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The Fantastic World of Bird Nicknames

Pileated Woodpecker

February and March always bring snow and ice storms, frequently resulting in power outages when living in the country. Fortunately the outage we had a couple of weeks ago was short lived and I didn’t have to get the generator out and running. With the wood stove stoked, and a cup of tea, just made before the power died, I headed for my favourite chair beside the window that looks out to our bird feeders, and picked up a magazine. A magazine devoted to birds and bird watching of course!

Reading an article on woodpeckers, the author referred to a Pileated woodpecker as a “Logcock”.  That was a term I had never heard and it got me thinking. How many birds do I know that have nicknames?  As I thought, quite a few came to mind.  Some made perfect sense, such as GBH (Great Blue Heron), others I am still trying to figure out.

Grabbing a pencil and paper, I always keep on the window sill I began to write them down.

An American Bald eagle is sometimes called a baldy!

Northern Harriers are also known as Gray ghosts. 

With their black and orange feathering, Eastern Towhees are Halloween birds.

“Reading an article on woodpeckers, the author referred to a Pileated woodpecker as a “Logcock”.  That was a term I had never heard and it got me thinking. How many birds do I know that have nicknames?”

Have you ever been scolded by a Chickadee?  That is why Chickadees are known as grumpies!

Duck hunters have provided the nicknames for many duck species.  Mallards are green heads; Common Goldeneyes are whistlers; Wood ducks are woodies; Pintails are sprigs; Northern Shovelers are spoonbills; Wigeons are baldpates; Hooded mergansers are hoodies and Common mergansers derived the nick name of sawbills.

Have you ever watched the flying and dancing courtship routine of an American Woodcock?  They are timbledoodles!

White breasted nuthatches are called assups, for obvious reasons by some of the locals, but a more widespread term is devil down head!

Turkey vultures are flying TV’s or just TV’s.

Common coots are skunk heads!

All sparrows are known as LBJ’s, or little brown jobs.  The English sparrow is a flying rat!

Butter butt is the nickname of the Yellow-rumped warbler.

Shrikes are called butcher birds.

American bitterns are thunder pumpers.

Chuck’s widow is a goatsucker!

That’s when I got stuck and couldn’t think of any more. There are just about 10,000 species of birds in the world, I wonder how many of them have a nickname?  Someone must have made a list. A Google  search will likely reveal a good number, but we don’t have any power — for once, I’m glad we don’t!

It is amazing what the mind will dwell on while the power is out during an ice storm!

To learn more about birds in our region, come by the office or visit our properties!

David A. Homer is a volunteer and on the Board of Directors at The Couchiching Conservancy, a non-profit land trust dedicated to protect nature for future generations (including Barred Owls).