Monday, January 28, 2008

Local Names for Birds, Part Two

I begin Part Two with a list of a few more local names for birds:

  • Bull Bat, Common Nighthawk
  • August Bat, Common Nighthawk
  • Bee Martin, Eastern Kingbird
  • Till & Teal & Teal-Mouse, Tufted Titmouse
  • Jenny Wren, Carolina Wren, or maybe some other wren, (Bewick's Wren?)
  • Thresh, Brown Thrasher
  • Leaf Bird, Cape May Warbler (maybe other warblers, and vireos?)
  • Pewee Bird, Common Yellowthroat
  • Joreen, Eastern Towhee

I believe Bull Bat is used over the entire region by many speakers. Variants I have heard include August Bat, because as the speaker told me: "that's when they fly." I heard one speaker born in Giles County refer to the Common Nighthawk as Fall Bat, for the same reason.

When I was a kid I knew of several folks who would find a prominent place of nighthawk migration flight, and these men would aim their shot guns, sometimes rifles, and see how many they could kill. I don't know if any of these folks really believed these birds were bats, but that was the justification they used--sort of ridding the world of vermin I guess. Or maybe it was just an amusement for them. Right now I don't know of anyone who goes out hunting Bull Bats, so I guess that is a wee bit of progress. Of course, sad to say, the migration flights are nothing in number like they were fifty years ago, or even 25 years ago, when I could still see several thousand in an evening before sundown.

As for Bee Martin for Eastern Kingbird, I knew a couple of people who said that name, pointing out one perched on a bean pole. Sure enough it had a wasp in its bill.

I assume Till or Teal or Teal-Mouse is a dialect variant of Titmouse. The pronunciation is with a really long "eee" and some speakers say it with a glide that slides it into two syllables: "tee--eel". I know I have come home to my young time and place when I hear that name. Either that or a time warp is happening again.

I don't really know which wren people referred to when they said Jenny Wren but the only wren around was Carolina Wren. I believe the name came over from England, and there of course it must have referred to "THE wren" (aka, the Winter Wren, here). I'm just guessing, mind you.

Thresh is just a local variant on thrash, or thrasher.

I know a couple of people in Montgomery County, VA right along the New River who called the warbler we were watching a "leaf bird". It was pecking aphids very systematically from under the leaves of maples. The leaves were loaded with aphids, and the Cape May Warblers were chowing. They would just perch on twigs and peck and peck---this made for easy eating. One of the men said "this is what we've always called 'em" when I asked him about the name "leaf bird."
Actually this foraging strategy is quite typical of Cape May Warblers. It's a great way to glean food and store up energy for the long haul to the tropics, and the Cape Mays have already been traveling a long while before they get to our area in September.

The Pewee Bird is the one that started me bird watching at age five. My father showed me its nest. It took me several years to figure out what this yellow-breasted bird was. It also had a black mask. I eventually learned the book name---Common Yellowthroat. I sometimes tell kids this story, and I sometimes tell these kids that because it has a mask it is a bandit bird. I hope they know I'm joking.

The Joreen is a local name for the Towhee in Franklin County. I figure like "towhee" or "chewink" it is an echoic name for the towhee's call notes. I saw three Joreens in the catbriers in Radford this past Saturday, and they all said Joreen not Chewink. I guess the Eastern Towhee is my favorite bird, but ask me another day and I'll mutter something else is.

In a couple of weeks, I'll write a little about local names for insects.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here are some from Glen Eller:
Blue darter: Coopers or sharpie
Butcherbird: shrike
Flying cigar: chimney swift
Butter-butt: yellow-rumped warbler

He might recall more when his brain warms up.
Scott J-R