Birdmen of India

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What is in a Name?



Birdmen of India     Pioneers   

Rufous-bellied Niltava

We hope the readers enjoyed the earlier three parts and in this concluding section, we discuss some of the other interesting names we encountered in our research. The most intriguing was the Indian Golden Oriole Oriolus kundoo. Kundoo is a popular Bengali surname, but our research failed to turn up this illustrious individual after whom this spectacular bird is named. Similarly which of the ubiquitous Smiths was commemorated in the Wire-tailed Swallow Hirundo smithii? Or indeed after which of the several Alexanders was the noisy Alexandrine Parakeet celebrated. We seek the reader’s help in answering some of these questions. We have often debated our own personal favourite and were unanimous in our choice. It was the Rufous - bellied (Beautiful) Niltava Niltava sundara.
A perfect name for a perfect bird! ~ Bikram Grewal

Place names

Divine names

Attribute Names

Vernacular Names


Malabar Trogon

I vow to thee my country

Several birds are named after the place they were first reported from and therefore there are several ‘bengalensis’ (Black-rumped Flameback Dinopium benghalense, Indian Roller Coracias benghalensis etc) as most of the early study was done there. Ironically the Bengal Bushlark is called Mirafra assamica, causing consternation to some! Similarly a lot of the Andaman (Brown Coucal Centropus andamanensis etc) and Nicobar (Nicobar Pigeon Caloenas nicobarica etc) birds are named from the islands where they are found. A prime example is the Narcondam Hornbill Aceros narcondami found only in this small island. Similarly there exists Kashmir Nuthatch Sitta Cashmirensis, Darjeeling Woodpecker Dendrocopos darjellensis and the Manipur Bush Quail Perdicula manipurensis. The list goes on and on and encompasses Cacher, Dafla Hills, Malabar and Coromandel Coast besides several others. Neighbouring countries too are covered such as Burma. Sri Lanka or its earlier name Ceylon has several birds named after it, such as the Brown Fish Owl Ketupa zeylonensis. Nepal is another favourite and there are several birds that carry the name of the country for example Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis and Blue-naped Pitta Pitta nipalensis. Cities too get a look in with our favorite being Indian Little Nightjar Caprimulgus asiaticus gurgoani. An interesting corruption is the Red Avadavat Amandava amandava, whose Latin name is supposedly derived form the town of Ahmedabad. A select list of birds named after places is given below. Some names may not be current usage.

Abu (Mount): Hill Station in Sirohi District, Rajasthan, India
Red-whiskered Bulbul Pycnonotus j abuensis
Tawny-bellied Babbler Dumetia h abuensis

Almora: District city in Kumaon region, Uttarakhand, India
Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch Sitta c almorae

Alps: Alpine from the Alps Mountains in Europe
Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba
Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris
Alpine Chough Pyrrhocorax graculus

Altai: Mountain range in Central Asia
Altai Accentor Prunella himalayana

Amur: River bordering Russia and China
Amur Falcon Falco amurensis

Andaman Islands: Cluster of Islands in the Bay of Bengal
Andaman Teal Anas albogularis
Andaman Serpent Eagle Spilornis elgini
Changeable Hawk Eagle Spizaetus l andamensis
Andaman Crake Rallina canningi
Andaman Wood Pigeon Columba palumboides
Andaman Cuckoo Dove Macropygia rufipennis
Andaman Green Pigeon Treron chloropterus
Green Imperial Pigeon Ducula a andamanica
Andaman Coucal Centropus andamensis
Andaman Barn Owl Tyto deroepstorffi
Andaman Scops Owl Otus balli
Andaman Hawk Owl Ninox affinis
Andaman Nightjar Caprimulgus andamanicus
Andaman Woodpecker Dryocopus hodgei
Large Cuckooshrike Coracina m andamana
Andaman Cuckooshrike Coracina dobsoni
Scarlet Minivet Pericrocotus s andamanensis
Andaman Bulbul Pycnonotus fuscoflavescens
Orange-headed Ground Thrush Zoothera c andamanensis
Andaman Shama Copsychus albiventris
Andaman Flowerpecker Dicaeum virescens
Olive-backed Sunbird Cinnyris j andamanicus
Andaman White-headed Starling Sturnia erythropygia
Asian Fairy Bluebird Irena p andamanica
Andaman Drongo Dicrurus andamanensis
Andaman Treepie Dendrocitta bayleyi
Eastern Jungle Crow Corvus andamanensis
Black Baza Aviceda l andamanica

Arunachal Pradesh: Northeastern State of India
Sclater’s Monal Lophophorus s arunachalensis

Jungle Bush Quail Perdicula asiatica
Caspian Plover Charadrius asiaticus
Asian Openbill Anastomus oscitans
Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus
Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopaceus
Asian Emerald Cuckoo Chrysococcyx maculatus
Asian Barred Owlet Glaucidium cuculoides
Asian Palm Swift Cypsiurus balasiensis
Blue-throated Barbet Megalaima asiatica
Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus
Asian Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone paradisi
Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa dauurica
Purple Sunbird Cinnyris asiaticus
Asian Pied Starling Gracupica contra
Asian Fairy Bluebird Irena puella

