For the Birds: Falling behind on name changes

Photo by Chris Bosak A common gallinule in Naples, Florida, April 2019.

Here’s the latest For the Birds column:

I brought up the subject of bird name changes last week. The column was about eastern towhees and how the ones we see here in the East were formerly called rufous-sided towhees.

I recently visited family in Florida and came across another interesting bird name change. Coincidently, it relates to a bird that paid a rare visit to Keene last week.

We were walking on a trail south of Naples and seeing many of the birds typically spotted in Florida. One of the more ubiquitous birds was the common moorhen. We kept hearing a rather strange bird, call so I took out my phone, launched my birding app and typed in “common moorhen” so I could find out what the bird sounded like.

Nothing came up. How could that be, I wondered. I know there is a bird called the common moorhen. I saw many of them the last time I was in Florida.

Phone service was spotty on the trail, so I couldn’t do an Internet search for common moorhen at the time. When we got back on the road I discovered why I couldn’t find common moorhen. The bird no longer exists as the common moorhen. The American Ornithologists’ Union split the U.S. bird from the similar marsh bird that is found in Europe and Asia.

The bird found overseas is called the Eurasian moorhen and the U.S. bird is now called the common gallinule. Florida has always had the purple gallinule; now Continue reading