Southern Giant Petrel - English names

Subject: Southern Giant Petrel - English names
From: scouler <>
Date: Sun, 25 Nov 2001 08:41:28 +1000
Hello Anthony,

The name "goose" was given to the Southern Giant Petrel by 18th century sailors, such as those on Cook's voyages, apparently because of a fancied resemblance to the domestic bird. The derivation of "Mother Carey" is in dispute. One theory traces it to the phrase "Mater Cara", Latin for "Dear Mother" i.e. the Virgin Mary. Others ascribe it to "some unknown hag of that name"(Mother Carey), or a nautical corruption of a Spanish or an Italian name. The name "Nelly" was given to the SGP especially by whalers, but the source is unknown. "Stinker" and "stinkpot" were names by which the SGP was known to sealers and whalers, from its habit of regurgitating foul-smelling material and spitting it at intruders. I could find no mention of the name "bone-shaker" except in HANZAB, but I would hazard a guess that it might refer to the SGP's feeding behaviour, e.g. on  seal carcasses.

J.McDonald" Illustrated Dictionary of Australian Birds by Common Name" (1987)
Reader's Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds (1983 revision).

Colin Scouler.


Hi folks

I was just having a look at the SGPetrel section in HANZAB. There are several other names for the bird, and I would like to know how they came about. Some are obvious.

The ones I'm interested in are:
Mother Carey's or Sea Goose

Can anyone help?


Anthony Overs
Recovery Planning Officer
Threatened Species Unit
Southern Directorate
NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service
PO Box 2115 Queanbeyan NSW 2620
Ph: 02 6298 9730   Fax: 02 6299 4281

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