Sunday, 1 September 2013

On common names

Dear Editor

Several types of honeyeaters are regular visitors to the garden. Among them is this species, which, as you can see, has a beige (or possibly ecru) back, yellow edges to the wings and tail, and a yellow patch behind the eye. It also has light grey underparts.

Its Latin name is Lichmera indistincta. Its common name is the brown honeyeater.

See this honeyeater with its brown back and brown belly and brown head that's as brown as a double-coated milk chocolate Tim Tam? Do you know what its common name is? The dusky honeyeater. (Its Latin name is Myzomela obscura.)

Well, yes, I suppose it is dusky. But do you know what would be a better descriptor for it? Brown. Because that's what it bleedin' well is.

Look, the red-headed honeyeater has a red head, the banded honeyeater is banded, the bar-breasted honeyeater does, indeed, have bars across its breast and the grey honeyeater is the very epitome of grey. Any number of honeyeaters fit the adjectives used to describe them. Except for the brown honeyeater, because the brown honeyeater  is Not Actually Brown.

I believe the field guides are, as the youngsters say nowadays, trolling us. 

Yours etc

Disgruntled of Tunbridge Wells


diane b said...

hee hee you have me giggling. I like his yellow tinged wings. Eat some Double coated TIM TAMS, that will get you out of the grumps.

Snail said...

Where's the like button?!

I wish I could get a decent pic of the dusky honeyeaters. They're quite common here, but the little devils don't pose nicely.

Both species have lovely rich songs and they're not shy about their voices!

Ian Smissen said...

Nice work! I just love a good ornithological rant ;-)
Nice blog too.
Cheers, Ian

Snail said...

Thanks, Ian :) A little rant is good for ya now and again!