Some Pet Peeves Regarding Birds And Terminology

I suspect all of us have personal pet peeves about things that are important to us. These are some of mine regarding birds and the words that some people apply to them.

 

california gull 4912 ron dudley

There’s no such thing as a seagull. Each of the dozens of species of gulls in the world has a common name and not one of them includes the word “seagull”. This is a California Gull, not a seagull or California Seagull.

 

 

canada goose 3578 ron dudley

There’s also no such thing as a Canadian Goose. Their accepted common name is Canada Goose.

We have Canadian bacon and Canadian whiskey (I’m fond of both…) and my mother was a Canadian citizen when I was born but there’s no bird species correctly called a Canadian Goose.

 

 

red tailed hawk 7499 ron dudley

It rankles me when folks assign gender to a bird when sex is not known – usually by referring to the bird as “he”.

In many bird species such as Red-tailed Hawks the sexes are similar and gender typically cannot be determined by casual observation. True, one can sometimes use relative size of the sexes (or behavioral observations) to sex the birds and some species are easy to sex based on sexual dimorphism based on color or other traits but when gender is not really known I think it’s a disservice to readers or listeners (and even to the birds) to say or imply that it is.

 

I’ve saved the best (worst?) for last.

 

long billed curlew egg 8198 (2)

Birds are not “born”.

No bird species gives birth to live young (though some reptiles and fish do). Bird eggs are laid and then hatch. Mammals are born (with the exception of egg-laying Monotremes like the platypus and spiny anteater which do hatch). It’s far from a pedantic distinction in my opinion.

  • Sadly, this Long-billed Curlew egg did not hatch. It appears that its contents were eaten by a predator. I watched as one of the parent curlews in flight dropped it on a gravel road so I was able to retrieve it.

Perhaps some readers have their own pet peeves regarding birds and the terminology applied to them – if so feel free to mention them in the comments if you like. And since I write about birds a lot I may be guilty of violating some of them. If so, it’s fair game to point it out.

And it may be that one of your pet peeves is bloggers who are too nit-picky about bird terminology. That’s on the table too, though I’ll likely defend my position if I feel it’s warranted…

Ron

 

78 comments to Some Pet Peeves Regarding Birds And Terminology

  • Sandra

    Nest “bole” or nest “bowl?”

  • Arwen Lynch

    I knew most but not the seagull thing. I think Jonathan Livingston ruined me. 🙂

  • Fritzie Blizzard

    Excellent topic with positive complaints/thoughts. I use the names Snows, Blues & Canadas when talking to other birders
    but I, too, cringe when I hear the “one-name-fits-all” for gulls & “Canadian” for geese. I HATE when someone has no other
    descriptive or responsive word than “COOL!” I wonder if the person EVER thinks how stupid “cool” sounds? And as for
    “chicken hawks” … I am nearly 83 yrs. old & the name came into being LONG before television & “Henery Hawk”
    Keep up the good work, Ron!

  • Mikal Deese

    Ahem….dearest Ron, it seems the appropriate moment to say they are “Red-tailed” Hawks, not a “Red-tails”. Sibley’s used as authority again. Oh, I feel so much better now that we have all these kinks worked out.

    • Dearest Mikal, Of course they are Red-tailed Hawks.

      IMO, using a shortened version of an accepted common name is not comparable to using a name that is not accepted by the vast majority of bird authorities and bird enthusiasts. “Red-tail” is commonly used by those folks informally. “Seagull” is not. “Red-tail” is part of the name Red-tailed Hawk. “Seagull” isn’t’ part of the name of any bird.

      It becomes a little (but not much) murkier with “Canadian Goose” since Canadian is a form of the word Canada. But again, “Canadian Goose” is not used by authorities and enthusiasts and is generally disdained by them so I’ll stick to my guns.

      Of course that’s just my opinion – others may and do vary and that’s just fine.

      On this blog I often use those shortened names when I’ve already introduced the species by its formal common name (or when I begin to run out of room in my title box) because some of those long names become cumbersome when used repeatedly in a short amount of text.

      But in hindsight, especially in this context, if I had it to do over again I’d use Red-tailed Hawk instead of Red-tail. Live and learn… 🙂

      • I love seagulls, and I love the word “seagull”. It means someone is paying attention. It’s in every dictionary, and for many would-be birders, it’s a “gateway” bird. In other words, it’s a group of birds that they have been able to visually separate from all those other birds. It’s a generic, perhaps antiquated name for a type of bird. That’s it. Marsh hawk, specklebelly, and so many other common names for so many common birds, yet it’s the word “seagull” that is like nails on a chalkboard for so many people. Why is that?

        I think it’s because it’s almost a rite of passage for many novice birders. They refer to a bird as a seagull in the company of a slightly better birder. “Pfft… There’s no such thing as a “seagull,” they are chided, with a tone of disdain from someone who may not be able to tell a Mew from a Herring Gull. Lesson learned, and passed down at every opportunity. I’ve seen this interaction turn people away from birding and creating a bad impression of birders and naturalists in general. If you can’t survive the putdown over “seagull”, you can’t be one of us. Pecking order in action!

        Let’s just recognize that someone who uses the word seagull has expressed a genuine interest in separating the birds into groups. They know it’s not a duck or a hawk or a goose. They might not have the accepted terminology of the experts, but it’s a legitimate word for members of the general public. Let’s stop using this ritual to prove that we know more than the speaker and instead help them find their way. How about this? “Look at those seagulls!” “Actually, there are four kinds of gulls in that group. See the small one with the black wing-tips? That’s a Mew Gull. And the larger one there with the red and black dot on the bill? That’s a California Gull.” etc. Then you can bring up the fact that most birders prefer the word “gull” over “seagull” without sounding condescending.

        How can you be a seagull if you never see the sea? Same way that you can be a shorebird without ever visiting a shore, or a Purple Finch without being Purple or a Hairy Woodpecker without a single hair on your body. We have lots of “insider” terminology in our realm, for sure!

        • I grew up by the sea, and they will always be seagulls to me! Actually, I grew up by the ocean, so maybe they should have been called “oceangulls”? Do I know that there are numerous types of gulls? Yes. Do I care if others refer to them all as “seagulls”? Not in the least. I’m just happy that they’re out enjoying the natural wonders. If they can also tell an osprey from a gull/seagull, then that’s just icing on the cake.

      • Laura Culley

        Well, if you’re going to be grammatically correct, it’s Red-tailed hawk (hyphenated because red and tailed cannot stand alone in description of the noun, hawk) or redtails. But so few people know that rule. That’s my Editor and Perfectionist selves talking. 🙂

  • If there is no such thing as a seagull, then there is no such thing as a shorebird, seabird, or sea duck. I don’t know why the use of seagull (a legitimate dictionary word) rankles people more than the use of shorebird for a bird that hangs out in fields or a sandpiper that is only found on rocks. I’m just happy that people are talking about birds!

    • Here’s the way I would respond to that, Ann. A shorebird is a legitimate, recognized category of birds. Seagull is not.

      But I do agree with your last sentence. Strongly.

  • Bob

    Hi Ron,
    I have yet to see a seagull while observing gulls on the Niagara River.
    My pet peeve is when newspaper articles and/or editorials use all lower case for common names of animals. Such as “little gull” or in a more recent editorial I read about wind turbines, “little brown bat”. Though the gull is small in size it should be written as Little Gull.
    My first visit to your blog and I’ll continue to drop by from time to time.

    • Bob, IMO there’s no question that the professional standards of media have taken a nosedive for a variety of reasons that most of us are likely aware of. Some of those reasons are, under the circumstances, legitimate and understandable. But many of them are not.

      You’re peeve reminded me of another one of mine – media including an incorrect soundtrack of a raptor screaming (usually a Red-tailed Hawk) when the accompanying video shows another raptor altogether. Shameful and lazy IMO…

  • One of the birders in our group asked us to consider the plural of titmouse…..He says that name comes from old English, where mouse means bird and tit is small. So, he proposes”titsmouse ,” as the plural. We’re having fun with this one.
    As for pronouns for a bird whose sex is unknown, how about the following sentence as a different way:When the red tail flew from the post, the bird dropped it’s prey….
    And, speaking of dropping, what about the curlew dropping the eggshell that had been predated? Reminds me of elephants carrying around bones of their dead relatives…I want to know more about this eggshell-carrying behavior.
    Sue

    • I could have a lot of fun with your titmouse game too, Sue…

      Regarding this eggshell-carrying behavior. When curlew chicks hatch the adults usually only carry the shells a very short distance from the nest before discarding them. This parent obviously carried the predated egg a great distance. I can’t help but wonder if the difference is some kind of response to the predation itself.

    • Becky

      “…the bird dropped it’s prey….” One of my biggest pet peeves. “It’s” is the contraction of It is. The pronoun NEVER requires an apostrophe. You would not say dropped it is prey. I’m in agreement with the use of the pronoun “its” when the sex is unknown. Wish more folks would follow that rule.

  • ‘Seagull’ (it even hurts to type it!) tend to make my blood pressure go up! Also, people who post about how cruel nature is, especially after seeing a bird of prey kill a song bird!

    Cheers – SM

  • Laura Culley

    EXCELLENT post! And I’m right there with you on all of them (although I do tend to default to she for redtails–it’s all Mariah’s fault!)
    But here’s another one! Falconers who call their redtails and Harris’ hawks HENS and ROOSTERS! That galls me to my bone marrow! They’re NOT chickens! They EAT chickens! And how disrespectful! DARGH!
    The Harris’ hawk thing is more about the publishing industry. Current usage deletes the s after the apostrophe if the name/word ends in s. But it’s about saving ink and space, a little here and a little there. ACTUALLY, they’re bay-winged hawks 😀 And they’re cool critters NOT to be termed as HENS and ROOSTERS!

  • I am almost certain I am at least occasionally guilty. I will try and do better. All gulls are seagulls here in the common vernacular even though I suspect the majority have never, and will never, see the ocean.

    • I think all of us are likely “occasionally guilty”, EC. Me included, especially in the field when I sometimes refer to a bird as “he” or “she” when I don’t know that for fact. It’s a hard habit to break but I think it’s worth the effort to try.

  • April Olson

    You nailed some of my daughters pet peeves. She added that every bird is an “eagle” and people sending her bad blurry photos of birds for her to identify. I guess I am more forgiving and very guilty of calling all unknown gender birds “her”.

    • I know about that “bad blurry photos for ID” thing, April, all too well. In addition “they” often don’t even tell you when and where the photo was taken…

  • Briang

    and birds, for the most part, do not have, use, occupy, or sleep in nests except when they are incubating eggs or raising nestlings.

    they may roost in a tree for the night during the winter, but they are not nesting there.

  • Dan Gleason

    I agree with you on all of these, Ron. In fact, gulls,and the fact that they are not “seagulls”, was the topic of my March article for the column I write each month for our local newspaper. There is a big one for me that you didn’t mention and that’s “buzzard.” Buzzards are Buteos in Europe, NOT Turkey Vultures. Some other names we are simply stuck with, even though they are not always appropriate. Black-headed Grosbeak, Red-winged Blackbird, and many others do well at describing the male, but tell us nothing about the female. She simply has to carry his name. This was pointed out by Florence Merriam Bailey in her book Birds Through an Opera-Glass, published in 1890.

    • Patty Chadwick

      In many languages, if there is ONE MALE in a group of thousands, the male ending is used to refer to the whole damnedi group…and how about MANkind? MAN? etc. Have you any idea how “reductive” that feels???!!! Try a lifetime of similar “reductive” terminologies….yes, we do notice!

    • You made several good and interesting points in your comment, Dan. Wish I’d thought of them when I was writing this post!