Assam: Northeastern state of India
Bengal Bushlark Mirafra assamica
Buff-breasted Babbler Pellorneum t assamense
Striated Prinia Prinia c assamica
Blyth’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus r assamensis
Black-breasted Sunbird Aethopyga s assamensis
Ruby-cheeked Sunbird Chalcoparia s assamensis

Ava: Ancient name for Myanmar
Alexandrine Parakeet Psittacula e avensis

Babylon: Ancient city in Mesopotamia
Red-capped Falcon Falco p babylonicus

Bactria: Region north of Afghanistan
House Sparrow Passer d bactrianus
Eurasian Magpie Pica p bactriana
Little Owlet Athene n bactriana

Baikal Lake: Lake in Southern Siberia
Baikal Teal Anas formosa
White Wagtail Motacilla a baicalensis

Balasore: A district town in Orissa State, India
Asian Palm Swift Cypsiurus balasiensis

Bengal: West Bengal State, India, where the bulk of the early bird study was conducted
White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis
Barred Buttonquail Turnix s bengalensis
Bengal Florican Houbaropsis bengalensis
Greater Painted Snipe Rostratula bengalensis
Lesser Crested Tern Thalasseus bengalensis
Lesser Coucal Centropus bengalensis
Indian Eagle Owl Bubo bengalensis
Common Kingfisher Alcedo a bengalensis
Indian Roller Coracias bengalensis
Black-rumped Flameback Dinopium benghalense
Bengal Bushlark Mirafra assamica
Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus c bengalensis
Rufous-rumped Grassbird Graminicola bengalensis
Black-breasted Weaver Ploceus benghalensis

Bhutan Laughingthrush Trochalopteron imbricatum
Eurasian Magpie Pica p bottanensis

Brahmaputra River: India’s largest river, flows through China and Bangladesh
Striated Laughing Thrush Grammatoptila s brahmaputra

Bugun: Indigenous people in Arunachal Pradesh, India
Bugun Liocichla Liocichla bugunorum

Burma: Now Myanmar
Himalayan Buzzard Buteo burmanicus
Collared Falconet Microhierax c burmanicus
Burmese Shrike Lanius collurioides
Baya Weaver Ploceus p burmanicus
Brown Hawk Owl Ninox s burmanica
Little Green Bee-eater Merops o birmanicus

Cachar: District in northeastern India
Olive Bulbul Iole v cacharensis
Cachar Wedge-billed Babbler Sphenocichla roberti

Cambay: Now Khambhat a city in Gujarat
Indian Black Robin Saxicoloides f cambaiensis
Laughing Dove Streptopelia s cambayensis

Caspian Sea: Largest inland waterbody north of Iran
Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia

Chayul Dzong: Area in Western China
Fulvous Parrotbill Paradoxornis f chayulensis

Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax c sinensis
Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata
Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis
Chinese Sparrowhawk Accipiter soloensis
Blue-breasted Quail Coturnix chinensis
Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis
Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis
Grey-throated Sand Martin Riparia chinensis
Chinese Spot-billed Duck Anas zonorhyncha
Yellow-eyed Babbler Chrysomma sinense
Chinese Fulvetta Alcippe straiticollis
Chinese Bush Warbler Bradypterus tacsanowskius
Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis
Common Green Magpie Cissa chinensis
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax c sinensis

Chumb: An area in Pakistan
White-browed Fulvetta Alcippe v chumbiensis

Chin Hills: Hill range in Northern-western Myanmar extending into Manipur
Chin Hills Wren Babbler Spelaeornis oatesi

Cochinchinensis: Old name for Taiwan
Blue-winged Leafbird Chloropsis cochinchinensis
Silver-backed Needletail Hirundapus cochinchinensis

Coromandel: Southeastern coast of peninsular India
Cotton Teal Nettapus coromandelicus
Rain Quail Coturnix coromandelica
Indian Courser Cursorius coromandelica
Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Clamator coromandus
Dusky Eagle Owl Bubo coromandus
Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda

Dafla Hills: Hill Tract in Assam
Black-throated Parrotbill Paradoxornis n daflaensis

Dalhousie: Hill station in Himachal named after Lord Dalhousie
Long-tailed Broadbill Psarisomus dalhousiae

Darjeeling: A hill station and district in North Bengal
Darjeeling Woodpecker Dendrocopos darjellensis

Deccan: Plateau area in peninsular India
Greater Short-toed Lark Calandrella b dukhunensis
White Wagtail Motacilla a dukhunensis

Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus
Egyptian Nightjar Caprimulgus aegyptius

Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra
Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus
Eurasian Woodcock Scolopax rusticola
Eurasian Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus
Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto
Eurasian Eagle Owl Bubo bubo
Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla
Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis
Eurasian Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
Eurasian Jackdaw Coleus monedula

European Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria
European Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur
European Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus
European Bee-eater Merops apiaster
European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris
European Linnet Acanthis cannabina
European Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus
European Jay Garrulus glandarius

