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Dec 17, 2010

Great Blue Heron a.k.a. Arsnicker

Photo by Don Flucker
With a beak like the one above, a Great Blue Heron, possibly attacking from behind, would certainly be well-nicknamed Arsnicker.   Which starts my second (and last) look at bird nicknames.   The first part was back in early December and used, as the source for interesting old bird nicknames, a 105-year-old field guide by Charles A. Reed.   This time, I am using, as a reference source, my Peterson Field Guide "Birds of the West Indies", first published in 1936 with none other than James Bond, as its author.   And this James Bond is indeed the namesake for Ian Fleming's James Bond (see below).   The real James Bond's field guide is an excellent book and, probably unintentionally, seems to have more bird nicknames than any other guide in existence.   The nicknames naturally have a delightful Caribbean proclivity and are often humorous or sometimes inexplicable.   Who knew that so many birds could have so many nicknames...and usually in three different languages: English, French and Spanish?   Here's a sampling of noteworthy, colourful and mainly English nicknames.

1/ White Pelican, a.k.a. Alcatraz Blanco
2/ Flamingo, a.k.a. Filly-mingo or Flamenco
3/ Northern Shoveller Duck, a.k.a. Shovel-Mouth
4/ Ruddy Duck, a.k.a. Rubber Duck
5/ American Kestrel, a.k.a. Killy-killy or Bastard Hawk
6/ Yellow-breasted Crake, a.k.a. Twopenny Chick
7/ Oystercatcher, a.k.a. Whelk-cracker or Sea Pie
8/ Common Stilt, a.k.a. Crack-pot Soldier
9/ Jamaican Blackbird, a.k.a. Wild Pine Sergeant
10/ Least Tern, a.k.a. Kill-'em Polly
11/ Mourning Dove, a.k.a. Long-tailed Pea Dove or Fifi
12/ Common Ground Dove, a.k.a. Tobacco Dove
13/ Barn Owl, a.k.a. Death Owl or Death Bird
14/ Common Nighthawk, a.k.a. Killy-dadick or Gie-me-me-bit
15/ Most hummingbirds are nicknamed Doctor Bird or God Bird
16/ Most woodpeckers are called Carpinteros
17/ White-eyed Thrush, a.k.a. Long Day Hopping Dick
18/ Many warblers are called Chip-chip
19/ Adelaide's Warbler, a.k.a. Christmas Bird
20/ Blue-hooded Euphonia, a.k.a. Mistletoe Bird
21/ Jamaican Becard, a.k.a. Mountain Dick (female) and Judy (male) - go figure!

One of the very last entries in the guide, the Black-face Grassquit, has the most nicknames, including Parson Bird, Parson Sparrow, Sin Bird, Chitty Bird, Black Sparrow, White See-see, Ground Sparrow, Grass Bird, Straw Bird, Cane Sparrow, Tobacco Seed, Parakeet, Grass Quit, Chamarro Negro, Gorrion Negro, Juan Maruca, Barbito, Tomeguin Prieto, Petit des Herbes, and Cici des Herbes.   And these are just the most common nicknames for the Black-faced Grassquit!   In fact, in the West Indies, if you ask for the name of a bird and a person does not know the name, they'll often just make one up, on the spot.   How delightful.
As for James Bond (1900-1989), he was an important 
ornithologist whose name was appropriated by writer Ian Fleming for his fictional spy, James Bond.   Wikipedia reports the following.   Ian Fleming, who was a keen bird watcher living in Jamaica, was familiar with Bond's book, and chose the name of its author for the hero of 'Casino Royale' in 1953, apparently because he wanted a name that sounded 'as ordinary as possible'.   Fleming wrote to the real Bond's wife, "It struck me that this brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon and yet very masculine name was just what I needed, and so a second James Bond was born".   He also contacted the real James Bond about using his name in the books and Bond replied to him, "Fine with it".   At some point during one of Fleming's visits to Jamaica he met with the real Bond and his wife as shown in a made-for-DVD documentary about Fleming.   A short clip was shown with Fleming, Bond and his wife.   Also in his novel 'Dr. No' Fleming referenced Bond's work by basing a large ornithological sanctuary on Dr. No's island in the Bahamas.   In 1964, Fleming gave Bond a first edition copy of 'You Only Live Twice' signed "To the real James Bond, from the thief of his identity" as a final thanks.
In 2002 Bond film 'Die Another Day', the fictional Bond, played by Pierce Brosnan, can be seen examining 'Birds of the West Indies' in an early scene that takes place in Havana, Cuba.   The author's name (James Bond) on the front cover is obscured.   Another example from the same film, when Bond first meets Jinx, played by Halle Berry, he introduces himself as an ornithologist.
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