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The Eponym Dictionary of Birds

Melanie Colón
  • Bo Beolens, Michael Watkins, Michael Grayson Christopher Helm 2014 http://www.bloomsbury.com/9781472905734

    About the Author


    Bo Beolens is perhaps best known as his online personae, the ‘Grumpy Old Birder’ and the ‘Fatbirder’. After a successful career in community work and managing various charities, he retired to his home county of Kent where he spends all his free time birding or pursuing his lifelong interest in the natural world. He is co-author of three other eponym dictionaries, and has recently published a book of memoirs.


    Michael Watkins worked in London for 45 years as a shipbroker. No longer active in the business, he is still associated with it as a tutor for the industry's professional body, the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers. Since retiring, he has had more time for birding and travelling, though never quite enough.


    Michael Grayson spent most of his working life at the British Library in London. His chief interests are vertebrate taxonomy and nomenclature, and the captive husbandry of exotic species. He is a Fellow of the Zoological Society of London.

    English 10/09/2014 1472905733 9781472905734 No value 08/28/2014 9781472905741

Birdwatchers often come across bird names that include a person’s name, either in the vernacular (English) name or latinised in the scientific nomenclature. Such names are properly called eponyms, and few people will not have been curious as to who some of these people were (or are).


Names such as Darwin, Wallace, Audubon, Gould and (Gilbert) White are well known to most people. Keener birders will have yearned to see Pallas’s Warbler, Hume’s Owl, Swainson’s Thrush, Steller’s Eider or Brünnich’s Guillemot. But few people today will have even heard of Albertina’s Myna, Barraband’s Parrot, Guerin’s Helmetcrest or Savigny’s Eagle Owl. This extraordinary new work lists more than 4,000 eponymous names covering 10,000 genera, species and subspecies of birds. Every taxon with an eponymous vernacular or scientific name (whether in current usage or not) is listed, followed by a concise biography of the person concerned. These entries vary in length from a few lines to several paragraphs, depending on the availability of information or the importance of the individual’s legacy. The text is punctuated with intriguing or little-known facts, unearthed in the course of the authors’ extensive research.


Ornithologists will find this an invaluable reference, especially to sort out birds named after people with identical surnames or in situations where only a person's forenames are used. But all birders will find much of interest in this fascinating volume, a book to dip into time and time again whenever their curiosity is aroused.

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