Ferghana Valley: Region in Central Asia
Common Rosefinch Carpodacus e ferghanensis

Formosa: Main island in Taiwan
Baikal Teal Anas formosa
Spotted Wren Babbler Spelaeornis formosus
Beautiful Nuthatch Sitta formosa
Green Avadavat Amandava formosa
Grey Treepie Dendrocitta formosae

Gangetic Valley: Area around the River Ganges in the plains
Jungle Prinia Prinia s gangetica
Indian Scops Owl Otus b gangeticus

Garo Hills: Hill tract adjacent to the Khasi Hills in Meghalaya
Buff-breasted Babbler Pellorneum t garoense
Collared Owlet Glaucidium b garoense

Garhwal: Hilly area in Western Uttarakhand
Black-throated Parrotbill Paradoxornis n garhwalensis

Gilgit: District in Northern Pakistan
Streaked Laughingthrush Trochalopteron l gilgit

Gingee: Fort Town in Tamil Nad, India
Egyptian Vulture Neophron p ginginianus
Bank Myna Acridotheres ginginianus

Gujarat: State in Western India
Common Tailorbird Orthotomus s guzuratus

Gulmerg: Hill Station in the State of Jammu & Kashmir, India
Dark-sided Flycatcher Muscicapa s gulmergi

Gurgoan: City in current day Haryan, India
Indian Little Nightjar Caprimulgus a gurgoani

Hazara: Region in Northwest Frontier of Pakistan
Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus i hazarae

Himachal Pradesh: State in North India
Crimson-browed Finch Propyrrhula subhimachala
Eurasian Eagle Owl Bubo b hemachalana

Himalayan Buzzard Buteo burmanicus
Himalayan Snowcock Tetraogallus himalayensis
Himalayan Quail Ophrysia superciliosa
Himalayan Swiftlet Aerodramus brevirostris
Himalayan Parakeet Psittacula himalayana
Himalayan Wood Owl Strix nivicola
Himalayan Pied Kingfisher Ceryle lugubris
Himalayan Pied Woodpecker Dendrocopos himalayensis
Himalayan Flameback Dinopium shorii
Altai Accentor Prunella himalayana
Himalayan Red-flanked Bush Robin Tarsiger rufilatus
Himalayan Aberrant Bush Warbler Cettia flavolivacea
Goldcrest Regulus r himalayaensis
White-tailed Nuthatch Sitta himalayensis
Bar-tailed Treecreeper Certhia himalayana
Himalayan Greenfinch Carduelis spinoides
Himalayan Beautiful Rosefinch Carpodacus pulcherrimus
Himalayan White-browed Rosefinch Carpodacus thura
Red Crossbill Loxia c himalayensis
Grey Treepie Dendrocitta f himalayensis
Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax p himalayanus

Hindustan: Old name for India
Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles e hindustan
Loten’s Sunbird
Cinnyris l hindustanicus

Hokersar Jheel: Wetland in Jammu & Kashmir, India
Blunt-winged Reed Warbler Acrocephalus c hokrae

Indian Spot-billed Duck Anas poecilorhyncha
Indian Vulture Gyps indicus
Indian Spotted Eagle Aquila hastata
Indian Peafowl Pavo cristatus
Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps
Bronze-winged Jacana Metopidius indicus
Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus Indicus
Indian Stone Curlew Burhinus indicus
Indian Courser Cursorius coromandelica
Painted Sandgrouse Pterocles indicus
Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica
Indian Cuckoo Cuculus micropterus
Indian Scops Owl Otus bakkamoena
Indian Eagle Owl Bubo bengalensis
Indian Jungle Nightjar Caprimulgus indicus
Indian Swiftlet Aerodramus unicolor
Indian Pygmy Woodpecker Dendrocopos nanus
Indian Pitta Pitta brachyura
Indian Bushlark Mirafra erythroptera
Yellow-browed Bulbul Iole indica
Indian Blackbird Turdus simillimus
White-rumped Shama Copsychus m indicus
Indian Black Robin Saxicoloides fulicatus
Indian Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus horsfieldii
Indian Rufous Babbler Turdoides subrufa
Indian Nuthatch Sitta castanea
House Sparrow Passer d indicus
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias h indicus
Indian Silverbill Euodice malabarica

Indochina: Region roughly east of India and South of China
Hodgson’s Frogmouth Batrachostomus h indochine

Jaffna: Large city in northern Sri Lanka
Black-rumped Flameback Dinopium b jaffnense

Japanese Sparrowhawk Accipiter gularis
Common Buzzard Buteo b japonicus
Japanese Quail Coturnix japonica
Large-billed Crow Corvus m japonensis

Java: Most populous island in Indonesia
Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus
White-bellied Woodpecker Dryocopus javensis
Common Flameback Dinopium javanense
House Swallow Hirundo t javanica
Striated Heron Butorides s javanica
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias h javanicus

