More “Cool” Bird Names That Have Been Changed

I need to stop looking at old field guides. Every time I do I come across “cool” bird names that aren’t used anymore in the ABA area.  Instead today we have bland names.

Thanks IOU.

While reviewing the flycatchers in my circa 1980 Peterson Western Birds I noticed two “cool” flycatcher names next to each other on the same page .

1.  Wied’s Crested Flycatcher

2. Olivaceous Flycatcher


Flycatchers Peterson Western A
Cool bird names on Plate 41 from Peterson Field Guides Western Birds, circa 1980.

Wied’s Crested Flycatcher was changed to the Brown-crested Flycatcher by 1982.

The Olivaceous Flycatcher was changed to the Dusky-capped Flycatcher by 1982.

So now we have:

Crested Flycatchers
Bland names on page 339 of National Geographic’s Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 2011.

So instead of a birder out in the field shouting with excitement “Look an Olivaceous Flycatcher on the second tree branch,” we now have a birder saying softly and in a monotone voice “Look over there, a Dusky-capped Flycatcher. Wow”.

So while these might be better names for field identification there is no mystic associated with the bird. In my case I would remember the previous names better because they were unusual. Now all the birds seem to run together with names having the same color or adjective in them. At least it’s called the Dusky-capped instead of Dusky-crested.

And who was Wied and why is the flycatcher named after him?  And what the heck is Olivaceous? I don’t know but it sure sounds cooler than Dusky-capped.

Anyway here are the short answers.

From – “The Brown-crested Flycatcher’s former name, Wied’s Crested Flycatcher, was in honor of Prince Maximilian of Wied, a German naturalist and traveler in early-19th-century America.” So if you are wondering, Wied was a small a small county in Germany where the River Wied meets the Rhine. Prince Maximilian was an explorer and naturalist who traveled in Brazil in the 1810’s and the western US in the 1830’s. And somewhere along the way he impressed someone enough to name the flycatcher after him.

From – Olivaceous- “ol-uhvey-shuh s” -adjective – “of a deep shade of green; olive.” You can follow the above link and also get the correct pronunciation. So the Olivaceous Flycatcher means an olive colored flycatcher.  Still sounds a whole lot better than Dusky-capped.

So as I continue my travels and readings I’ll continue to bring up more names that in my opinion shouldn’t have been changed.

And just maybe someday I’ll come across an Olivaceous Woodcreeper in the tropics and get to shout out its name.


3 Replies to “More “Cool” Bird Names That Have Been Changed”

  1. Fun post Bob! I haven’t given name changes much thought, but now I’ll definitely be more aware as I look through guides and read books. And you’re definitely right about the unique names being easier to remember!

    1. Not sure if you saw one, I didn’t, but think about the Fasciated Tiger Heron from Costa Rica. Now there is a name. I need to dig into how and why the IOU changes birds names.

      1. Yeah, Fasicated Tiger, Bare-throated, Agami, Boat-billed, etc….our guide really got us on some cool birds!!

        And BTW: Now you got me looking up the origin of specie names. I had to check the Fasciated Tiger Heron 😉

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