Grus, by L. Reichenbach, in Avium systema naturale. Das natürliche System der Vögel (Dresden and Leipzig: Expedition der vollständigsten Naturgeschichte, 1849), pl. 21. All subsequent illustrations refer to this plate. Gruidae as a family name for Cranes was first used by Nicholas Aylward Vigors in a paper read to the Linnean Society of London, 3 … Read more


The Aeghitalidae family epithet was first mentioned by L. Reichenbach in Avium systema naturale. Das natürliche System der Vögel (Dresden and Leipzig: Expedition der vollständigsten Naturgeschichte, 1850), pl. 62, as Aeghitalinae, where the stem originates in Aeghitalus, synonym of Remiz (from Polish remiz = Penduline Tit, first used by Feliks Paweł Jarocki in Spis ptaków … Read more

Lanius Shrikes

The genus name Lanius found its description in Carl Linnaeus (as Caroli Linnæi), Systema naturæ per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis (10th edn., Holmiæ [Stockholm]: Salvii, 1758), i. 93, with synonym references of the type species (Lanius Excubitor, 94) to Ulisse Aldrovandi (as Ulyssis Aldrovandi), Ornithologiae, hoc … Read more

Falco falcons

In the English language a distinction is made within the Falco genus between kestrels, hobbies, merlins and falcons. Etymologically, falcon is of unknown origin, probably from Old High German falco, from Proto-Germanic falkô (reconstructed); hobby stems from Middle English hobi or hoby, which itself stems from Old French hobet, from Latin hopētus, diminutive of harpe … Read more

Old World Sparrows (2: Synonymity)

J. Denis Summers-Smith in The Sparrows: A Study of the Genus Passer (Calton: Poyser, 1988), 307–313 provides a list of synonyms of genera, species and subspecies that have been used to describe various forms of Old World Passer sparrows. What follows is an elaborated version of this list, with attention to names and bibliography. abyssinicus … Read more

Old World Sparrows (1)

Elegant yet dumpy, conspicuous yet dull, sophisticated yet streetwise, widespread yet local, sparrows are blessed with all these properties. Since some sparrow species have been associated with human habitation, naming them has been an old habit. Thus, for instance, in the fourth century BC Aristotle mentions ‘sparrows’ (no distinction is made to any of the … Read more

Garrulus Jays

Garrulus jays were first mentioned quite clearly (as κίττα, kitta = jay) in Aristotle‘s Natural History, in J.A. Smith and W.D. Ross (eds.), The Works of Aristotle, iv: Historia animalium, trans. D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910), 615b22–23, where it is characterized by: ‘when acorns are getting scarce, it lays up a store of … Read more

Corvidae (Crows 2)

The name of the crow family as Corvidae was mentioned by English zoologist William Elford Leach (as Corvidæ, which was preference in those days), who used it first in 1820 in the Synopsis of the Contents of the British Museum (London: Richard and Arthur Taylor, 1820), 67. Leach was not named as author in the … Read more

Buzzard 1: Buteo

Buteo was first mentioned by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historiæ, trans. H. Rackham (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press and London: William Heinemann, 1952), bk. 10, ch. 9, referencing Greek priestess of Delphi Phemonoe, via Aristotle‘s Historia Animalium, published in The Works of Aristotle, eds. J.A. Smith and W.D. Ross, trans. D.W. Thompson (Oxford: … Read more

Wren 1

During a long stretch of the twentieth century the widespread, Holarctic, (Winter) Wren was considered to be one species comprising various forms, collectively named Troglodytes troglodytes. An extensive species, it was divided into subgenera (such as Anorthura and Olbiorchilus) to deal with the diversity, demoted to subspecies rank since. (Anorthura = cocked tail bird – … Read more