Kangra: Hill area in western Himachal Pradesh, India
White-browed Fulvetta Alcippe v kangrae
Orange-barred Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus p kangrae
Grey-crested Tit Parus d kangrae
Dark-breasted Rosefinch Carpodacus n kangrae

Kathiawar: Peninsula in Gujarat, India
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius s kaithiwarensis

Kashmir: Part of Jammu & Kashmir State, India
Besra Sparrowhawk Accipiter v kashmirensis
White-throated Dipper Cinclus c cashmirensis
Asian House Martin Delichon d cashmieriense
Kashmir Flycatcher Ficedula subrubra
Spotted Bush Warbler Bradypterus t kashmirensis
Blyth’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus r kashmirensis
Great Tit Parus Major caschmirensis
Kashmir Nuthatch Sitta cashmirensis

Katchal Island: Island in the Nicobars
Andamans White-headed Starling Sturnia e katchalensis

Kerala: State in southern India
Kerala Laughingthrush Trochalopteron fairbanki

Khasi Hills: Hill tract in Assam, India
Rusty-fronted Barwing Actinodura e khasiana
Black-throated Prinia Prinia a khasiana

Kuban: Area in Southern Russia surrounding Kuban River
Common Rosefinch Carpodacus e kubanensis

Kumaon: Hill area in Eastern Uttarakhand, India
Greater Yellownape
Picus f kumaonensis
Red-billed Leiothrix Leiothrix l kumainensis

Lahual: Remote valley in Himachal Pradesh, India
Grey-backed Shrike Lanius t lahulensis

Laponia: Historical province in Sweden
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica

Madras (now Chennai): Capital of Tamil Nadu, India
Black-hooded Oriole Oriolus x maderaspatanus
Indian Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus h maderaspatensis
White-browed Wagtail Motacilla maderaspatensis

Maharatta: Part of current day South Maharashtra and Central India
Sykes Nightjar Caprimulgus mahrattensis
Great Tit Parus m maharattarum
Jungle Myna Acridotheres f mahrattensis
Indian Scops Owl Otus b marathae

Malabar: Area between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea in Southern India
Malabar Parakeet Psittacula columboides
Malabar Trogon Harpactes fasciatus
Malabar Grey Hornbill Ocyceros griseus
Malabar Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros coronatus
Malabar Barbet Megalaima malabarica
Indian Scops Owl Otus b malabaricus
Jungle Owlet Glaucidium r malabarica
Malabar Trogon Harpactes fasciatus
Malabar Lark Galerida malabarica
Malabar Woodshrike Tephrodornis sylicola
Malabar Whistling Thrush Myophonus horsfieldii
White-rumped Shama Copsychus malabaricus
Jungle Babbler Turdoides s malabarica
Indian Silverbill Euodice malabarica
Grey-headed Starling Sturnia malabarica
Malabar White-headed Starling Sturnia blythii

Maldives Islands: Groups of atolls in the Indian Ocean
White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis p malvidus
Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum
House Crow Corvus s malevidicus

Black Eagle Ictinaetus malayensis
Asian Koel Eudynamys s malayanus
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola j malaya

Malacca: State in Malaysia
Tricoloured Munia Lonchura malacca
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer m malaccensis

Manila: Capital of Philippines
Purple Heron Ardea p manilensis

Manipur: North-eastern State of India
Manipur Bush Quail Perdicula manipurensis
Manipur Fulvetta Alcippe manipurensis
Manipur Aberrant Bush Warbler Cettia f weberi
Red-headed Tit Aegithalos c manipurensis
Brown-throated Treecreeper Certhia d manipurensis

Manchuria: Historical region in north-eastern China
Manchurian Bush Warbler Cettia canturians

Mekran Hills: On the coast of Pakistan
Grey Francolin Francolinus p mecraensis

Mishmi Hills: Hill District in Arunachal Pradesh, India
Mishmi Wren Babbler Spelaeornis badeigularis

Mizoram: State in Northeastern India
Strong-footed Bush Warbler Cettia f mizorum

Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus
Mongolian Finch Bucanetes mongolicus
Grasshopper Warbler Locustella n mongolica

Mount Saramati: Highest Peak in Nagaland, India
Rufous-vented Tit Parus r saramati

Nagaland: State in North East India
Naga Wren Babbler Spelaeornis chocolatinus
Chestnut-vented Nuthatch Sitta nagaensis

Namdhapa: National Park in Eastern Arunachal Pradesh, India
Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus f namdhapa

Narcondam Island: Small volcanic Island in Andaman Sea
Narcondam Hornbill Aceros narcondami

Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis
Mountain Hawk Eagle Spizaetus nipalensis
Koklass Pheasant Pucrasia m nipalensis
Forest Eagle Owl Bubo nipalensis
Rufous-necked Hornbill Aceros nipalensis
Blue-naped Pitta Pitta nipalensis
Nepal House Martin Delichon nipalensis
Little Swift Apus a nipalensis
Large Cuckooshrike Coracina m nipalensis
Winter Wren Troglodytes t nipalensis
Cutia Cutia nipalensis
Nepal Wren Babbler Pnoepyga immaculata
Spiny Babbler Turdoides nipalensis
Hoary-throated Barwing Actinodura nipalensis
Nepal Fulvetta Alcippe nipalensis
Black-throated Parrotbill Paradoxornis nipalensis
Great Tit Parus m nipalensis
Wallcreeper Tichodroma m nepalensis
Rusty-tailed Treecreeper Certhia nipalensis
Green-tailed Sunbird Aethopyga nipalensis
Dark-breasted Rosefinch Carpodacus nipalensis
Brown Bullfinch Pyrrhula nipalensis

Newar: Indigenous People of the Kathmandu Valley
Brown Wood Owl Strix l newarensis

Nicobar Islands: Chain of Islands in Eastern Indian Ocean
Great Nicobar Serpent Eagle Spilornis klossi
Nicobar Sparrowhawk Accipiter butleri
Nicobar Megapode Megapodius nicobariensis
Slaty-breasted Rail Rallus s nicobariensis
White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis p midnicobarica
Nicobar Pigeon Caloenas nicobarica
Nicobar Imperial Pigeon Ducula nicobarica
Nicobar Parakeet Psittacula caniceps
Long-tailed Parakeet Psittacula l nicobarica
Nicobar Scops Owl Otus alius
Oriental Scops Owl Otus s nicobaricus
Nicobar Bulbul Hypsipetes nicobariensis
Nicobar Jungle Flycatcher Rhinomyias nicobaricus
Crimson Sunbird Aethopyga s nicobarica
Oriental White-eye Zosterops p nicobaricus
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo Dicrurus p nicobariensis

Nile River: Large river mostly in Egypt
Gull-billed Tern Gelochelidon nilotica

Nilgiri Hills: Hill Tract spanning Tamil Nadu and Kerala, India
Nilgiri Wood Pigeon Columba elphinstonii
Nilgiri Pipit Anthus nilghiriensis
Nilgiri Thrush Zoothera neilgreiensis
Nilgiri Flycatcher Eumyias albicaudatus
Pied Bushchat Saxicola c nilghiriensis
Nilgiri Flowerpecker Dicaeum concolor
Oriental White-eye Zosterops p nilghiriensis

Nuristan: A province in Afghanistan
Variegated Laughingthrush Trochalopteron v nuristanicum

Oriental Region:
Oriental Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhyncus
Oriental Plover Charadrius veredus
Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis
Oriental Bay Owl Phodilus badius
Oriental Scops Owl Otus sunia
Little Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis
Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis
Oriental Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros albirostris
Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula
Oriental Magpie Robin Copsychus saularis
Oriental White-eye Zosterops palpebrosus

Orissa: State in coastal eastern India
White-throated Fantail Rhipidura a orissae

Pacific: Of the Pacific Oceans
Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva
Pacific Swift Apus pacifica

Palni Hills: Mountain range in Tamil Nadu
Oriental White-eye Zosterops p palniensis

Pamirs: Mountains in Central Asia
Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius m pamirensis
Brandt’s Mountain Finch Leucosticte b pamirensis

Patkai Hills: Hill range in Northeastern India
White-crested Laughingthrush
Garrulax l patkaicus

Pegu: City in Myanmar
Streaked Weaver Ploceus m peguensis

Peking (now Beijing): Old name of China’s Capital
Common Swift Apus a pekinensis

Peninsular (India): South of the Vindhyas
Crested Goshawk Accipiter t peninsulae
Common Hill Myna Gracula r peninsularis

Persia: Current day Iran
Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella r persica
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater Merops persicus
House Sparrow Passer d persicus

Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis
Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops philippinus
Baya Weaver Ploceus philippinus

Pondicherry: Union Territory, Southeastern coast of India.
Grey Francolin Francolinus pondicerianus

Common Woodshrike Tephrodornis pondicerianus

Poona (Pune): Important town in Maharashtra
Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa d poonensis

Punjab: State in Northern India
Jungle Bush Quail Perdicula a punjabi

Rajputana: Old name for Rajasthan
Spotted Creeper Salpornis s rajputanae

Rangoon: Current day Yangon, Capital of Myanmar
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo Dicrurus p rangoonensis

Spotted Sandgrouse Pterocles senegallus
Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis

Seheria: Town near Kolkata, West Bengal
Crimson Sunbird Aethopyga s seheriae

Broad-billed Sandpiper Limicola f sibirica
Siberian Crane Grus leucogeranus
Siberian Thrush Zoothera sibirica
Dark-sided Flycatcher Muscicapa sibirica
Siberian Chiffchaff Phylloscopus c tristis

Sikkim: Himalayan State in eastern India
Striated Laughing Thrush Grammatoptila s sikkimensis
Sikkim Wedge-billed Babbler Sphenocichla humei
Goldcrest Regulus r sikkimensis
Asian Fairy Bluebird Irena p sikkimensis

Simla: A hill-station in Himachal Pradesh, India
Lesser Yellownape Picus c simlae
Bar-throated Minla Minla s simlaensis
Variegated Laughingthrush Trochalopteron v simile
Lemon-rumped Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus c simlaensis
Yellow-browed Tit Sylviparus m simlaensis

