Isolation bird trivia questions ...

To: canberrabirds <>
Subject: Isolation bird trivia questions ...
From: John Harris <>
Date: Wed, 1 Apr 2020 23:56:55 +0000

Hi everybody, I am NOT a classical scholar but I am very interested in classical Greece. I gladly bow to those with more knowledge. I don’t own any of those interesting books about bird trivia. In trying to answer the cuckoo question, I dredged up old memories of Pliny saying they turned into hawks and Aristotle saying they did not. I did not bother to check the dates but the basic facts remain true, if not the time scale.

We smile at what we sophisticated modern people think are ancient ,simplistic, naïve beliefs but we too would have believed strange things had we been born back then. In the millennia before modern science, people were no doubt good natural observers, better than we are probably, but their conclusions were based upon their simple observations. Before people understood bird migration, they could only conclude that cuckoos must have turned into something else in winter

When people covered their floors with straw to soak up stuff, like sawdust in the butchers’ shops, it is not stupidity that led them to believe that mice were spawned in straw, just what their eyes told them. Similarly, frogs were created by muddy water. It is only a little harder to find a simple link between owls and wisdom or crows and treachery and so on. The Barnacle Goose  is so named because the ancients believed it began life under the sea ending up as a barnacle before becoming a goose in winter. It seems strange but it was an attempt to understand the goose’s disappearance in the Northern Summer and  its reappearance in Winter. No doubt the Inuit and the Laps of the far north welcomed their summer appearance as a food source, but the Classical naturalists did not yet know that the Arctic existed or what happened there.

A final piece of ancient bird trivia: Until a century or two ago, Catholics were permitted to eat barnacle geese on Fridays because they were presumed to be technically a kind of shellfish!!






From: "David McDonald (personal)" <>
Date: Thursday, 2 April 2020 at 10:16 am
To: chatline <>
Subject: [canberrabirds] Isolation bird trivia questions ...


Beware what you wish for ... I have a book Todd, FS 1994, 10,001 titillating tidbits of avian trivia, Ibis, San Diego, CA ... one a day should last us until the locked-down-at-home period ends?

On 2020-04-02 09:08, Terry Bell wrote:

Was the correct answer supplied by John Harris to the isolation trivia question.

Methinks that within COG ranks there are several classical scholars.

It may be interest that this information came from a 592 page book entitled Birds and People by Mark Cotter, photos by David Tipling, purchased for $5 at  the Rotary book fair. Something of a bargain for this publication originally cost UK 40 pounds sterling.

Sent from my iPad
This is the email announcement and discussion list of the Canberra Ornithologists Group.
Emails posted to the list that exceed 200 kB in size, including attachments, will be rejected.
All emails distributed via the list are archived at It is a condition of list membership that you agree to your contributions being archived.
When subscribing or unsubscribing, please insert the word 'Subscribe' or 'Unsubscribe', as applicable, in the email's subject line.
List-Post: <>
List-Help: <>
List-Unsubscribe: <>
List-Subscribe: <>
List manager: David McDonald, email <>


Message protected by MailGuard: e-mail anti-virus, anti-spam and content filtering.

Report this message as spam  

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the Canberra Ornithologists Group mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the list contact David McDonald, list manager, phone (02) 6231 8904 or email . If you can not contact David McDonald e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU