By Jim Williams
Birds have common names and scientific names. Both offer valuable information, the latter often more informative and entertaining. I have a book entitled “The Dictionary of American Bird Names.” It was written by Ernest A. Choate, published by The Harvard Common Press in 1985. It’s both a useful reference tool and great fun to read. The House Wren, for example, has the Latin name Troglodytes aedon. Troglodytes refers to the wren family; all birds with this group name are members of the wren family. Aedon specifies a particular species, the one we know as House Wren. Troglodytes means cave dweller, given to wrens because they are cavity nesters. Aedon is from the Greek. Aedon, the daughter of Pandereus, was changed into a nightingale by the gods, but, as author Choate notes, into a wren by a fellow named Vieillot, who first gave the bird its formal name. House Wrens and nightingales share an ability to sing pretty songs. Sometimes that second or ‘trivial’ name honors a friend or associate of the person doing the naming. Lucy’s Warbler, for example: Vermivora luciae. Vermis is worm in Latin, voro Latin for eat: A family of birds that eats worms. Luciae is for Lucy Baird, daughter of an early and well-known ornithologist (Baird’s Sparrow is named for him). Below, Troglodytes aedon in song.