Sind: A province in Pakistan
Sind Pied Woodpecker Dendrocopos assimilis
Indian Bushlark Mirafra e sindiana
Jungle Babbler Turdoides s sindiana
Yellow-bellied Prinia Prinia f sindiana
Sind Sparrow Passer pyrrhonotus

Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis

Sri Lanka: (Incorporating its old names Galle, Taprobane, Sinhala, Ceylon & Serendib)
Crested Hawk Eagle Spizaetus c ceylanensis
Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus
Ceylon Spurfowl Galloperdix bicalcarta
Ceylon Junglefowl Gallus lafayetii
Jungle Bush Quail Perdicula a ceylonensis
Ruddy-breasted Crake Porzana f zeylonica
Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus I lankae
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus h ceylonensis
Ceylon Wood Pigeon Columba torringtonii
Spotted Dove Streptopelia c ceylonensis
Ceylon Green Pigeon Treron pompadora
Ceylon Hanging Parrot Loriculus beryllinus
Ceylon Bay Owl Phodilus assimilis
Serendib Scops Owl Otus thilohoffmannii
Brown Fish Owl Bubo zeylonensis
Ceylon Frogmouth Batrachostomus moniliger
Little Swift Apus a singalensis
Common Kingfisher Alcedo a taprobana
Ceylon Grey Hornbill Ocyceros gingalensis
Brown-headed Barbet Megalaima zeylanica
Ceylon Small Barbet Megalaima rubricapillus
Ceylon Woodshrike Tephrodornis affinis
Ceylon Scaly Thrush Zoothera imbricata
Ceylon Whistling Thrush Myophonus blighi
Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher Culicicapa ceylonensis
Ceylon Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus melanurus
Ceylon Rufous Babbler Turdoides rufescens
Yellow-billed Babbler Turdoides a taprobanus
Sri Lankan Bush Warbler Elaphronis palliseri
Thick-billed Flowerpecker Dicaeum a zeylonense
Purple-rumped Sunbird Leptocoma zeylonica
Ceylon White-eye Zosterops ceylonensis
Ceylon Hill Myna Gracula ptilogenys
Black-hooded Oriole Oriolus x ceylonensis
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo Dicrurus p ceylonicus
Ceylon Crested Drongo Dicrurus lophorinus
Ceylon Blue Magpie Urocissa ornata

(Great) Steppe: Ecological zone in Central Asia and Russia
Steppe Buzzard Buteo b vulpinus
Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis

Sumatra: Island in Indonesia
Black-naped Tern Sterna sumatrana

Surat: Large town in Gujarat
Spotted Dove Streptopelia c suratensis

Tahiti: Island in French Polynesia in Southern Pacific Ocean
House Swallow Hirundo tahitica

Taymyr: Peninsula in Siberia
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa l taymryensis

Terek: River in Caucasus
Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus

Blood Pheasant Ithaginis c tibetanus
Tibetan Snowcock Tetraogallus tibetanus
Tibetan Partridge Perdix hodgsonii
Tibetan Eared Pheasant Crossoptilon harmani
Tibetan Sandgrouse Syrrhaptes tibetanus
Eurasian Eagle Owl Bubo b tibetanus
Tibetan Blackbird Turdus maxima
Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus f tibetanus
Great Tit Parus Major tibetanus
Tibetan Siskin Carduelis thibetana
Large-billed Crow Corvus m tibetosinensis
Common Raven Corvus c tibetanus

Tranquebar: Modern day Tharangambadi, fishing village in Tamil Nadu, India
Red Collared Dove Streptopelia tranquebarica

Travancore: Former princely state in current-day southern Kerala, India
Pied Kingfisher Ceryle r travancoreensis
Indian Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus h travencorensis
Long-billed Pipit Anthus s travancorensis
Indian Yellow Tit Parus a travancoreensis
Baya Weaver Ploceus p travancoreensis

Trinkut: Island in Nicobar
Blue-breasted Quail Coturnix c trinkutensis

Tundra: Artic region in far northern hemisphere
Common Ringer Plover Charadrius h tundrae

Turkestan: A region in Central Asia
Hill Pigeon Columba r turkestanica
Menetries’s Warbler Sylvia m turcmenica

Vellore: District town in Tamil Nadu, India
Jungle Bush Quail Perdicula a vellorie

Vindhyas: Hills in west-central India
Tawny Eagle Aquila r vindihiana

Yunnan: Province in South-western China
Bar-throated Minla Minla s yunnanensis
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus h yunnanensis
Striated Prinia Prinia c yunnanensis
Chinese Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus yunnanensis
Goldcrest Regulus r yunnanensis

Wynaad: District in Northern Kerala, India
Wynad Laughingthrush Dryonastes delesserti

Ziarat: District in Baluschistan, Pakistan
Great Tit Parus m ziaratensis


Oriental Turtle Dove

'In the name of God'

Some birds were named (mostly by Col. Sykes) after Hindu deities or from mythology and they include:

Spotted Owlet Athene brama.
Black Bulbul Hypsipetes ganeesa,
Brahminy Kite Haliastur garuda
Black Kite Milvus m govinda
Sykes Lark Galerida deva
Sykes’s Warbler Hippolais rama
Brown Wood Owl Strix l indranee
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia o meena

The sub-species of the Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava beema are not named after a hero of the Mahabharata but after the Bhima River in Maharashtra. It is also important to note that not all names are in current usage.

