Bird Names Part One

Here is some information about the meaning behind the names of a few birds.

Enjoy! and Have a Great Day!

Wilson's Warbler, Cardellina pusilla: The scientific species name of “pusilla”, means “very small”. Wilson’s Warbler is a New World Warble in the Parulidae Family; the birds are 4 to 4.5 inches long (10 to 12 cm).  Pictured are a male above and female below.  They are migratory, spending winters in Mexico and traveling as far south as Panama. In the summer they mostly breed in Alaska and Canada, but they also breed in the Rocky Mountains and along the Pacific Coast. The birds are named after Alexander Wilson (1766 – 1813), who was born in Scotland and started out as a weaver and poet. He often lived in poverty and was arrested several times for his “rebellious” poetry. In 1794 Wilson emigrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he became a teacher and friends with naturalist William Bartram, who encourage Wilson to start painting birds. Wilson’s collection of 268 bird paintings, became an inspiration to James Audubon. Alexander died at age 47 and is buried at the historic Gloria Dei Church (Old Swedes') in Southwark, Philadelphia. The Wilson's Storm-petrel, Wilson's Plover, Wilson's Phalarope, and Wilson's Snipe are also named after Alexander. 
Williamson’s Sapsucker, ( Sphyrapicus thyroideus): The scientific genus name of “Sphyrapicus” combines the Ancient Greek word “sphura” meaning "hammer" and “pikos” meaning "woodpecker". Williamson’s Sapsucker are in the Picidae Family, also known as the Woodpecker Family and are about 9 inches in length (23 cm).  Pictured is a male; the female is better camouflaged with brown, white, and black striping. Williamson’s Sapsuckers prefer mountain habitats and breed in the Rockies and Sierra Nevada ranges and the birds winter in the mountains of Mexico. Williamson’s Sapsuckers are named after Lieutenant Robert Williamson (1825 - 1882), an American soldier and engineer who surveyed for the transcontinental railroad in California and Oregon. Sapsuckers feed by drilling holes in the bark of trees until the sap starts running. The birds will feed on the sap, but mostly will feed on the insects that are attracted to the sweet sap. Robert died at age 57 of tuberculosis in San Francisco and is buried at the Masonic Cemetery in San Francisco.
Townsend’s Solitaire, ( Myadestes townsendi): This bird is in the Turdidae Family, also known as the Thrush Family; the family includes bluebirds, American Robins, solitaires, and thrushes. Townsend’s Solitaires are 8 - 9.5 inches in length (20–24 cm).  Male and female Townsend’s Solitaires are identical and have an orange strip in the wing, which can be seen when they fly. Many birds of this species do not migrate, but some migrate to Canada and Alaska for the breeding season and they can be found as far south as northern Mexico. The birds are named after John Townsend (1809 - 1851), who was a Quaker from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and who was educated as a physician and pharmacist, but it was nature that drew his attention and he traveled and collected specimens throughout the United States. He grew up in a well-educated and socially active family. From Wikipedia: “His sister Mary wrote a book called, "Life in the Insect World" in 1844 and his sister, Hannah, wrote “The Anti-Slavery Alphabet” in 1846, which was sold at the Anti-Slavery Fair in Philadelphia. His brother Edward was President of the Philadelphia Institution for Instruction of the Blind and helped organize the Philadelphia Dental College.” John Townsend died of accidental arsenic poisoning at age 41. Many animals and one other bird are also named after John: Townsend's Ground Squirrel, Townsend's Chipmunk, Townsend's Mole, Townsend's Vole, Townsend's Pocket Gopher Townsend's Big-eared Bat, White-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus townsendii), and Townsend's Warbler. 
Swainson’s Thrush, ( Catharus ustulatus): The genus “Catharus” means "pure" or "clean" in Ancient Greek. Most thrushes have a beautiful flute like song. Swainson’s Thrushes are in the Turdidae Family, also known as the Thrush Family; the family includes bluebirds, American Robins, solitaires, and thrushes. Swainson’s Thrushes are 6 – 8 inches in length (16–20 cm).  Male and female Swainson’s Thrushes are identical. Swainson’s Thrushes migrate great distances, wintering in Mexico, Central and South America, as far south as Argentina.  During the summer breeding season, they travel to the far northern areas of the United States, Canada, and Alaska. The birds are named after William Swainson (1789 – 1855), an English scientist, naturalist, and illustrator. Swainson was regularly active in numerous English scientific organizations and traveled and lived in New Zealand and Australia. Many birds throughout the world are named after William:  Swainson's Warbler, Swainson's Hawk, Swainson's Francolin, Swainson's Sparrow, Swainson's Antcatcher, Swainson's Fire-eye, Swainson's Flycatcher, and Swainson's Toucan. 

