Dictionary of Birds of the United States

by Joel Ellis Holloway
ISBN: 0881926000

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A Review of: Dictionary Of Birds Of The United States (Scientific and Common Names)
by Allan Safarik

The pantheon of books about birds is greatly enriched by the addition of this title. This book is written, edited, and published by people who know their subject matter and care greatly about how they present the information they have gathered about our feathered friends.
The Dictionary of Birds Of the United States, a volume devoted to the scientific and common names of birds, might seem like one of those academic tomes that could be offputting to youngsters. True, this book is not enriched by colour plates and it relies on modest black and white drawings to illustrate its esoteric information. However, consider the subject matter, sit back on the sofa and read about the fascinating nomenclature of birds:

"Pandion haliaetus Osprey, SCIENTIFIC NAME Pandion, a mythological king of Athens. Marie Jules Cesar Lelorgne de Savigny (1777-1851), assigned the osprey to a new genus, removing it from the original Falco, where it had been placed by Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778). He took the name from the myth of Pandion, which he either did not read or misunderstood. Pandion's two daughters, Procne and Philomena, were both wives (through the usual deceptions) of Tereus, the King of Thrace. After the sisters discover the deception, they cooked and served Ereus his only son, an infant, whose mother was Procne. All of this made the gods so angry that they three were changed into birds. Procne was changed into a swallow, Pilomela into a nightingale and Tereus into a hawk or hoopoe, which continually chases the other two. Pandion was not involved in all of this and was not changed into anything. Tereus would have been a better choice for this genus name + haliaetus, from Latin haliaetos, a sea eagle, here spelled correctly (see Haliaeetus leucocephalus).
COMMON NAME Osprey, from Latin ossifragus, from os, bone, and frangere, to break. The Old Roman name ossifragus referred to the lammergrier (Gypaetus barbatus) a large vulture that drops bones and turtles from the air to break them up. This name was transferred to the osprey around the sixteenth century."

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