Sunday, September 22, 2013

Why vultures aren't buzzards, why nighthawks aren't hawks, and why all gulls aren't seagulls

Have you ever heard someone say, "Look! a buzzard!"? I have. It's annoying. And one time heard is one time too many.

Don't. Misuse. Bird names. EVER.

Turkey Buzzard Vulture, adult, in flight.
The term buzzard came from Europeans, who used the word to name Buteos, or large hawk that soar. But us silly Americans have, like so many other things, misused it. And now (unfortunately) too many people think that a vulture is a buzzard. Incorrect, I say! Incorrect!
But I have more evidence. Buzzard hawks (Buteos) kill and eat freshly killed prey. They're hunters. Vultures eat carrion, or things that have already died. They're scavengers.

Common Nighthawk, adult.
Nighthawks aren't hawks. They're just nocturnal, flycatching birds that look like hawks. Their diet, behavior and "cousins" are totally different! Nighthawks are members of the "Goatsucker" family because they were mistaken to drink goat's (and other livestock's) blood! But they don't, so you farmers don't worry. What nighthawks do for a "living" is pretty much a duller version of what hawks do. Nighthawks eat flies and other flying insects. Hawks eat birds and other flying creatures (along with rodents, but that's not what I'm trying to get at).

Laughing Gull, adult, in flight.
Gulls... I don't know a single person who hasn't heard or said "seagull". Everybody's so used to saying it that nobody says "gull" anymore! I know what you're saying: "But some gulls live by the sea!" Yes they do. And those and only those are seagulls. All the rest are gulls. It's that simple.

So what I'm trying to say is that many people use many incorrect names for birds, and if you're not sure about it, look it up. Happy birding!

"Look! A yellow finch!"
He means Goldfinch. Whoopsie daisy.

-Mr. Bird
Goldfinch. Not yellow finch. Remember that.

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