CANADIAN GEESE.

Every once in a while the question “Canada goose or Canadian goose?” is used as yet another pedantic shibboleth, and I am pleased to find a birding page by Lisa Shea that addresses the issue with good sense and as scientific an attitude as any linguist could ask:

The vast majority of English speaking people call the goose that is large and has a black head—Branta canadensis—a Canadian Goose. However, its original name was a CANADA Goose.
Remember, the official name for any bird is its Latin name. So the “real” name for this creature is Branta canadensis. That’s because the bird probably has 200 different names in 200 different languages, based on its colors, its sounds, its habitat or many other reasons. Birds get named after people, after habits, after all sorts of things. The Latin name is the same around the world for that bird.
So it’s true that at one point in time the Branta canadensis was called a Canada Goose, because it was often seen flying towards Canada and living there. You could now just as easily call it a North American Goose since it is found all over North America and lives just about anywhere. It has adapted to live all across the US and into Mexico too.
So over the years, the name has changed to be Canadian Goose in English. Just like people in the 1600s used to call pumpkins “Pompions” and call vegetables “potherbs”, we have changed what we typically call the Branta canadensis to Canadian Goose.

In Canada, by the way, francophones call it bernache du Canada. (Via a typically thorough and well-informed comment by Dan Hartung.)

Comments

  1. Thanks for your comment on Ball Four-actually I had never really doubted that Bouton had written the book, but I’ve heard the allegation that he hadn’t so often that I began to wonder.
    You’ll notice I have Language Hat in my links (under Language/Literature) and I have a couple entries of yours linked in my Jan. 4 post. (Of course I’m not looking for a reciporical {sic} link as mine isn’t a language site but I wanted to mention the links!)

  2. The species was introduced long ago to Great Britain (and other parts of mainland Europe) and is very well established. But in this minority dialect of English it is a Canada goose, and is so named in all my many and various bird books. I’ve never seen or heard of it referred to as a Canadian goose.

  3. Cryptic Ned says:

    I don’t know if the opinion of people who are actually birdwatchers and ornithologists matters for this discussion, but none of them/us call it a “Canadian goose” either.
    At least in North America, the names of vertebrates are standardized by species. If you called the Canada goose the Black-Necked Goose or something, people wouldn’t know what you meant outside your dialect.

  4. I don’t know if the opinion of people who are actually birdwatchers and ornithologists matters for this discussion
    Sure it does. This may be one of those situations where specialists use one term and the general public another. Or Lisa Shea may be wrong about majority use; I certainly wouldn’t know, not having much occasion to talk about the species. (When I see geese flying overhead, I just say “Geese!”)

  5. I have never in my life heard Canadian goose; since I am, in terms of actual lexical items, a prescriptivist at heart, I think it sounds wrong. (I think Canadian geese, as a plural, is less wrong sounding.)
    I would likely have thought it was a different (but related or similar-looking) species of goose. For what it’s worth.
    I suspect that different areas have different majority usages.

  6. Seems like an American (as in US) wrote the article. Here in Anglophone Canada, it’s Canada Goose. Don’t know if they call it that in Newfoundland, but the rest of the Maritimes and all the way across to the Pacific, I’ve only ever heard the one. When I lived in Utah, though, I did hear Canadian Geese used as a term once or twice.
    D

  7. I live in the US, and I’ve never heard them called anything but Canada Geese. And that goes for newspaper articles and, I think, radio shows, as well as talking to birders. Just another data point. I think I would have noticed “Canadian Geese” because it just sounds weird to me.

  8. I don’t think I’ve heard “Canadian Goose” either, though the birds are regulars here in Oregon, and we do commonly talk about “Canada Geese.” We’re not birdwatchers particularly, & certainly not ornithologists. I don’t think we’d really know one species of Goose from another; we’d call any goose that wasn’t in a barnyard a “Canada Goose.”

  9. FWIW, another Canadian Person writing in to give the thumbs-up to Canada Goose. I would correct, and possibly scoff at anyone who called it otherwise (except for the Latin).

