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Old Bird Names

8th May 2020 @ 6:06am – by David Keogh
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Ever wondered how birds got their names? Names given in the past were based on local custom and varied from county to county, even village to village.


Depending where you lived a Chaffinch was a Flackie, an Apple-bird or Silverwing. The names were so different across the countryside it's a wonder how Chaffinch emerged as a universal name!
Nicknames were the most common way of naming a bird but imagine the variety! As the following list (drawn from various sources) suggests it hardly leads us to the names we know today.
Blue Tit: Pickcheese
Great Tit: Pridden-Prals
Long Tailed Tit: Hedge-Mumruffin
Starling: Sheep-stare
Wren: Stumpy-Toddy
Dunnock: Shufflewing
Magpie: Meg-Pie
Greenfinch: Bighead
Goldfinch: Thistlehead
Jay: Devil-Scritch
Nuthatch: Nut-Jobber
Swift: Longwing (Welsh)
Kestrel: Hoverhawks/ Wind-Fanner
Country folk had names for their fields, the wild plants that grew there and the creatures in, on and above the land. These names date back centuries and can still be traced on maps, documents and in oral tradition. Even so, tracing the origins of names whether it be birds, plants, animals, insects, etc., is another matter. Do old local names for living things still remain? Worth a go.

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