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September 1998


Matt's Message
by Matt DeVries (

On Saturday, as I was playing in our yard with Ben, I noticed a bird sitting on the roof by our chimney. It was a Common Nighthawk. I wasn't surprised. I had been anticipating their arrival for several weeks and had seen a few flying around during previous evenings.

For me, the annual passage of nighthawks through my yard has become a milestone in the cycle of migration and reproduction. Among the last birds to arrive in spring and the last to leave in fall, the nighthawk bookends the marvelous summer time when millions of birds having traveled thousands of miles settle down to reproduce.

Between the spring arrival and fall departure of the nighthawk, our valley is filled with courtship, mating, breeding, and rearing of young. Now, with summer ending, birds are leaving their summer breeding grounds and traveling to their winter homes.

Soon, the shorebirds and warblers now moving through our valley will be replaced by ducks and finches. Swaison's Hawks will be gone and Rough-legged Hawks will have taken their place. Over the next few weeks, the whole birding landscape will gradually be rearranged as some birds leave for the winter and others arrive.

As for the nighthawk on my roof, it has already left. But, before it left, the nighthawk told me this: summer is over, the migration is in full force, and winter is right around the corner.


September Meeting
Slides and Comments of World Traveler, Lew Wilkinson

Thursday, September 17th, Room 310, Bean Museum, BYU

The quiet, unassuming manner of our own Lew Wilkinson belies the great extent and variety of his travels and experience. Come and meet "the man from Monroe."

Future Meetings


Robin’s View
by Robin Tuck (


Wandering about

Sometimes it is good to wander off and expand one's horizons, take a different road and chance upon new vistas. I set about on such a course this summer and have had some good adventures.

I determined I would drive the Interstates in Utah and see where the exits went. There are a lot of exits that seem to go right off into nowhere, with dirt roads stretching off both ways into the unknown. I could hear the siren call, and traveled a short distance on each one.

My favorite is I-70, arching up and over the Swell. Every exit had seldom traveled roads heading who knows where. On one side trip I came upon a fellow traveler parked under a Juniper tree eating lunch, quite unaware of the flat tire he had. My offer to help with the tire startled him. "Flat tire, I don't have a flat tire." I ended up saying the same thing in Grouse Creek just a few days ago.

The monotonous drone of the tires on pavement causes us to go right on by some great places, hurrying on heading towards some important destination. The exit sign states "Ranch Exit" and we pass on by. Life's too short to stop. But when you stop, there are wonderful things to find. Like Crystal Geyser down by Green River or the Red-tail hawks soaring in the heat plume of a power plant in Sulphurdale or Eagle Canyon at exit 114 North, so named because the Swazey's thought it was so deep an Eagle couldn't fly out of it.

Sometimes the surrounding is drab, but something is right over the hill. Over by Colorado, I-70 parallels the Colorado River, some 5 to 6 miles to the south, but invisible because of a range of hills. The rafters know about it and call it Westwater. Coming out on a dirt track, I happened upon Kokopelli's Trail, a well marked but rugged road to Moab. Top speed, about 5 miles per hour. There was even a rock that looked like a Volkswagon fallen over a ledge.

There is a beauty to the lonesomeness. Stark perhaps. Passing by the ‘almost ghost town' of Cisco, caused me to wonder what would cause someone to choose to live there. That was before I met a lady at a ranch south of Callao who craved solitude. And almost everywhere in Utah, you can find solitude.

Ever wonder what was over that mountain over there? Or what lay around the bend? My excuse is birding and it carries me over the mountain and around the bend.


A Starling by Any Other Name...
by Lois Clark

Fascination with scientific names started early when, as a child, I heard my Dad refer to "plain old" aspirin as Acetylsalicylic Acid, a musical sound to my young ears. While I was growing up, Dad’s office occupied part of our home, and from time to time, I would hear medical terminology with its captivating cadence. The interest continued after leaving home, through my R.N. years, and life with Kyle. One of his favorite pastimes was watching shorebird migration, and he had binoculars long before I took birds seriously. Eventually, I caught birding fever, obtained a field guide and my own binoculars, put on my birding hat, and did a quick metamorphosis from Rx talk to something "practical": bird terminology. This action yielded immediate results because the first bird to hit me full in the face, linguistically speaking, was Sturnus vulgaris. Could there be a better name for a starling? Vulgaris, indeed. And how about Brown-headed Cowbird, Molothrus ater, which translates to "parasite or greedy"/ "black." It is a well-deserved moniker, and easy to say with appropriate disdain.