  10. I’ve only ever heard them called Canada Goose (or Geese)…except when they crap on you whilst flying overhead.

  11. One more Canuck in the mix, to add my voice. Fuck “Canadian Goose”, who uses that?

  12. Here is the answer to another important question:
    Just what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

  13. Great White Goose!

  14. “Great White Goose!” Do you mean Snowgeese? (Chen caerulescens)

  15. Great White Northern Goose!

  16. I’m ‘challenging’ you on that one.
    There’s a Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons).*
    *’Birds of North America’ K. Kaufman
    ………there may be a connection with language there somewhere.

  17. I’m bothered enough by the consensus for “Canada goose” in this thread that I’ve e-mailed Lisa Shea to ask what she bases her statement about the “vast majority” saying “Canadian” on, but I haven’t heard back so far.

  18. To break the consensus, this DC/Virginian says “Canadian Goose” only and ever.

  19. Aha! The wall of conspiracy cracks!

  20. Please excuse PF’s quick departure, he had to take his Great Danish for a walk.

  21. Another data point: When I have seen the Branta canadensis (assuming that is what they are) bringing traffic to a halt so they may leisurely cross the roads that wind through the Boston fens (you know, LH, the ones that are next to that park), everyone around me has always called them Canada geese, perhaps with an expletive incorporated if they’re in a hurry to get somewhere.

  22. Less than three weeks ago, in a park in Birmingham, England, I was surrounded by native Brits (perhaps five adults, from Dover, Brum and Bradford) who spontaneously called the birds “Canadian Geese” – I didn’t reply that the proper term was “Canada Geese” but was very surprised that the birds were there at all.

  23. Surprised at Canada Geese in Birmingham!
    They are a well known pest in city parks in parts of England, particularly because they make a horrible mess of the grass eith their grazing and shitting.
    Here in SE Scotland I’ve only heard of Canada Geese

  24. Okay..I came upon a post in amazon.com for a review of the book ‘Lab 257’ who stated:
    “…he repeatedly referred to the presence of and migratory habits of “Canadian geese”. Mr. Carroll there are no such animals. Canada geese are named after the Native American Canada tribe. These birds are not named after the country of Canada and cannot correctly be referred to as “a Canadian Air Force”. You would think that a dedicated investigative reporter obsessed with accuracy and getting things right, who claims to have interviewed many birders, would have been informed that Canada geese and not “Canadian geese” fly the skies of Plum Island. What other major details in the story are as eggregiously slipshod? It made me wonder. Who edited this book?”
    The review written prior to that had stated, “…the Canadian geese inaccuracy is pretty disturbing. Didn’t this guy talk to any real biologists/birders?”
    Okay..I got a little heated over these moronic statements. Gee is moronic even a word? Well this book was written about an area on Long Island. Actually my father worked at the place the book was about. He always referred to the birds as “Canadian Geese.” So did his parents and entire family who were also members of the Audubon Society. But why stop there?
    I just spoke to the following individuals:
    A customer in Philly (that’s Philadelphia for the mentally challenged reading this post).
    A person living in Prague called it a Goose from North America.
    The responses recieved from the following sources were all the same:
    Tucson Audubon Society
    Wild Bird Store(Canada Division)
    Wild Bird Store (Tucson)
    AZ Game & Fish(Tucson)-not geniuses to begin with
    Wild Birds Unlimited (Tucson)
    University of Arizona Dept. of Ecol. & Evol. Bio.
    International Wildlife Museum (Tucson)
    (…….not too mention online searches!)
    THESE ARE THE RESULTS IF YOU CAN HANDLE THEM (AND THEY ARE ALL PRETTY MUCH THE SAME {AS ME}:
    1.Canadian Geese
    2.Canada Goose
    3.Goose
    4.Branta canadensis
    Furthermore, it was mentioned by half of the respondents and myself that it would be
    improper/sound strange to say “Canada Geese” based on the phrases:
    “Canada Hockey Team” vs. “Canadian Hockey Team”.
    While they are both correct..gramatically speaking, one does sound more appropriate.
    When questioned about the usage of “Canada Goose”, the results were split. Of course either name would be correct, though half would have choosen the term “Canada Goose” while the remaining would simply use the word “Goose”.
    I have found no evidence of a Native American Indian Tribe (not to mention my Native American neighbors have not either. The one post where I saw that the Canada(ian) Goose was named after a person seemed to be based on his opinion only.
    Unfortunately I had other things to do then waste my time on this…but I just happened to stumble on this board and this reponse was created for the idiot on Amazon.com.
    Lastly, since the book was about a town on Long Island, the author is correct in using the terminology used by the people living in that area. To use the lingo not common for that area would make the author seem more distant from his research. If it was common to call the geese a swan..then he should use that terminology with a footnote.
    The first reviewer had an excuse..he was from N.J. We don’t expect much from them to begin with. Although while traveling in Pa. once, I did come upon a family at a general store (who used a TORO for transportation), and asked them for directions on how to get back on the main highway just past the chain link fence behind the store. Their response? “We never did travel on that road before.” {I guess the TORO just ain’t fast enuff for that there road.} Apparently NY’ers either have the monopoly on being flawless with their opinions while everyone else who is blessed to be in their presence is drowning in a sea of unconscience ignorance.
    Lastlee…langgwije iz usd 2 transfur thawts. If I saa sum’im n u ken unnnerstan it..I did mi job. If u ax mee sum’im n I dont unnerstan whatya saa’un..then that iz uh delemma.
    :-}~~~~

