Birds and Etymology

To: birding <>
Subject: Birds and Etymology
From: scouler <>
Date: Fri, 24 Aug 2001 06:47:50 +1000

I'm delighted to see that Syd Curtis and Andrew Taylor have opened a
thread on birds and etymology, which are my two great passions.

It gives me a chance to share a charming example of name derivation
which I ran across in HANZAB a few weeks ago. The scientific name for
the Common Greenshank is Tringa nebularis. The specific name is a
compound of the Latin "nebula" mist or cloud, and "-aris" possessing,
and alludes to the grey spangled appearance of the bird's upperparts.
But what caught my eye was an alternative etymology, which suggests that
the basis of the name is  reflected in the Norwegian word "skoddefole"
meaning "mist foal". To me that's an term which sounds like something
straight out of the ancient Sagas. It apparently refers to the misty
regions in far northern Eurasia where the CG breeds.

Incidentally, the old name "Sordid Woodswallow" for  the Dusky
Woodswallow which Stuart Dashper mentioned is no doubt derived from the
Latin "sordidus" meaning dirty, with reference to the colouration.

Colin Scouler

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