One of the most interestingly-named birds regularly seen around Delhi is
Cisticola Cisticola juncidis. It has an onomatopoeic common
name—its call being a loud "zit zit"—that includes its Latin generic
name Cisticola, from the Greek name kistos for the "rock
rose" (a small red-flowered shrub) and Latin cola for "dweller"
(from colere "to dwell"). The specific name is from the Latin
iuncus for reed. (For some reason I can no longer remember, I
used to think that cistus meant basket, and referred to the bird's
basket-shaped nests, but I was wrong.)
Cisticola is the most familiar such name, but there are many
other birds named after their dwellings (a special case of bionyms).
Thanks to a borrowed copy of James A. Jobling's wonderful "Dictionary of
Scientific Bird Names", I can look up all of the -cola names
(both generic and specific) extracted from a checklist. Here's a
selection of the interesting ones.
Names related to plants
Not surprisingly, many habitats are described in terms of plant names.
Bambusicola is the self-explanatory genus of Bamboo Partridges.
Cryptosylvicola and silvicola both refer to the Latin
silva for forest; nemoricola is from the Latin
nemus, also for forest or wood, and Hylacola is from the
Greek name for the same thing. dumicola comes from the Latin
dumus for thorn bush (while Dumeticola and other forms
such as dumetorum derive from dumetum for thicket).
Reed and grass dwellings were taken particularly seriously.
Arundinicola is from the Latin Arundo for "reed", a name
shared by a genus of grasses (cf. Arundo donax, the Giant Cane).
Graminicola is from the Latin gramen or graminis
for grass, herbicola is from herba also for grass, and
Schoenicola is from schoenus for rushes or reeds. Perhaps
these terms applied to different species of grasses at one time, but the
distinctions are now lost.
Some of these names are used for birds seen in India: the Mountain
Bamboo Partridge Bambusicola fytchii (after Major General Albert
Fytche), Wood Snipe Gallinago nemoricola, Blyth's Reed Warbler
Acrocephalus dumetorum, Rufous-rumped Grassbird Graminicola
bengalensis, and Broad-tailed Grassbird Schoenicola
Names used for both genus and species
I am fond of names that are used for both genera and species (see
this post for more
- Fluvicola from fluvius for river
- Limicola from limus for mud
- Monticola from montis for mountain (also
- Pinicola from pinus for pine tree
- Rupicola from rupes for rock (also rupestris)
India has a fair selection of birds that use these names: the
Streak-throated Swallow Hirundo fluvicola, Eurasian Crag Martin
Hirundo rupestris, Broad-billed Sandpiper Limicola
falcinellus, four Rock Thrushes of the genus Monticola, and
the Long-billed Thrush Zoothera monticola.
Here is an assortment of Latin specific names:
- agricola means field-dweller
- andaecola/andecola/andicola all mean Andes
- arenicola and deserticola both mean desert dweller
- alticola is from altus for high (altitude)
- domicola is from domus for house (domicile)
- humicola is from humus for ground
- latebricola is from latebra for hiding-place
- nubicola is from nubis for cloud
- paludicola refers to palus for marsh
- pratincola means meadow-dweller (cf. Meadow Pipit Anthus
- rusticola is from rusticus, and means country-dweller
Two especially odd (and unrelated) specific names are larvaticola
and raricola, both given to parasitic species and referring to
their host species.
Finally, another familiar name is Saxicola (the genus of
Stonechats), from the Latin saxum for stone.