Date: 2/9/18 3:19 pm From: Lars Per Norgren <larspernorgren...> Subject: [obol] Re: Benton Co. White-tailed Kite, Thayer's Gull
Generally when the AOS lumps species they come up with a neutral name -"Gray Jay" when Canada Jay and Oregon Jay were lumped: "Tundra Swan" when Whistlers and Bewick's lost their full species status. So on procedural grounds alone one can easily get one's feathers ruffled. When it come to Latinate binomials, precedence is everything. The first Whistling Swan specimen to be mentioned in print (that anyone knows of) was collected on the Columbia River in the early 19th century, hence "Cygnus columbiana". It is attributed to Ord, a staunch fan of Wilson and detractor of Audubon. I've always thought it odd that he didn't notice the many Whistling Swans on Chesapeake Bay, as I think he lived in Philadelphia. Perhaps no one had bothered to notice they were different from Trumpeters, but something from exotic Oregon, that was worth paying attention to. In any event Ord beat Yarrell by 15 years. It was not until 1830 that "Bewick's Swan"saw print, two years after Bewick's death. Bewick had become wealthy on woodblock prints, many of British birds. He and Audubon became great buddies once they met. The most heavily birded part of the planet, the British Isles, had been home to wintering Whoopers and Bewick's for thousands of years, but it escaped the notice of the right people that there was a difference.
It was about this time that a German, not a Brit, published a description of the Iceland Gull. As far as we know, every Iceland Gull on the planet nests on Greenland. Accordingly the NOF (Norwegian Ornithological Union) vernacular name would be translated as "Greenland Gull" while the Icelanders call it the "brightgull". The majority of them winter on the open ocean, but the easiest place for the British to obtain specimens was Iceland. It's an easy name to say and/or remember. Kumlien was a Swede who spent most of his life in poverty and obscurity in Wisconsin, hence a bit part in Sterling North's "The Wolfling" which came after "Rascal" but did not become a best seller. Although Kumlien's Gulls winter regularly as far south as New York, they went unnoticed until Kumlien got to visit Baffin Island in the 1870s. A relative of mine, William Brewster(somehow implicated in the founding of the Massachusetts Audubon Society decades later),was kind enough to give Kumlien some seriously sketchy immortality by naming the gull in his honor. Ornithologists of most linguistic persuasions have followed suit, but given the taxon's perrenially insecure status it has never mattered that much.
I occasionally wonder if Thayer cared much about birds, let alone gulls. He was a rich dude who lived in Philadelphia. He sponsored some Arctic exploration at the dawn of the 20th Century and as a consequence got a bird named after him that most of the world's birders can't identify. It nests further north than 99.9 % of all bird species, and largely winters at sea, out of sight of land. But it also has a prediliction for malls. Two weeks ago a woman in California posted photos on the Facebook page "North American Gull". Could they be Thayer's? She, like many before her, had trouble believing this elusive species would frequent such a mundane and homogenized landscape as Mall X in the Silicon Valley. I believe none other than Alvaro Jaramillo quickly responded that certainly they were Thayer's, and she had photographed them at a virtual hotspot for the species. He had repeatedly taken participants in a gull-ID workshops to that very spot. Doesn't "Iceland" Gull ring especially ludicrous at some crumby park in San Josť CA? The Norwegian Ornithologists' Union has baptised it the "Eskimo Gull", a politically incorrect name for much of the English speaking world. The Greenland Innuit eat a minimum of 30,000 "Iceland" gulls a year. If the AOS must inflict the onus of lumping on we larophiles, why not at least make some concession to semantics and call the whole complex the Eskimo Pie Gull? lpn
On Feb 9, 2018, at 1:23 PM, Hendrik Herlyn wrote:
> Hello all,
> This morning, I found a WHITE-TAILED KITE hovering over the open, hilly area N of Price Creek Road in NE Benton Co This is the same area where Doug Robinson had a kite earlier this year.
> At the Processing Facility on Camp Adair Rd., east of E.E.Wilson, there were 4 GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS and a lone THAYER'S (I still shudder at the thought of writing "Iceland" Gull). :)
> Happy birding
> Hendrik G. Herlyn
> Corvallis, OR
> "Nature is not a place to visit. It is home."
> -- Gary Snyder