A beautiful bird with a luscious-sounding name that rolls easily off the tongue, Agelaius phoeniceus, translates to "flocking"/ "red," for the Red-winged Blackbird. Black-headed Grosbeak, Pheuticus melanocephalus, is "painted with cosmetics"/ "black," " head." The Northern Waterthrush, Seiurus noveboracensis, a tongue-twister, means "to wave," "tail"/ "of New York, where the bird was found." From a personal standpoint, Bombycilla cedrorum, curiously, comes more quickly to my mind than "Cedar Waxwing," maybe because Bombycilla is so much fun to say. Scientific names have meaningful, descriptive roots, and they denote each species in a universal language.

Two helpful books are Robert K. Terres’ The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds [click to order from] and Ernest A.Choate’s The Dictionary of American Birds [click to order from]. Terres’ book provides, among a myriad of other things, help with pronunciation. The following is an example of a portion of the information available in Terres’ book about one of our more common birds: "Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura (zen-AY-ih-dah mah-CROO-rah); genus name by Charles Lucien Bonaparte, French zoologist, in l838, in honor of his wife, Princess Zenaida Charlotte Julie Bonaparte, to a genus of doves that includes the Zenaida Dove, White-winged Dove, and, more recently, the Mourning Dove, (see American Ornithologist’ Union, l973); species name: from Gr. makros, long, and oura, tail; mourning, from inferred sadness of the bird’s call."

The Choate book is as small as Terres' is large, but both are packed with information. Some bird’s names are complicated in the telling, as in the Osprey, Pandion haliaetus, which takes on "mythological" proportions in Choate’s detailed account.

My interest in names was reinforced in l990 when I attended a series of bird identification lectures by irrepressible and knowledgeable Kenn Kaufman. He talked about birds in their generic context, as little sub-groups within the family, having common behavioral characteristics. He recommended going through the field guide and highlighting or circling the name of the genus and species of each bird, thereby separating the various genera by color. He indicated that birds of the same genus may not necessarily be together in some bird books, but that it is helpful when they are.

To illustrate his approach, Kenn used the genus Zonotricha , the striped sparrows, comprised of four species: White-crowned, Golden-crowned, Harris,’ and White-throated Sparrows. Their particular scientific names accurately describe their characteristics. Kenn went further, stressing the importance of becoming familiar with them as a group, paying particular attention to everything that has to do with behavior. He pointed out that Zonotrichia sparrows, in their indigenous area, are not usually seen alone, hiding away; rather, there will be a small flock, easy to see, feeding out in the open near some protective brush. They will sit up in the open, perhaps on a shrub, making loud call notes. Physically, besides their distinctly marked heads, which may have a slightly crested appearance, they are large in size, and they have relatively long tails. When looking at them, it is helpful to see them through partially closed eyes, squinting at them to get the overall impression without being distracted by details.

Furthermore, considering them generically, as members of a unique group, the process of correctly identifying a seldom-seen bird that shows up at the backyard feeder, for instance, is made easier. The "little stranger," in all probability, will be in the company of its generic counterparts, the more common local flock. On a personal basis, I enjoyed visits to my feeder by a beautiful Golden-crowned Sparrow, with a flock of White-crowned Sparrows. Under similar circumstances, an immature Harris’ Sparrow appeared one day. It’s enough to cause a racing pulse and hyperventilation in a birder. Now, all I need is a White-throated Sparrow to complete the Zonotrichia contingent here at home.

In conclusion, here is a "nest-full" of birds with abbreviated interpretations of their genus and species names. Do you recognize them?

Dolichonyx oryzivorus
Long claw / devourer of rice or grain
Turdus migratorious
a thrush / wanderer
Sturnella neglecta
a starling / neglected (how sad, to be neglected)
Melospiza melodia
song, a finch / a pleasant song
Dendroica petechia
a tree, inhabit / purplish spots
Callipepla californica
beautifully dressed / of California
Tyto alba
a night owl / white
Vermivora celata
worm / to eat
Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus
yellow head / yellow head (that’s a really yellow head!)
Catharus guttatus
pure / a drop

You did it! You did it! 100%!



Bird Words
by Milton Moody (

There are many strange and interesting words in the English language that have arisen to describe groups of specific animals and to name their babies or youngsters. Some of my favorite group words are: a crash of rhinoceroses, a leap of leopards, a mob of kangaroos, a skulk of foxes and a sleuth of bears. Some real cute names for baby animals are: blinker, tinker and spike all for a mackerel; the "ling" words: catling, codling, duckling, fingerling (fish), fledgling, nestling, suckling (pig), and yearling and joey (kangaroo), fry (fish), lambkin, leveret (a hare), sprag (codfish), and whelp (for dogs, and beasts o’prey).

Here are two lists of "bird words" I thought were interesting:  (Here's a comprehensive list)

Names for some bird groups:

bevy of swans or quail
brace of ducks
brood of chicks or hens
cast of hawks
charm of goldfinches (finches)
clutch of chicks or eggs
congregation of plovers (and other birds)
cover of coots
covey of partridges of quail
deceit of lapwings
descent of woodpeckers
dissimulation of birds (general)
dule of doves
exaltation of larks
fall of woodcocks
flight of birds, cormorants, swallows or goshawks  
gaggle of geese (on the water)
host of sparrows
kettle of hawks or a mixed flock of small birds
knot of hawks
tidings of magpies
lamentation of swans
muster of peacocks or storks
murder of crows
murmuration of starlings
nide of pheasants
parliament of owls
party of jays
peep of chickens
pitying of turtledoves
rafter or raft of turkeys
scold of jays
sedge or siege of cranes or herons
skein of geese (and other birds in flight)
spring of teal
team of ducks
trip of dotterel
unkindness of ravens
volery of birds (in a cage)
wake of buzzards
walk of snipes
watch of nightingales
wedge of geese or swans (flying in a "V")
wing of plovers
of snipes

Names for young birds:

cheeper - grouse, partridges, quail
cockerel - rooster
cygnet - swan
duckling - duck
eaglet - eagle
eyas - hawk or falcon
flapper - wild fowl
gosling - goose
fledgling - birds
nestling - birds
owlet - owl
poult - turkey
pullet - hen
squab - pigeon


Hotline Summary

Junece Markham 373-2487
Julia Tuck 377-8084

Names of Birds


Reported by:



Harris’ Hawk (possible) 15 Aug Jack Torrey Goblin Valley Emery
Stilt Sandpiper 23 Aug Joel & Kathy Beyer Swede Lane mudflats Utah
Semipalmated Plover 24 Aug Merrill Webb Swede Lane mudflats Utah
Townsend’s Warbler 25 Aug Bob & Marilyn Parsons Timpooneke Trail Utah
Nashville Warbler 27 Aug Eric Huish Anderson Park, Pleasant Grove Utah
Virginia’s Warbler " " Eric Huish " Utah
MacGillivray’s Warbler " " Eric Huish " Utah
Short-billed Dowitcher 28 Aug Joel & Kathy Beyer Farmington Bay WMA Davis
Dunlin " " Joel & Kathy Beyer West end of Glover Lane " Davis
Blue-throated Hummingbird (pos.) 28 Aug Alan Miller, Jerry Wall Big Water Trail, Millcreek Cnyn. Salt Lake
Great Egret (nest) 30 Aug Ned Hill North 4000 West, Lake Shore Utah
Northern Mockingbird 30 Aug Mark Stackhouse, David Wheeler Swede Lane, Lake Shore Utah
Gray Partridge 4 Sept Garry George
Mark Stackhouse
White Valley, northwest of Tremonton Box Elder
Boneparte’s Gull " " Garry George
Mark Stackhouse
Willard Bay Davis
Common Tern " " Garry George
Mark Stackhouse
" Davis
Red-necked Phalarope 5 Sept David Wheeler
Mark Stackhouse
Chicken Creek Reservoir Juab
Cassin’s vireo 6 Sept David Wheeler, MS Whipple Valley Trail, Pine Valley Mountains Washington
Northern Pygmy-owl " " David Wheeler, MS Whipple Valley Trail, Pine Valley Mountains Washington
Plumbeous Vireo " " David Wheeler, MS Whipple Valley Trail, Pine Valley Mountains Washington
Ruddy Turnstone 8 Sept Keith Evans marina at Antelope Island Davis