Gallus gallus murghi

Some bird names derived from the vernacular

Baya Weaver: Baya is a Hindi word for a weaver bird
Baza: From the Hindi term Baaz for a hawk
Besra: Hindi term for Accipiter virgatus
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius pandoo: From the Marathi name pandu used to describe the blue male.
Bulbul: Persian name for Bulbul or ‘Nightingale of the east’
Cheer Pheasant: From the Chir Pine habitat of the species
Chukur being the Hindi name for the bird
Cochoa: Nepali term cocho for the bird
Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis Cheela: Cheel being the generic Hindi/Bengali term for eagle
Crimson-breasted Woodpecker Dendrocopos cathpharius: From the Hindi word kathpora used to describe woodpeckers
Cutia: Nepali name khutya for the bird
Scaly Thrush Zoothera dauma: From Bengali dama for Orange-headed Thrush
Laggar Falcon:
Local Hindi/Persian name Luggar for the bird
Malkoha: From Nepali malkowa and Sri Lankan mal-koha
Mesia: From the Nepali word meishiya for the bird
Mountain Imperial Pigeon: Ducula badia From the Nepalese word dukul
Minla: From the Nepalese for the Red-tailed Minla
Munia: Generic Hindi word for birds of the family
Myna/Mynah: From the local word maina used for the Sturnus family
Niltava: From the Nepalese word niltau for Rufous-bellied Niltava
Oriental Magpie Robin Copsychus saularis: From the Hindi saulari
Oriental Scops Owl
Otus sunia: From the Nepalese word sunya for the Scops Owl
Pitta: From the Telegu word pitta for small bird
Kalij Pheasant: Khalij is the common local name for the species in its range
Koel: From Bengali word kokil for the bird
Pucrasia macrolopha: From the Nepali word pokras for the Koklass
Red Junglefowl Gallus g murghi: Local name murgi for domestic fowl
Rufous-bellied Niltava Niltava sundara: From the local word Sundar or beautiful
Sand Lark Calandrella raytal: From the Hindi name reytal for the bird
Sarus Crane: From the Sanskrit word sarash or Hindi saras meaning lake
Shama: From the Hindi syam and the Bengali shayma
From the Hindi word shikar or Bengali shikre for the bird
Sirkeer Malkoha: From the Gujarati name sirkee for the bird
Sibia: From the Nepalese name sibya for Rufous Sibia
Scarlet Finch Haematospiza sipahi: From the Hindi word sipahi signifying scarlet.
Snow Partridge Lerwa lerwa: From the Bhutanese word lerwa for the bird
Streaked Weaver Ploceus manyar: From Tamil manya
Tesia: From the Nepali word tisi for Grey-bellied Tesia
White-browed Piculet Sasia ochracea: From the Nepali name sasia for the bird
White-eyed Buzzard Butastur teesa: From the Hindi name tisa for the bird
Yuhina: From the Nepalese yuhin for the Stripe-throated Yuhina

Sounds Greek to me !!

So as you have seen, a lot of birds are named after either a person or a geographic place. However some are named after a physical attribute like shape or colour. Most of these terms come from either Greek or Latin. We give below the meanings of some of the commoner terms. If you join them together you will start making sense. A good example is the Short-billed Minivet Pericrocotus brevirostris. Brevi means short and rostris means bill. So short Billed – brevirostris means short-billed! Now go and play your own detective.

