Spoony …

Scientific names are modern constructions of Latin or Greek or even Chinese. In fact there are almost no rules governing their construction. Even where they are in Latin or Greek in they would rarely convey much more than a vague description to a native speaker of the classic languages. Eucritta melanolimnes, for instance, translates roughly as “creature from the black lagoon”. The names would  convey even less where someone’s surname has been given a faux Latin ending. Which centurion would ever guess that Baeturia laureli and B. hardyi are species of cicada?

Platalea is an exception, it means Spoonbill and was used by Cicero in his De Natura Deorum (45BC).

There are six species of spoonbill in the world. Australia has two.

Platalea regia
Platalea flavipes

The Royal and the Yellow-billed Spoonbill. In breeding plumage the Royal does look the more aristocratic of the two.

They both spend a fair amount of time standing on one leg with their bill under the opposite wing. This is when it comes in handy to know that their legs are a good match for their bills. The scientific name of one of them is half way there, flavipes means yellow foot.

They have in the past been called Yellow-legged and Black-legged Spoonbills which had the benefit of being usefully descriptive and avoiding tautology. If I’ve told you once not to repeat yourself I’ve told you a dozen times.

 

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