Steller’s Jay ( Cyanocitta stelleri): These birds are in the Corvid Family, also known as the Crow Family, which includes all crows, ravens, rooks, jackdaws, jays, magpies, treepies, choughs, and nutcrackers. Like most birds in the Corvid Family, Steller’s Jay are omnivores and very smart, compared to most birds. Steller’s Jays are 12–13 inches in length (30- 34 cm). Male and Female Steller’s Jay are identical. Steller’s Jays do not migrate and are resident birds in coniferous forests and mountains of western North America. Their overall habitat ranges from Alaska to Nicaragua and some birds have adapted to scrub and desert habitats. The birds are named after Georg Steller (1709 - 1746); no “e” in Georg.  Steller was a German naturalist and physician, who in 1740 joined Captain Vitus Bering’s Second Kamchatka Expedition, (also known as the Great Northern Expedition 1733–1743), which explored the northern coast of Russia and lands that are now part of Alaska.  In 1741 the ship was wrecked on what is now called Bering Island. There the crew was stranded and spent the winter: 28 of the 74 crew members died, including Bering. In the spring of 1742, the remaining crew built a 40-foot boat from the wreckage and sailed back to Russia. Upon returning to Russia, Steller spent several years exploring the Kamchatka Peninsula and eventually returned to St Petersburg. In 1746, at the age of 37, Georg died of fever. There are other animals and one plant named after him: Steller's Eider, Steller's Sea Eagle, Steller's Sea Cow (now extinct), Steller's Sea Lion, Gumboot Chiton ( Cryptochiton stelleri), Hoary Mugwort ( Artemisia stelleriana).
Washington Diversity Tour
10-Day Tour with Cabins
Tour starts in the northern part of the Olympic Peninsula and down the Pacific Coast. From the coast we travel east along the Columbia River and cross the Cascades just south of Mount Rainier. In eastern Washington, we visit sites along the Columbia River Basin. From the rainforest to arid eastern Washington, on this tour you will experience the bio-diversity of Washington state and visit habitats and life zones as diverse as the lowland rainforest, pacific coast, inland lakes, alpine, estuaries and river sloughs.

10-Day Tour with Car Camping
Tour starts with pick-up at the Bainbridge ferry terminal across from Seattle and ends at the Bremerton ferry on your way back to Seattle. You can choose lodging in cabins or tent camping at state parks with nice facilities. Camping is always best because you will be closer to nature. Our tents are very comfortable with lots of thick floor mats and bedding. You will see more birds and wildlife if you choose camping. Web Link
Olympic Peninsula Tour
5-Day Tour with Cabins
The 5-day tour starts with pick-up at the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal, which is easily accessible from the Seattle. From there the tour will travel the entire 350 mile loop of the Olympic Peninsula Highway stopping at all significant wildlife sites including Olympic National Park.

5-Day Tour with Car Camping
You can choose lodging in cabins or tent camping at state parks with nice facilities. Camping is best because you will be closer to nature. Our tents are very comfortable and cozy with lots of thick floor mats and bedding. You will see more birds and wildlife if you choose camping. Web Link
You can find out more and see all our great photos on social media
Check our new website for dates, details and pricing
Call us at 970-556-6103
International Travel Tours
New Tours
  • Panama, Birding the Darien for Harpy Eagles
  • Sri Lanka: The best and most relaxing bird tour you will ever experience
  • Nepal: Birding the fantastic Himalayas and a great cultural experience
  • India: Birding for vegetarians, great culture and great food
  • Mongolia: Birding the high steppes and staying in traditional "Gers" for lodging
  • Sarawak and Northern Borneo: Birding and wildlife viewing, including orangutans
  • Korea: Winter birding to view cranes and migrants
  • Japan: Birding the Kyoto and Osaka areas
  • Tallinn, Estonia for Winter Birding and New Year's Eve

Still on the Schedule
  • Iceland: Great tours in May, the best New Year's Eve trip ever, and a special winter tour
  • Sweden: Christmas tour, Southwest Sweden and the Åland Islands for mid-summers'
  • Nicaragua: Our all time favorite place for birding and traveling anytime of year
  • El Salvador: Birding the best National Parks and Pacific Coast
  • Taiwan: A very special place for birding and one of our favorites
  • Colombia: Birding the Andes and Amazon, and having a lot of fun
  • Argentina: Birds and butterflies, more than you can count
  • Brittany, France: Birding the coast, great food and culture

In the United States
  • Santa Fe Birding and Opera Festival
  • Chicago Fun and Urban Birding
Check our website for dates, details and pricing
Call us at 970-556-6103
Your Travel and Adventure Guides: Kaiyote & Ed
Photo: Here we are along the Olympic Peninsula Coast of Washington State. We look forward to showing you all the great birds, wildlife and adventures that can be found around the world, the United States and in Washington state. Call us anytime! See you soon!
Kaiyote Tours +1 970-556-6103