it is not as bad as Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike. But isn't your comment about Spoonbill valid mainly on the basis that there are several species of Spoonbill, thus making it suitable as a group name? Channel-bill as a group name doesn't work if there aren't others. Although there are some bird species with close relatives given as single words as though they are group names (Greenshank, Ruff, Dunlin, etc).
Thanks though for explaining that it really is about being a Groove-billed Cuckoo and so that might have been better. That is news to me. I had thought the Channel name was referring to that it had a very big bill. On the basis that ‘Groove-billed Ani’, is a member of the cuckoo family then it would have been awkward to call the Channel-billed Cuckoo a Groove-billed Cuckoo, as the two species would then be at risk of having the same name (if the group name Ani was removed).
-----Original Message-----From: Geoffrey Dabb [ Sent: Friday, 10 December 2010 7:58 AM
To:    Subject: RE: [canberrabirds] channel-billed cuckoo in Ainslie

An archaic, awkward and unattractive name, but one, like many others, that we are stuck with.  The name comes from grooves in the bill, being described in the 18th century as ‘channels’.  My Macquarie gives ‘a groove or furrow’ as meaning number 14 of 22 for ‘channel’, some distance after ‘a frequency band ...’ (number 9) or ‘a television station ..’ (number 10).   It would have been better to use ‘groove-billed’, as in ‘Groove-billed Ani’, a North American member of the cuckoo family.


Just ‘Channel-bill’ would have been better, the early name used by Latham in 1790.  Gould also used it, but he was not the first, contrary to JD Macdonald’s entry on the species.  After all we have such names as ‘Spoonbill’ and don’t have to say ‘Spoon-billed  Ibis’ or something of the sort.  It was the good old RAOU in 1926 that thought they would let everyone know that they knew it was really a cuckoo by creating ‘Channel-billed Cuckoo’, one of the least attractive names on the list.


I’ve never seen one in Canberra, but I once had one in my backyard in Port Moresby, sitting high up in the foliage of a Terminalia tree.


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