Waders or Shorebirds

To: Ian May <>
Subject: Waders or Shorebirds
From: Jill Dening <>
Date: Fri, 21 Jun 2013 11:19:10 +1000

Many years ago I made a conscious decision to adopt the term, "shorebirds". To me then they were "waders", but I made myself change.

Focussed as I am/was on shorebird education, I stand before audiences who are not shorebird people. They are local government officers, developers and the general public. The term "waders" caused confusion, and often needed explanation, whereas "shorebirds" was immediately understood. And as I was in the business of communicating, I adopted the term most easily understood by my audiences. I didn't care, as long as I could gain their attention, and not confuse them.

The day I was introduced to an audience as a member of the "Queensland Waiters' Study Group", I knew there was a problem with the word "waders". I had mentioned the group over the phone, and that was how it was interpreted, and that's what I became.



Jill Dening
Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

26° 51' 41"S  152° 56' 00"E

On 20/06/2013 8:59 PM, Ian May wrote:

g'Day Chris

My thoughts exactly.

In the late 1950's, the Bird Observers Club produced a magnificent
booklet "Field Guide to the Waders".   And later, wader enthusiasts
formed the Australian Wader Study Group. It was in the early 1960's when
Fred Smith first told me that the term "Shorebird was used in America to
describe waders.   By the mid 1960's we would occasionally hear the term
"shore bird" mainly when referring to the unabridged 1962 edition of a
book "Life Histories of North American Shore Birds".    By late 1960's a
few wader enthusiasts had a copy of that book but most of us considered
"shore bird" a foreign term used to describe waders if you were visiting
the United States and otherwise, best ignored.
I had the impression it was just another Americanism and probably used
by the same people who later referred to our Stone Curlews as
"Thicknees".    I remember when I first heard the term Thicknee.  Had a
chuckle at the sad corruption of a great name.   Most Ausies knew that a
"thicknee" was not a bird at all; but a symptom of an exotic venereal
disease brought home after an overseas deployment to Vietnam.
In a similar way the term "shore bird" is seen by some as a cringey
term.   But by the late 1990s "shore bird" had invaded our birding
vocabulary.    So much so now that if i mention waders to some of the
more recent birding enthusiasts, they look back at me as though I just
reported seeing a Pteranodon.  Probably the shorebird word/words has
crept into environmental learning courses more as a result that reflects
the American origins of the many university lecturers in that field that
have worked in Australia rather than any conscious decision to change
from the proper Australian use of the term "waders" and "migratory
waders" that should be used in Australia to describe birds of the order
"Charadriiformes". (alternative name Laro-Limicolae)

Ian May
St Helens, Tasmania

Chris Corben wrote:

Oh NO!

Has Australia adopted the American term?

On 06/19/2013 03:14 AM, Mike Carter wrote:

Fred was world famous for his observations on waders (which we now
call shorebirds)


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