The bare-faced go-away-bird
overlooks his domain in Africa.
of anything! There are many
bird names that I like for various
reasons, often because they’re a
little funny in one way or another.
In Ecuador I’ve seen the super-ciliated hemispingus. There’s an
African bird called the bare-faced
go-away-bird. Here in the United
States, I think of birds that I’ve
heard mispronounced amusingly:
A friend’s young son got mixed
up about the name of tufted
puffins, calling them toasted
muffins. Another acquaintance
couldn’t manage to say “
storm-petrel” properly, and it always
came out “storm-pretzel.” Then
there’s the flammulated owl.
Who in the world knows what
“flammulated” means? (Okay, I
looked it up: According to the
Merriam-Webster dictionary it
means, “Having flame-shaped
markings—used of the plumage
of certain birds.”
I’m fond of bird names that are
connected to places I’ve called
home: the Baltimore oriole,
because I was born in Baltimore,
and the Cape May warbler,
because I live in Cape May. It’s
also difficult to disconnect a bird
name from the bird itself; I love
the name “gyrfalcon,” but that’s
partly because of the aura of
these great falcons of the North.
The old name of the eastern
(and spotted) towhee, rufous-
sided towhee, is one that I love
because of an experience from
my youth. I went backpacking
in Shenandoah National Park
with two friends during our high
school spring break one year, and
we saw dozens of these birds, but
none of us knew what they were.
None of us were birders at the
time. When we finished our hike,
we found a field guide and looked
up the bird, and we howled with
laughter because “rufous-sided
towhee” sounded so silly.
So, thanks for your question. I
didn’t really pick one favorite, but
it encouraged me to think about
ones that I especially like.