Tits or Chickadees?
Not sure how I had missed this after a lifetime looking at creatures but I recently came across a photograph of a small bird and thought “funny looking Chickadee”. This was the bird:
It didn’t take me long to work out that it was similar but different – here is the Black-capped Chickadee we are all accustomed to seeing wherever we go. You can see the close similarity and the reason for a momentary confusion. After all, you “expect” to be looking at a bird from your part of the world so your brain naturally seeks local names and identifiers first:
And here they are side by side:
So – the Black-capped Chickadee is Poecile atricapillus while the slightly grubby look-alike is a European Willow Tit – Poecile montanus
Same genus but evolving and living 3000+ miles apart where never the twain will meet.
… and then, to really muddy the waters, we have, living not far north of Montreal the Boreal Chickadee – Poecile hudsonicus which has features of both of the first two birds:
So where am I going with this?
Common names is where. I suggest that we would find life a little easier if we could all agree on what common names to use for species when not using the Latin versions. Scientific names tell us clearly that these are related species of the same genus (Poecile) whereas a person not familiar with the terminology would assume that any common features were merely coincidental as the very different names Tits and Chickadees are unrelated.
Much the same could be said for Euro-Robins and the North American version which really is totally unrelated. However it makes the point – Robin species share a common name but have no taxonomic relationship while Tits/Chickadees have very different common names yet are close relatives. Most confusing.
I vote for standardising nomenclature – which should these be? Tits or Chickadees? To quote from Wikipedia members of this family are commonly referred to as “tits” throughout much of the world, but North American species are called either “chickadees” (derived from their distinctive “chick-a dee dee dee” call).
It is accepted that Poecile is a genus of birds in the TIT family Paridae which contains 15 species scattered across North America, Europe and Asia; the North American species are for whatever bizarre reason named the chickadees. How about we start being consistent and talking about Black-capped Tits and Boreal Tits – so much more logical.
Don’t suppose it will happen though. Meanwhile, do enjoy the pictures.