Thursday, February 16, 2006

Spiffy? Unmade Bed? Pale Male?

People often write in proposing names for the birds I feature here,--names, for instance for the Great Horned owl that recently visited Central Park or for last year's fledglings from the Trump Parc nest.

Often these letters are emotional pleas of a sort. For instance:

" And when, as children, we read children's books, didn't all our favorite animal characters have names?? What about one of the most famous, and beloved, of all, "Winnie the Pooh? What about "Bambi"? What about "Peter Rabbit"? What about "Charlotte's Web"? "

Here's my response to someone who wrote me with a suggested name for the Great Horned Owl She wrote that she was appealing to me because I'm the "designated name-giver." Perhaps she made that assumption because back in 1991 I came up with the name Pale Male for the large bird of prey that had moved into Central Park that winter. Much easier to say Pale Male than "the light-phased red-tailed hawk," don't you agree?

Dear Chris,[I wrote]:

No I'm not the designated name-giver. And anyhow, though there have been exceptions, almost all the birders I know are opposed to names for "celebrity birds" other than descriptive ones that serve as a short cut -- i.e. Pale Male. I didn't name Lola, and it took me a long time to accept that name. So there you are.

Of course you can call the GHO any name you want. And perhaps you'll persuade a sufficient number of others to use that name so it will just slide into place. But to me it seems a bit embarrassing [anthropomorphic in the bad sense of the word] to give critters "human" names. I personally am happy with GHO. If there were other GHO's around and we wanted to be able to distinguish one from another for the purposes of record-keeping [and possibly some scientific use of our records] than I'd be more inclined to name. And then I'd still lean towards descriptive names.

Cheers, Marie

I'm writing this because one of Central Park's "big gun" birders came up to me on Tuesday as we were filling the feeders at the Evodia Field and said: "Marie, your names for the West Drive owls are ridiculous."

"What names?" I asked.

"Spiffy and Unmade Bed," he replied..

Another of the ace birders added: "If you're going to name the West Drive owls Spiffy and Unmade Bed I'm taking your site off my Favorites. "

I laughed of course, but now I feel obliged to defend my honor just a little bit. Nobody has named those owls anything, and we're not planning to. We're just being lighthearted-- kidding around. So lighten up, guys.