Re: birding-aus Bird raving

Subject: Re: birding-aus Bird raving
From: "Michael Jarman" <>
Date: Wed, 18 Aug 1999 02:45:56 PDT
hello birding-aus people

I am a recent subscriber to this list and must admit it is one of the most interesting roads I have taken on the "information highway", especially since I am a certified bird nut. It's good to see that people are willing to look out from behind their binoculars at the bigger picture occasionally and take up larger scale environmental problems (and political ones too). One thing I think we need to remember is that we are all on the same side. The love of birds (probably all things natural) is what unites the people who subscribe to such lists, and to quote someone or other "united we stand, divided we fall" Anyway thats not what I wanted to comment about.

The issue of Aboriginal bird names is an interesting one. When Australia was first invaded(bit of a contentious issue at the moment)there were about 700 different political groups in Australia which spoke an estimated 250 different languages. According to the book "Macquarie Aboriginal Words" these languages can be broken down into 26 different family like groups. With one group covering nine-tenths of the continent.

Even though the languages come from a common origin, the words for individual bird names are extremely diverse. For example the Budgerigar is called atetherre around Alice Springs, whereas just to the north of this area, the Wilpiri community call them kumulyurru or ngatijirri (Goddard, Aboriginal Bird Names, 1996). The Yindjibarndi in north-western Australia call them batharra (Macquarie Aboriginal Words, 1996). Reed, 1996 in his book "Aboriginal words of Australia" claims the Aboriginal name for Budgerigar is betcherrygah or gidgerigar, but he does not state from what Aboriginal language these names come. Maybe from around western N.S.W where the early explorers first travelled and experienced massive flocks of birds. Incidentally my parents told me when I was young that Budgerigar meant "good tucker" but I don't know where they heard that.

So, for each species there was probably up to 250 different Aboriginal names. I can understand why HANZAB has not included them all. Goddard in his book "Aboriginal Bird Names" lists the Yankunytjatjara (also Central Australia) name for the Willie Wagtail is tjintir-tjintir. It is said that tjintir-tjintir always told tales and gave secrets away.


Mike Jarman

From: Laurence and Leanne Knight <>
To: David McDonald <>
CC: birding Aus <>
Subject: Re: birding-aus Bird raving
Date: Wed, 18 Aug 1999 16:51:27 +1000

David McDonald wrote:
> I note that HANZAB has appendixes of Aboriginal names and commend the
> compilers for including these. Unfortunately the listings do not indicate
> which languages/localities the names come from.
> David

It would be interesting to know how many different Aboriginal names
there were for pan-Australian species, like magpies and peewees etc.

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