The local Pileated Woodpeckers seem to have had a successful breeding season again this year somewhere in the vicinity. Last night a friend up the road called me to come and view a nice specimen having a go at a power pole opposite his home and this afternoon J watched mother and youngster in our garden, she hacking at the peanut feeder and young fellow sitting by … then this evening the juvenile was perched in the Butternut tree preening his feathers.
I have been in recent communication with a fellow living in BC who was asking about the frequent use of the word “Outarde” in Quebec place names, especially in the north along the Gulf of St Lawrence. He had determined that it was the name of a bird, but his French dictionary translated it as the Little Bustard, a species with zero presence or relatives on this continent and he was understandably confused. I was able to tell him that Outarde is the old, no longer used except by hunters and old folk who grew up with it, common name for what in French is now Bernache de Canada or the Canada Goose and I am speculating that this is another instance of the “Robin System” of naming species that is much used over here. In rather the same way that the American Robin was so named by early settlers because it has a red breast, despite being a thrush and having no link whatsoever to the Euro-Robin, it seems probable that early arrivals here saw big grazing birds alongside the water and named them after a bird with which they were familiar that had some similar characteristics. very early arrivals – Jacques Cartier wrote about vast flocks of “Outardes” and who can argue with him?
I do find this frustrating and wish that some renaming could take place, though I know it never will. About 20 or so years ago the French names were sorted out to eliminate silly anomalies like these and the world is a better place for it but the English speaking world seems unable to get its act together in this respect.
Anyway, our exchange continued and my correspondent further noted that when visiting the very far north a few years ago where almost the only recorded bird is the Common Raven for most of the year he had been amazed to find the first birds he saw were, in fact, American Robins – way, way further north than any field guide distribution map will place them. Are these new arrivals following the opportunities given by global climate change (like the increasing numbers of Carolina Wrens in Montreal and the recent occurrence of Red-bellied Woodpeckers?) or have they been there for ever and it is simply that someone has now noticed them and recorded their presence? One is forever giving advice to novice birders to look at the distribution maps in their field guides before making an identification but how valid is that any longer? As more and more people report their sightings using such tools as eBird it seems likely that we are going to “discover” new species in places where they have never been seen before – but where they have in fact been happily living their lives for generations.
This is interesting.
Now, a couple more pictures of the Pileated: