Other english names for Giant-Petrel

To: <>, "birding aus" <>
Subject: Other english names for Giant-Petrel
From: "Philip A. Veerman" <>
Date: Sat, 24 Nov 2001 12:43:17 +1100
Maybe people who have handled them (in banding adults at sea) can advise whether they stink (more than other sea birds). Young seabirds are said to vomit over people as a defensive measure. I have not been unlucky enough to experience that but I imagine that would be very smelly. Cayley's book also called them "Glutton".
One may need to ask who was "Mother Carey", probably noone. There is a book (I don't have it) about English bird names explained. Also J.D. McDonald's book "The Illustrated Dictionary of Australian Birds by common name" gives good clues. It also says Mother Carey's Chicken for Storm-Petrel. That provides a good clue, also in that Petrel comes from Saint Peter for walking on water (as the small petrels sometimes appear to do). It suggested that "Mother Carey" is a corruption of "mater cara" (apparently means holy mother or other such religious saying) "because seamen regarded them as harbingers of bad weather, to whom storm-tossed sailors prayed for protection". Also suggested from Mother Carey's Goose that sailors on Cook's voyages referred to the Giant-Petrel as such and it was "adopted it from some unknown hag of that name". A hag being a wild or unpleasant woman and the term "hag" is also used for wild caught female Peregrine Falcons. I suggest though it makes more sense that the origins of the names Mother Carey's Chicken and Mother Carey's Goose would have to be connected, with the obvious feature that the Southern Giant-Petrel is big! Maybe sailors ate these birds.
All very unpleasant concepts and I am only repeating prior suggestions.
-----Original Message-----
From: <>
To: <>
Date: Friday, 23 November 2001 15:40
Subject: Re: Other english names for Southern Giant-Petrel

Vulture of the sea was one of the more straight forward ones I could figure
out. I guess bone-shaker is like that too. But Mother Carey's Goose??
Where's that from? And do they actually stink?

I would have thought they relate to an amphropomorphic, derogatory description of the inelegant, even brutal, feeding methods of this bird. One of the Attenborough programs described them as vultures of the sea but they are also predators, rather less appealing in manner than vultures are.
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