Explanation for the naming of the "Regent"

Subject: Explanation for the naming of the "Regent"
From: Colin Scouler <>
Date: Fri, 11 Jun 2010 23:47:07 +1000
I'm aware of an alternative explanation for the use of the name "Regent" for Australian birds.

In an email I sent to birding-aus on 2/12/2003, I quoted an article which Ian McAllan had written in the then current issue ofw "Birds NSW", the journal of NSW Atlassers.

Ian referred to an unpublished manuscript in which a man named John Skottowe claimed that he had collected the first specimen of the Regent Bowerbird in 1812. He had named it in honour of the Prince Regent, later George IV. The Prince had been appointed Regent in 1811 when his father George 111 became mentally incapable. Originally, Parliament placed limitations on his powers as Regent, but in 1812 these were removed. According to Skottowe, on the very day he collected the Regent Bowerbird he received the news in New South Wales that the Prince had assumed the full powers of regency. He wrote, perhaps sarcastically, that he named the bird because of the esteem he bore towards the Prince (who was widely unpopular).

In fact as Ian pointed out, Skottowe was not the first to collect the Regent Bowerbird. It was collected in 1801 by John Lewin , who described it in 1808.

Ian surmised, plausibly, that once the name "Regent" became associated with one striking black and yellow bird, it was natural enough to attach it to others, i.e. the Honeyeater and the Parrot . As has been noted, one of the early names of the Regent Honeyeater was "False Regent-bird",

I'm inclined to think that the story of regents wearing black and gold uniforms, while it is often repeated is an example of folk etymology.

Colin Scouler.

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