[Tweeters] Re: Of identification and preconceived notions

ravenintherain ccorax at blarg.net
Sat Dec 22 14:08:57 PST 2007

mechejmch at aol.com wrote:


> I'd like to have a dollar for every "Blue Jay" that's been reported to

> our local sightings page or mentioned in casual conversations over the

> years here in the Pacific Northwest. It requires a good helping of

> "friendly dissuasion" to inform/enlighten the observers about

> Steller's Jays.


This isn't a mis-identification, it's a regional name. I grew up in
rural Oregon where we had birds called Swamp Robins, Wild Canaries and
Blue Jays. The "Swamp Robin" was the Spotted Towhee (which used to be
the Rufous-sided Towhee in respectable circles and is called the Chewink
in some regions.) Wild Canaries were American Goldfinches. Blue Jays
were Steller's Jays.

Steller's Jay is a "fancy" name among these people and a lot of
urbanites as well; meaning that it feels pretentious or pedantic to
them. The damn bird is a BLUE jay, so it's a Blue Jay. My mother, who
lived almost all her life within three miles of where she was born in
Oregon, traveled to the east coast a couple of times. Every once in a
while she would tell me that the people "back east" have a bird that
they call a Blue Jay, but it doesn't look like "our Blue Jay."
Mentioning that her Blue Jay was properly called a Steller's Jay would
just draw a blank look. My siblings in Oregon still call them Blue Jays
though they will sometimes admit that some people call them Stellar Jays
-- and why not? They are stellar birds.

The people who mis-identify herons at Green Lake and elsewhere have
almost certainly seen pictures of egrets and have a firm idea of what an
egret is; but when they see a heron they can't perceive the fine


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