A select dictionary of scientific terms, mostly from Greek and Latin

alauda lark
albus/alba white
accipiter hawk from accipere - to grasp
acrocephalus pointed-headed or sharp-headed
acuta pointed
affinis related to/adjacent
alcedo kingfisher
alpestris near the Alps
anas duck
anser goose
apiaster bee-eater
apodos without feet
argentea silver
arquata bow-shaped
arundinaceous reed like
assimilis similar to
ater/atra/atro black
atratus dressed in black
atriceps back of head
auda tail
aurantiaca orange
aureolus/auri golden
australis southern
aythya unidentified seabird
badius reddish-brown
bicolor two-coloured
bicornis two-horned
bombukos + cilla silk + tail
borealis northern
brachy short
brevis short
brunnea/brunnus brown
buteo a kind of hawk
caeruleus blue
calcaratum with a spur
calidus hot, warm
calvus hairless
candida white/shining/bright
carduelis goldfinch
canorus tuneful
canus grey
cauda tail
caudatus with a tail
cephalous head
ceps capped, headed
chinensis/sinensis of China
chloropus/chloro green or yellow
chrysaetos golden
cilla tail
cinctus banded/girdled
cinnamomeus chestnut
cinerea grey or ash-coloured
circus circle in air
clangula noisy
clypeata shield bearing
cola inhabitant of
columba pigeon
collaris collared
collis neck
communis common
concinnus symmetrical
concolor of the same colour
coronatus of the crown
corvus crow
coerulea dark-coloured
corax raven or raven-like, dark
coturnix quail
cristatus crested
cruentus blood red
cuculus cuckoos
cyaneus blue
cygnus swan
dactyl finger/toe
delichon anagram of chelidon
dendro tree
dendrocygna tree duck
elegans fine/elegant
emberiza bunting
erythro red
eurys broad/wide
exilis refugee/isolated
falcata falcated/bent like a sickle
fasciatus banded
ferina game
ferruginous brown
festivus happy temperament
flava yellow
frontale pertaining to the forehead
fringilla small bird
frons front
fuligo soot/black
fuligula black-throated
fulvous brown
fuscus/fusca dusky brown
garrulus noisy
garrulax laughingthrushes
gaster belly
gracilis graceful
gramma lined/marked
grantia found on
gregarius social
griseus grayish
grus crane
gularis throat
guttatus/gutta speckled or spotted
haema blood-red
haliaeetus sea eagle
hastata spear shaped
hemi half
hirundo swallow
humilis small/ground dwelling
hyper above
icterinae jaundice or yellow
imbricata overlapping
intermedia intermedia in between
indica/indicus of India
inornatus without ornament/plain
innominatus nameless
insignis notable/significant
japonica of Japan
kerthios tree-dwelling bird (Creepers)
ketupa fish eating owls
lanius butcher
larus seabird
leio smooth
lepto fine/slender
leuco white
leucopsis white-faced
limosus mud
lineatus striped
liitoralis water’s edge
livia blue-grey
longi long
loxia crosswise
lucidus/lucida shining/bright
lugubris gloomy/dark
lunulata with small moons
luteus/lutea yellow
maculatus spotted
macro large
major greater
marila black
marginatus bordered/lined
mega great
megaliama barbets
megapode big feet
melas black
mergus merganser/diver
meridonal south
milvus kite
minor/minutus lesser
modestus plain/simple
montanus mountain
monticola of the mountains
motacilla motor-tail or wagtail
musca + capere fly + to catch
muticus beardless
nana/nanus dwarf/small
neglectus overlooked
niger/nigra black
nigriceps black-headed
nisus sparrowhawk
nocti night
notos black
occipitalis back of head
occularis eye, pertaining to
olivacea olive-green
ops eye
opsis face
ornatus decorative
pallidus pale
paludicola marsh dwelling
palustris marsh dweller
parus tit
parva small
passer sparrow
pavo peacock
penelope duck
pennies/pennis feather
peregrinus wandering
phalacrocorax cormorant
phylloscopus leaf watcher
phyrros flame-coloured
picus woodpecker
pileata capped
pictus painted
plati broad/flat
platyrhynchos broad/flat-billed
playts half
plokeos weaver or braider
pluvialis pertaining to rain
podiceps vent and foot
poecilo variegated/speckled
porphyros purple
psittacus parrot
psuedo false
ptera wing
pugnax pugnacious
pulchra beautiful
pumila diminutive
punctatus spotted
purpurea purple
pusilla tiny
pycnonotus strong back
pygmeus small
recurvus bent
regulus prince
rhynchos bill
ridibundus laughing
rosea pink
rostris bill
ruber/rubi red
rufus/rufa/rufina red
rustica rural
saxiatilis rock-dwelling
serratus serrated/notched
similis similar to
spilotus/spilos spotted/blemished
splendens shining, splendid
squamatus scaly
sterna tern
strepera noisy
sternon breast
striatus/striata striped
sturnus starling
sub below
sylvatica tree dwelling
tadorna sheldrakes
tenuis slender
tinnunculus kestrel
torquilla to twist/twister
torquatus/torquata collared
trachy rough
trivialis common
trivirgatus three-striped
troglodutes cave-dweller
turdus thrush
vagabunda vagabond, loafer
variolatus/varius spotted
variegatus/versicolor of different colours
ventralis of the belly
viredescens light green
virgatus striped
viridis green
vittatus ribbon-like/striped
vulgaris common
xanthos orange/yellow

© Bikram Grewal and Sumit Sen

Taxonomy and nomenclature generally follows Birds of South Asia - The Ripley Guide  by Pamela C. Rasmussen & John C. Anderton (2005).

References and credits:
1. What's in a Bird Family name:

2. Scientific bird names explained : uk.rec.birdwatching
3. "A Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names” by James Jobling OUP
4. A dictionary of scientific bird names originating from the Indian region by Aasheesh Pittie; Buceros 9; No.2 (2004)
5. Ali, Sálim & S. Dillon Ripley (2002). Handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan. Vol-1-10. OUP
6. Anonymous. 1998. Vernacular names of the birds of the Indian Subcontinent. Buceros 3 (1): 1-53




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