  25. “Furthermore, it was mentioned by half of the respondents and myself that it would be
    improper/sound strange to say “Canada Geese” based on the phrases:
    “Canada Hockey Team” vs. “Canadian Hockey Team”.
    While they are both correct..gramatically speaking, one does sound more appropriate.”
    Well, it’s incorrect to compare Canada Geese with the Canadian Hockey Team. The name of the Goose IS the “Canada Goose” and not just a Goose from Canada – the plural of Goose is Geese, so more than one Canada Goose are Canada Geese – you generally never pluralize (or change the tense of) the describing adjectives when they are all part of the noun itself.
    So, it ‘should’ be Canada Geese regardless of what sounds better.
    R

  26. Acey Tharrington says:

    I’ve said Canadian geese. I still say it. I was told that the correct way to say this is Canada goose. If that is right, a person from a country, such as Iran, would be called an Iran person instead of Iranian.

  27. Acey Tharrington says:

    All I know is, the white ones bite.

  28. marie-lucie says:

    Decades spent in English Canada, I say Canada goose/geese like everyone I know. “Canadian geese” would refer to the several species of geese spending at least part of their time in Canada, including the farm-raised ones.

    In French the official name is (la) bernache du Canada as opposed to similar species in other continents, but in everyday conversation simply (la) bernache.

  29. Did you know that there’s a Canadian River in Kansas? It goes nowhere near Canada. It’s a tributary of the Arkansas River. Also, along much of its length the Arkansas River is pronounced to rhyme with Kansas rather than like the state of Arkansas.

  30. Actually, the Canadian River doesn’t run through Kansas–it runs even further south. It rises in New Mexico, flows through the Texas Panhandle, and joins the Arkansas River (yes, Ar ‘kan sas, not ‘Ar kan saw) River in Oklahoma.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_River

  31. marie-lucie says:

    Canada goose, Iran person

    The Canada goose is one species of goose, found notably in Canada but also in other places. Canadian geese are all the geese in Canada, not just the ones called Canada geese. I don’t think there is more than one species of humans in Iran.

  32. It’s the ArKANsas River in Oklahoma and Kansas, but the ARKansaw in Arkansaw, er, Arkansas. Colorado usage is divided. I don’t know what Mexicans call it: it was part of the international border from 1821 to 1848.

  33. “It’s the ArKANsas River in Oklahoma and Kansas, but the ARKansaw in Arkansaw, er, Arkansas.”

    I’m a person of Okie heritage. ArKANsas.

  34. Michelle says:

    I live in southern Oregon and this very topic was a point of discussion a couple of nights ago. I was enjoying a beautiful evening on the river with my boyfriend and some friends when someone pointed and exclaimed “Oh! Look at the Canadian geese!” That made me wonder if the phrase should’ve been “Oh! Look at the Canada geese!” Since the geese aren’t true “residents” of Canada, I’m leaning toward the term Canada geese.

    I hear people in Oregon refer to “Canadian geese” frequently.

  35. JW Calloway says:

    Hogwash! Come out with all the reasons you can dream up to call them Canadian geese and they are all wrong.

    Canadians are people that are considered to be residents of Canada. Geese are residents, but not people. Some have said here that the term Canada geese is outdated and they are properly called Canadian geese. That is rubbish and incorrect.

    It doesn’t matter if they are in Canada or not they are Canada geese. How could you in any way call the species that may happen to be in the United States, or elsewhere “Canadians”?

  36. Here in New Jersey, most people I come across say Canadian geese.

  37. I’ll just add that in the nearly 30 years I spent in Pennsylvania, I never once heard “Canada Goose”. It was always “Canadian.”

    I’ll take common usage over pedantry anytime.

  38. I’ll take common usage over pedantry anytime.

    You and me both!

  39. marie-lucie says:

    I’ll take common usage over pedantry anytime.

    A sound attitude, but “common usage” often varies according to country or region, as demonstrated in this very thread. It’s an “I say tomato, you say tomahto” situation.

  40. I have lived in places where “Canada Goose” was the norm, and other places where it was “Canadian Goose.” I’m not sure I can remember which regions used which names though.

  41. Bathrobe says:

    J W Calloway’s comment is so misguided as to be laughable. What would he have to say about German cockroaches?

  42. I am absolutely amazed that people (in the U.S. no less!) have never heard these birds called Canadian geese! I have never heard it any other way, my whole life! When I first saw Canada geese written somewhere, I thought it was yet another example of our language being ruined!

  43. Just as I’ve learned to accept that there are people who have never heard any term but Welsh rarebit, and if they heard Welsh rabbit would think it absurd.

  44. To me, a frequent observer and appreciator of that bird, Canadian goose sounds as wrong as saying Southern Africa when referring to South Africa. A Canadian goose is to me any goose which happens to be Canadian.

    If it ever comes to needing a neutral compromise, I propose “Mainland nēnē”.

    P.S. Lynn, what part of the U.S. do you live in? Here on the west coast I never heard anything but “Canada goose”.

  45. From my “neck of the woods”, western Washington and western Oregon, I grew up hearing and saying Canadian goose/geese … Just today, discovered the official name is Canada goose (audubon.org) while researching geese I saw at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.

  46. -A Canadian goose is to me any goose which happens to be Canadian.

    Isn’t it rather any Canadian who happens to be a goose?

  47. David Marjanović says:

    No, that would be a Goose-Canadian or Anserine-Canadian – compare African-American.

  48. If a flock of Canada geese lands in the U.S. are they “Canadian”? I’ve never been able to check their passports. It’s Canada goose. However “Canadian goose” is used frequently enough that it is somewhat acceptable, even if incorrect.

  49. marie-lucie says:

    In Canada we say “Canada goose”. “Canadian goose” is American. In any case they are free to travel over the border, without government-issued ID cards or travel documents.

  50. canadian goose would indeed mean ‘goose that is canadian’ when goose means ‘silly person’.

  51. Or a very polite pinch to the butt.

  52. Perhaps we should ask the geese what they prefer?

  53. My wife add, I think they prefer cornfields.

  54. I agree with your wife.

    Just as a point of interest, the Recent Comments at this moment include only pre-Word Press ALL CAPS post titles:

    Carroll on CANADIAN GEESE.
    languagehat on NOV SHMOZ KA POP.
    Carroll on CANADIAN GEESE.
    John Cowan on AITCH OR HAITCH?
    Marja Erwin on AITCH OR HAITCH?
    Trond Engen on NOV SHMOZ KA POP.
    Trond Engen on NOV SHMOZ KA POP.
    D.O. on NOV SHMOZ KA POP.
    John Cowan on NOV SHMOZ KA POP.
    languagehat on NOV SHMOZ KA POP.

