Bird photos

Lapwings Loons & Lousy Jacks

Local bird expert Ray Reedman is about to publish his long-awaited book Lapwings, Loons & Lousy Jacks, the how and why of bird names.

Ray Reedman's book Lapwings once had more local names than any British species, but other lapwing species are found around the world too. Loons represent a tension between British and American traditions, where we are sometimes same language. Lousy Jacks, aka Apostlebirds, have an odd local Australian name, but why? Each has a Latin alter ego as Vanellus Gavia and Struthidia, but what do those names mean?

Seen for the first time in a World context, with many names of North America, Australia and Trinidad included alongside those of British and European species, the story of bird names is presented in a reader-friendly narrative, well-sown with the author's own experiences at home and abroad. The book is written for all bird enthusiasts as a bridge into the world of history, politics, literature and science behind the birds. It asks the questions that puzzle many of us and discusses the influences that shape the names of birds. Over 2,000 English and scientific names are explored in an illustrated text.

In the stories behind the names we rediscover such as the Classical world and the history of exploration, in stories where even scandal and murder lurk. We find too that busy scientists may be fallible and that they sometimes contribute to confusion. The name 'scoter' ('of unknown origin' according to the OED) is finally explained using evidence from both America and France. Other such puzzles are resolved too. As for the more mundane and familiar, even the Robin has a colourful tale to tell. The Americans and Australians have their own unrelated 'robins' which remind us that, while linked by a common language, we each use it in different contexts. And if we Brits are offended by the international use of the word 'murre' for a 'guillemot', do we stop to consider that the American usage is Cornish while ours is French in origin? While most of the English names which are used in a world context are rooted in Anglo-Saxon and French, those of Australia, North America and Trinidad also reflect the influence of diverse explorers, settlers and native peoples. For that reason those areas are examined more closely. The author is a linguist, a former teacher, and a lifelong bird-lover - as well as an Earley resident and frequent contributor to EEG activities, whose experiences and travels are reflected in the book. Join him on this journey of discovery which celebrates a wonderful world of words and birds.

The book is scheduled for publication on 1st August 2016, by Pelagic Publishing. EEG members can pre-order the book with a good discount using the promotional code LAP25. Ray hopes to have copies on sale at the Earley Green Fair.

Contact the EEG WebMaster