Date: 4/1/21 11:34 am
From: Lars Norgren <larspernorgren...>
Subject: [obol] Leucistic semantics
Wayne speculates on alternative vocabulary for shades of leucism in other
modern languages. The short answer is that every ornithologist worthy of
the title publishes in English, regardless of mother tongue or classroom
lingua of their alma mater. In many small countries it is standard to write
final exams in English . After all, 90% of the syllabus is English.
Various folks may bemoan the elevation of English to lingua franca in
Academia, but is Latin preferable? That was the only option on most
European campuses not long ago.
Hence the problematic English "albino" , a very mild adaptation of
the original Latin. Nuance has been created by adaptation of the Greek
synonym "leukos", alien enough to non-native speakers to take on a very
narrow meaning in English. I once owned a British field guide that
illustrated "albino","melanistic"(more Greek),"flavistic", "and
"erythristic". The last perhaps describes orange cats? The field guide used
a single species of songbird to illustrate the concept, perhaps a
Chaffinch. But l wonder if all of the above conditions have been documented
in a single species. It's far more likely to occur under domestication
through that age old form of genetic modification, selective breeding.
There are those blond/tawny tweeners, not remotely white but far from
normal. I've seen more than one such Cackling Goose. I presume "flavism"
results from an excess of yellow pigment. Or could it be the absence of
another pigment that masks the yellow? Sometimes this condition might be
confused in the field with a mild case of leucism. We think of "canary" as
a color, and hence the cage bird's name. But it is rather roundabout. The
Canary Islands are so named for the thousands of feral dogs that roamed
their slopes. The Latin "canus" you know? Our best friend. An endemic finch
, perhaps a subspecies of Chaffinch, became a popular export of the islands
once the dogs were dealt with. I'm pretty sure the pure, bright yellow
birds we associate with coal mines are the result of selective breeding.
In a barely connected note, l have yet to hear an Orange-crowned
Warbler and find their absence on Obol and eBird conspicuous.

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