  • Dick Harlow

    Well, you hit on one of my pet peeves – “Seagulls”, when living by the ocean that used to gaul me when people called any whitish bird flying around docks or over the ocean “seagulls.” The way I got rid of my frustration was to talk loud to anyone that was with me and specifically identify (common name) the individual gulls that we were looking at and try and turn it into a teaching situation. Better than getting upset. Most people haven’t a clue and need and in some cases are willing to learn.
    I think we all get verbally lazy and use some of these terms when we’re not thinking. But, most of us here on this blog are the choir. There are many others out and about who really don’t understand correct word usage and bird common names.

    • You’re right, Dick – many folks refer to any large, mostly white bird as a gull. I’ve heard White Pelicans and terns referred to as gulls, and others.

  • Marvin Miller

    I really enjoy your photos and descriptions Ron. Being an Idaho farm boy, most of my experience with gulls come from watching them hover above the tractor as we plowed up the alfalfa fields in the spring. They were watching for meadow voles which were exposed as the earth was turned over. The voles provided a quick lunch for the always hungry gulls. Some of the larger voles were pretty feisty, and sometime the gulls would take them up quite high and drop them back on the unplowed ground to take some of the fight out of them before they wolfed them down. Not knowing their different names we always just called them all seagulls, which I guess is better than bagels.

    • Marvin, I had the same experience with gulls while I was driving tractor as a kid on our Montana family farm. They were about the only entertainment I had out there on those very long work days.

  • “There’s no such thing as a seagull” and “There’s also no such thing as a Canadian Goose”. I’m guilty of both. Never gave it any thought. I will now, though. Thanks for the education. All of the photos presented here are very nice but the Red-tailed Hawk photo is especially so.

  • Patty Chadwick

    Terminology aside, these images are fantastical(ly) beautiful “eye candy”…very graceful wing positions…egg is a speckled beauty…

  • deborah donelson

    All this and more! My current extreme pet peeve is the overuse of the adjective “cute” to describe wild critters. Yes, they are indeed extremely appealing. But relating to them as “cute” removes them from their wild context – and creates all kinds of negative actions. It stimulates our “I want” response. Like taking wild babies from their nests to “raise” as “pets”. Like being so busy cooing over their appearance that we forget the damage that is being done to these same cuties through our human behaviors. ie habitat loss, tree pruning during nesting season, recreational hunting, the windows in our homes, lead ammunition, sloppy hunting and fishing habits, spring traps, sticky traps, ad infinitum. Cute is an essentially reductive concept. I am writing this from the viewpoint of a wildlife rehabilitator, and see these effects all the time. I’m sure most people will object, but if one thinks deeply about it, it may make sense. Sorry Ron, you got me going!

  • Sallie Reynolds

    Well, Devil’s Advocate, that’s me. I prefer “he” to “it,” which seems to objectify the bird – and that divides us from them in ways that are pretty negative. We do enough of that in all ways, including shooting them as “nuisances.” “He” at least gives the creature the importance we would give a person. I was chided as a child for using “human” pronouns for individuals of other species, and told that they were “only” animals. Took me a couple of decades to reply that we, too, are only animals, and that they all have lives as important to them as ours are to us. We don’t respect them sufficiently. If the circumstances were reversed, I’d rather be mistaken for a male of the species than considered an “it.” Just my two cents.

    • An interesting perspective, Sally.

    • Ron, I was going to offer the same comment. I use “he” and “she” pronouns as a way to reduce the objectification of other species. Language is incredibly powerful in terms of how we view “the other,” and I believe one of the ways to begin changing our current, exploitative paradigm toward wildlife is to not allow for objectifying terms like “harvest” or “it.” The problem is, of course, sex identification which as you rightly point out, cannot be easily discerned in many animals. It is, indeed, factually incorrect to do as I do. We need a better gender-neutral pronoun in those situations. There’s a farm sanctuary working on this same model, with a campaign about “who not what,” as a way to get people to consider who animals are, beyond their plate.

      Seagull and gull … yeah! Seagull does not allow for the beautiful diversity among gulls.

      • “We need a better gender-neutral pronoun in those situations”

        That may be the best solution, Ingrid.

        However, I must admit that I don’t see using “it” to refer to a bird or other animal as objectifying it or implying a reduction of its value – at least not in my own eyes. And I find using “it” much preferable to referring to a female as “he” (or vice versa) because doing so is not only inaccurate but misleading and it perpetuates more errors down the road from others. I’d feel like I was essentially lying about the bird.

        The lesser of two evils…

        • Ingrid

          Ron, I’m going to reconsider my usage here, based on your comments. As a writer, I do have a conflict with factually inaccurate words, as I’ve occasionally employed. But it’s very, very hard for me to apply “it” because of its common application toward inanimate objects. Most humans would object to their babies referred to as “it” when people didn’t recognize the gender, right? Maybe I’ll employ the annoying s/he pronoun. 😉

          There’s a history of people trying unsuccessfully to introduce a gender-neutral pronoun into the English language, for various reasons. That would be the solution. We live in a world where understanding our critical inter connectivity is essential to our survival. And I would argue that separation by language, although subtle, is more powerful than people realize in building perceptions and reactions. I’ve seen this shift myself when I’ve talked to people about a wild animal, and refer to a female accurately as “her.” Young children, in particular, show an interest, then, in “her” preferences or “his” feelings, as one example. Words allow people to more closely identify with another person or being. I just need to find a better way to do that which doesn’t repel scientists and other writers alike.

          • Laura Culley

            Ingrid wrote, “And I would argue that separation by language, although subtle, is more powerful than people realize in building perceptions and reactions.”
            Ingrid, I agree completely. My epiphany on the separation created by our language happened on the Oregon coast about 30 years ago when I saw a small group of whales, my first real-time experience. Close to shore, I saw a female with her calf. A little farther out, there were another half dozen whales who (<–not that*) formed a semi-circle of what could not have been anything else but a wall of protection. A flash of comprehension seared my consciousness that how we name other beings on this planet creates a wall of separation in our understanding. This was not a cow and her calf, but instead, a mother and her child. The separate words create a barrier of understanding in an us-and-them paradigm that also set up the idea that they (them) are less than us. Of course, the root of that way of thinking comes out of the idea of dominion over this spinning rock, which comes out of our steadfast belief that we're the biggest and best critter on this crazy spinning rock. I'd also argue that the language separation is not subtle at all. Instead, it's both profound and pervasive. I maintain that we're all in this party together, that we have a lot to learn from other species, that we need each other and each of us has a critical role in our collective survival. And yes, I'm a heretic!
            *Passive voice employed to work in the who/that concept this morning during first cup of coffee 😀

          • Laura, what a beautiful reply and articulation of your experience. I understand the emotional turning point of which you speak, and it does seem the mother-child connection and bond, along with the familial, is among the most powerful and poignant through which to make that association.

            I like your comment about the profound and pervasive effect of language. You’re right. I tend to view it as subtle simply because words underly all of our ideas as a hidden force. But, to your point, language really is a an overt and powerful way to influence outcomes.

            Have you read Carl Safina’s “Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel”? I appreciate that, as an ecologist, Safina addresses the idea of individuals in animal populations as opposed to wild animal populations at large … you know, “resources.” I believe this slow-creeping change within the scientific community is critical to the cultural shift you describe, and I hope and pray it portends of our future relationship to other species. We do, indeed, have much to learn from other animals.

            So, Laura, how do you personally get around the “it” and “she/he” conundrum in animals where gender isn’t clear?

            Ron, thanks so much for setting up this subject as launch point for this interesting discussion! 🙂

          • Laura Culley

            Hi Ingrid,
            Negotiating the “it” has always been problematic for me. When writing/speaking of living intelligent beings, the whole idea of “it” rankles in my soul. With the written word, I tend to default to the obnoxious but inclusive s/he, a shorthand to the she-or-he/he-or-she construct. Over the years, I’ve just come to terms with s/he and don’t even find it necessary to hold my nose anymore. For me, “it” is far more obnoxious because it strips being-ness away, reducing the critter involved into something akin to a brick, a kumquat or a Buick. And I simply refuse to do that.
            With raptors, the problem is the tweeners–the individuals who are not big enough to be an obvious female, nor small enough to be an obvious male. I tend to default to she, just because Mariah is a petite Western female and I adore her. It’s somewhat annoying to know that THEY know at first glance. To them, there’s some aspect that’s invisible to us but is blatantly obvious to them, just as it is with humans. But they also know male/female in our species when it becomes an issue to them.
            Overall, I wonder why knowing the male-female distinction is so important to us. In chat, knowing male-female with the eyas redtails seems to be THE most asked question from the moment they emerge from the egg. I guess it’s a human thing since it’s so obvious in our species. Personally, it’s not necessary for me to know that until it becomes apparent, or not. And since I don’t have a scale available, I can only make an educated guess with the size of the feet, head shape and overall attitude that emerges later, sometime around fledge time. So I just let those who need to do so speculate as much as they want.
            I’ve become much more aware of my language over the years, especially when I’m writing, or when I’m presenting concepts to others in an educational format. One of the first things that rattled in my mind when Mariah arrived in my life was the usage of common when describing a redtail hawk. That word carries a lot of dismissive baggage with it, acts as a gateway to the idea of “just a redtail” and there’s nothing common about them whatsoever. The objective in using that word is to convey that they’re abundant or plentiful. There’s another better word that’s not coming to mind right now.
            The other idea that clanks around annoyingly is the idea of ownership–the idea that any of these birds belongs to me in any real way within the context of MY husband/wife, my dog or cat or my anybody else for that matter. They are no more “mine” than the air I breathe. The idea is so pervasive and yet so absolutely unnecessary and often just WRONG in so many different ways. My journey in falconry has allowed, no forced me to question everything I thought I knew about so many ideas.
            I feel the need to apologize. It’s late, I’m tired, my eyes are crossing and there’s so much more I want to say, but for now, please forgive the stream-of-consciousness spewing 🙂 Your post deserved a much more thoughtful and well-considered response. But I’ll leave you with the idea that our language is often so inadequate when you’re trying to convey something profound and, well the only word I’ve got is magic. And that begs the question about why that is.

  • Linda

    I was thinking that you sounded like a grouchy old fart….then I realized it bugs me when people interchange “antlers” and “horns” (not the same thing!!!!) and call snakes “poisonous” instead of “venomous”. I would teach a niece who was hiking with me, and maybe a friend if I was SURE they would not take offense at being corrected, but I usually just let it pass in the case of overhearing strangers. As to birds, I grew up saying Canadian geese, but corrected it early. Seagulls vs gulls…..that’s a new one for me, so I may be guilty, but I don’t really know! (I will be aware of it now, just in case!)

    • Sometimes I AM a grouchy old fart, Linda! 🙂

      Antlers and horns is another one of my peeves. But I agree, correcting strangers in person probably isn’t a good idea generally…

  • CharlotteNorton

    Good ones Ron. I often find myself doing one in particular that annoys me (the use of he rather than.it.)

    Charlotte

    • That’s one I have to fight when I’m in the field with birds, Charlotte. It’s just so easy to do. It’s another thing I’m working on but I do much better at it when I’m writing about birds.

  • Patty Chadwick

    How much sea would a seagull see, if a sea gull could see sea???

  • Patty Chadwick

    An interesting blog re terminology…my pet peeve is the current mangling of the English language in general, especially by “Professional Talkers “, who mispronounce, misuse, and generally mangle our language in writing , but especially on TV…the examples are endless! I’m bugged by hearing the term CANADIAN geese, and birds being “born”, but admit to supreme personal ignorance re: gulls. As usual, learned something new…have been calling them all “sea gulls”, or just “gulls”, for my whole life..only a slight step better than what one of my children used to call them…”seagles” (as in eagles). The purpose of language is to transfer and share ideas, thoughts, concepts, as accurately as possible. When the language used is sloppy and inaccurate, there’s a breakdown in understanding…sad!

    • Patty, IMO it’s perfectly acceptable to refer to them generically as “gulls” – after all they ARE gulls. They’re just not seagulls.

  • Mark Amershek

    When I was a kid growing up in rural Eastern Kansas all Red-tailed Hawks(and probably applied to all hawks)were called Chicken Hawks. I remember that my Aunt who lived on a remote farm had many dead hawks nailed to to her chicken coop. Needless to say she was a accurate with a shotgun. I believe that she thought that all hawks would swoop down and take her chickens.

    • Mark, I think the “chicken hawk” thing was perpetuated by the Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies cartoon character Henery Hawk (sometimes misspelled as Henry Hawk). Folks from my generation remember him well.

      Another thing that confuses the issue is when the powers that be change common names. One example is the Northern Harrier that used to be called the Marsh Hawk.

      • Patty Chadwick

        My parents had a bright green and yellow parakeet they named “Henry Bird”, who used to refer to himself (?) as “Henery Beardie” whenever he wanted something…whatever he wanted sounded pretty accurate.

  • Dick Ashford

    Hi Ron,
    My peeve is the birders and photographers who say they “got “or “had” birds on an outing. They didn’t. They saw them. I occasionally slip on this one myself…

    On a humorous (to some; it’s somewhat esoteric) note, the large, pink-legged (when adult) gulls such as Western, Glaucous-winged, Glaucous, Herring, etc., are known to regularly hybridize. As an example, the majority of gulls seen in the Puget Sound area are Western X Glaucous-winged hybrids, jokingly referred to as Larus pugetensis, the “Puget Sound Gull”. A friend of mine used to say that, because of the high rate of hybridization, perhaps we should refer to all of the large gulls as Larus maritimus, the “Sea Gull”. Just a little bit of larophile humor…
    Cheers,
    Dick

    • I use “got” sometimes too, Dick, when I’m referring to photos. I know I’m doing it but sometimes the only alternative I can find sounds awkward. Something I’ve “got” to work on…

      Thanks for the larophile humor. I found it interesting too.

  • Well, as a non-birder, virtually all of these are distinctions are new to me – except the hatched/born. Now I’m asking myself, “Have I called them Canada Geese or Canadian Geese?” Thanks for setting out these common errors so that I’ll have a better frame of reference in the future.

    • Alison, as a kid I used to call them Canadian Geese and it was a difficult habit for me to break.

      • Patty Chadwick

        I’ll bet dollars to donuts (chocolate course) that they end up being called “Canadian Geese”…look what happened to the word Fun” — and a whole bunch of others…and how quickly (or should I say “quick”? ). Adverbs, especially LY endings, are fast disappearing)..,,

  • Marya Moosman

    Your first two are my two big ones! I’m continually telling people that there are no such thing as seagulls and Canadian geese! The seagull one always seems to surprise people.

  • Mark Runnels

    It’s a Harris’ Hawk. Not a Harris hawk or just a Harris. It was named by Audubon in honor of a friend and is therefore possessive.
    There! I feel better! 🙂

  • Judy Gusick

    It can be irritating tho try to remind myself folks call things what they learned to call them and are often just ignorant. Good commentary and photo’s, Ron. 🙂

  • Steven E Hunnicutt

    Besides the pictures that I so enjoy seeing, articles like this, informative, teaches us. This dealing with what we all say, going to print this one out and pass it on.

  • Jeff Tufts

    Ron–
    Whenever I get in a gull/seagull discussion with a non-birder, I try to point out that some gulls/seagulls will go their entire lives without ever seeing the ocean. And, the species you mention (California Gull) is a good example. Or, to put it more succinctly, how can you be a seagull if you never see the sea ?