Re: Subject: [Birding-Aus] Re 'Jabiru'

To: Chris Sanderson <>
Subject: Re: Subject: [Birding-Aus] Re 'Jabiru'
From: Mark Carter <>
Date: Tue, 24 Nov 2009 11:10:48 +0000 (GMT)
On any given night in an Alice Springs supermarket que up to 10 aboriginal 
languages can be heard being spoken enthusiastically and (I have to assume) 
I don't want to sell aboriginal folk as some sort of noble savages but it 
really is the case that many traditional people out here have a relationship 
with their birds which goes far beyond eating them- I have been pretty amazed 
by the depth of  bird knowledge in traditional stories out in the Red Centre, 
but also the variety- I have been told 3 radically different stories about 
willie wagtails by people from different language groups. Birds had other uses 
besides food- zebra finch (or should that be zebra waxbill?) behaviour for 
example in most desert regions is a great way to find surface water as they 
have to drink very frequently.
Most names for birds seem to be derived from their calls- zebra finch locally 
to Alice is called 'nink' or 'ninka' which is of course the usual call they 
make! It makes many of them quite elegant and adds an extra element to birding 
by ear when you know some of these names.
With regards the pronounciation of the names I have found the modern written 
phonetics developed by academics linguists to be a real hinderance for us 
english speakers. For example, willie wagtail in Eastern Arrernte (roughly 
pronounced 'Arranda') is spelled Artityerrityerre but pronounced 
'ar-didge-a-didge' which is a really good approximation of a willie wagtail 
alarm call. I recon stuff the linguists and just write it Ar-didge-a-didge!
Perhaps us birders need to explore this idea further? I hear Bob Gosford up in 
the Tanami is on the verge of publishing a book on ethno-ornithology which will 
hopefully inspire more thought on this:

--- On Tue, 24/11/09, Chris Sanderson <> wrote:

From: Chris Sanderson <>
Subject: Re: Subject: [Birding-Aus] Re 'Jabiru'
To: "Greg Little" <>
Cc: "Mark Carter" <>, 
Date: Tuesday, 24 November, 2009, 8:45

Not sure this is strictly true Greg.  Willie Wagtails would barely be a 
mouthful, but I know at least one big creation myth features Willie Wagtails 
(the trickster I think) centrally.  I would struggle to believe they didn't 
have names for anything they couldn't use, naming things is just something 
humans do.  Perhaps the fault lies with the anthropologists for not recording 
the names or asking the right questions?  And for those mentioning different 
languages in Australian indiginous peoples, there are in fact over 400 language 
groups, but many of these are now lost completely.  I believe there are only 3 
indiginous languages still spoken fluently so perhaps the choice is being made 
for us?


On Tue, Nov 24, 2009 at 7:11 PM, Greg Little <> wrote:


Good call, but from my understanding of Aboriginal names they named
things that they could eat or use or that otherwise affected their lives

and ignored the rest. So we would still be stuck with names for the

Greg Little

Greg Little - Principal Consultant
General Flora and Fauna
PO Box 526
Wallsend, NSW, 2287, Australia
Ph    02 49 556609

Fx    02 49 556671

-----Original Message-----

 On Behalf Of Mark Carter
Sent: Tuesday, 24 November 2009 1:55 PM

Subject: Subject: [Birding-Aus] Re 'Jabiru'

I agree with Philip Veerman's post- the confusing 'Jabiru' is just the
tip of the iceberg when it comes to Australian bird common names. I
think settlers did Australian birds a great diservice when they set

about naming them after the vaguely similar species of elsewhere but it
was understandible. What I don't understand is the way 21st century
ornithology persists with these clumsy confusing labels. A Red-capped

Robin is not a robin in much the same way than a Koala bear is not a
bear. Mammologists have gotten over this dodgy inheritance years ago-
native cats are now almost universally renamed quolls, marsupial mice
are now dunnarts (or antichinus or psuedo antichinus or...) and

porcupines are now echidnas.
Australian birds such as shrike-thrushes, woodswallows, wrens, chats,
magpies, babblers and treecreepers are intrinsically awesome and don't
deserve to be encumbered by these clumsy, 2nd hand, confusing and often

dreadful misnomers (shrike-thrush particularly makes me cringe). These
is a vast and rich source of authentic names in the many Aboriginal
languages of our continent- is it outragous to suggest we consider this?

Mark Carter
Alice Springs

Date: Mon, 23 Nov 2009 23:15:24 +1100
From: "Philip Veerman" <>

Subject: [Birding-Aus] Re 'Jabiru'
To: "'Tony Russell'" <>
Cc: "Birding-aus \(E-mail\)" <>

Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/plain;    charset="us-ascii"

Surely their proper name is the Australian Black Satin-necked non-jabiru
Stork. (joke)

Why doesn't some book author take the initiative to rename some bird
groups to simpler things, like rename the Cuckoo-shrikes as Cush e.g.
"Black-faced Cush" and likewise invent other new names, so we can

dispense with all those silly names like "Cuckoo-shrike" (not a joke).
After all, names are just labels, why not have distinctive ones that
don't give wrong impressions.

Philip Veerman
24 Castley Circuit

Kambah  ACT  2902

02 - 62314041

To unsubscribe from this mailing list,
send the message:
(in the body of the message, with no Subject line)

No virus found in this incoming message.
Checked by AVG -
Version: 8.5.425 / Virus Database: 270.14.79/2522 - Release Date:

11/23/09 19:45:00

To unsubscribe from this mailing list,

send the message:
(in the body of the message, with no Subject line)

To unsubscribe from this mailing list,
send the message:
(in the body of the message, with no Subject line)
<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 birding-aus 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 archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU