Dipper

The Dipper is like a big black-and-white Wren on steroids that spends its life on, in and around fast-flowing streams. It is highly unusual in that in addition to brief dips beneath the surface, this perching bird can swim underwater tilting against the current. Also, it can use its powerful feet and claws to cling to underwater rocks to stop it getting washed away.

An old name was Water Ouzel, ouzel being an old name for the Blackbird. With its superificial resemblance to the Ring Ouzel at least in pattern, you can see where it got its name.

The Dipper is also called the White-throated Dipper, to distinguish it from other dippers around the world. Our local subspecies has a chestnut band beneath the white breast, while nominate continental birds have a blacker belly and are known as ‘Black-bellied Dipper’, which are rare visitors to the UK.

 Pic: Graham Ella / Alamy

Pic: Graham Ella / Alamy

American Robin

 Pic Robert Harding World Imagery / Alamy Stock Photo

Pic Robert Harding World Imagery / Alamy Stock Photo

When pioneering Europeans colonised North America, they naturally named the creatures they encountered. And equally naturally, they named them after familiar birds from the European homeland. The diverse, little streaky emberizine bunting-like birds looked a bit like ‘real’ sparrows and the name stuck. The common icterids were mid-sized and black, so became ‘blackbirds’ and their black and orange or yellow cousins looked somewhat like ‘orioles’. Similarly, the starling like (or Jackdaw-like), longer tailed icterids where somehat like the old-world mynahs of the genus Gracula, and so shared the name grackle.

The little colourful thin billed passerines were somewhat like Old World warblers, so became warblers.

And, of course, the large abundant red-breasted thrush, which appeared to occupy the niches of the European Blackbird was called Robin after our familiar little redbreast.

The next time a fellow birdwatcher makes a fuss about calling a bird Bearded Tit (not a ‘real’ tit), Honey Buzzard (not a ‘real’ buzzard) or Hedgesparrow (not a ‘real’ sparrow), gently point out that the inconsistencies and repeated use of the same names for unrelated birds are extremely common, especially in North America.

Canada Goose

There are two types of ‘feral’ – or naturalised – geese found widely across the UK. The Greylag Goose is the ancestor of the farmyard goose, and has a genuinely wild, mainly-wintering population, found in Scotland. The Canada Goose is almost exclusively derived from introduced stock. These introductions of the larger race canadensis from the east side of North America, began as long ago as the later 17th Century, during the reign of Charles II. So, the birds have been around much longer than ‘accepted’ introduced species, such as the Little Owl.

Why Canada? The bulk of the original (natural) breeding population is in the northern half of North America, principally Canada. With naturalised populations in the UK, New Zealand and South America, there is a little slice of Canada all round the world.

 Pic FLPA / Alamy

Pic FLPA / Alamy