  55. For some reason, my comment attempts on “AITCH OR HAITCH” and “BORIO-BOOLA-GHA” disappeared. Is it something about the upper-cased-ness, or pre-wordpressedness, or the age of the post?

    So, this is an experiment.

  56. Damn, I hate that. Feel free to e-mail me your comments and I’ll post them for you.

  57. Lars (the original one) says:

    It has nothing to do with Owlmirror’s problem — though who knows with computers — but the current page template has a “text-transformation: uppercase” style applied to the title which is stored in title case in the database (or with whatever case our noble host uses when entering it), which is why it can appear as entered in other contexts; presumably the pre-Wordpress software just converted the title to upper case before storing it, which is why the old posts look like that.

  58. I believe that in the Movable Type and Blogger versions Steve deliberately uppercased all titles by hand.

  59. Lars (the original one) says:

    Yes, sometimes you have to help the software a bit.

  60. I believe that in the Movable Type and Blogger versions Steve deliberately uppercased all titles by hand.

    Correct, though I no longer have any idea why.

  61. Carl Fritz says:

    I am surprised to see that a lot of people commenting from the U.S. have only heard these geese called Canada geese. I’ve lived in Iowa, Michigan, Virginia and New Jersey and I don’t think that I have ever heard the term Canada goose (or geese if more than one) until today. I’ve only heard them called Canadian geese. I guess we all have different experiences.

  62. TVirginian here (Hampton Roads/Tidewater area) : Canadian Goose.

    Don’t know why, just learned it that way and always used it. I’ve never heard people here use “Canada Goose.” (Not to say no one says “Canada Goose” here, only that I’ve not heard that term in my 30+ years of living here).

    Beautiful birds, I enjoy watching and hearing them fly over. Not so much on the poop though.. 🙂

  63. Sorry, what is a TVirginian? (If that was a typo, sorry!)

  64. I assumed it was a typo, but now I’m curious. (I’m also curious about why after a nine-year gap people started coming by in 2014 to share their usage; there’s been a steady drip ever since.)

  65. It’s not all that surprising: comments were closed sometime after the original post until the conversion to WordPress, remember. When was that now? 2013? How quickly we forget.

  66. Don John Rosinski says:

    I think many folks call the Canadian Geese often when speaking in the plural. Not that it makes it right but I often hear some gunners call them Canadian and I don’t think they ever gave it a thought. The proper Name is Canada Goose, at least as far as biologically named.

  67. ‘Canada Goose’ on YouTube/the internet is stupid jackets but also the animal
    ‘Canadian Goose’ on YouTube/the internet is the animal

    I don’t want half my searches to be a fashion company, I’d rather type the latter and get what I want.

  68. John Kinney says:

    I used the term “Canadian Geese” just yesterday (as I have my whole life having lived in NY,OH,TX,NJ,CT,NH) and was corrected for the first time that it’s “Canada Geese”. I paused for a moment and asked why then do we say “American Bald Eagle”? She didn’t have answer, but insisted “Canada Geese” was correct and to say otherwise made me appear foolish. My reply was to go with what was popular for ‘the locals’ and that I suspect both versions are equally acceptable now.

  69. I suspect you’re right.

  70. AJP Crown says:

    Just to pipe up, they’re called Kanadagås (Canada goose) in Norway. There are lots of them around the lake where I live, and I love them.

    “Branta canadensis—a Canadian Goose”
    Oh, bullshit. Canadiensis is merely a made-up genitive from the English where ‘of Canada’ or just ‘Canada’ are as reasonable and accurate as ‘Canadian’ is. It’s Linnaeus, it’s not like we got the name from Juvenal.

  71. Stu Clayton says:

    Unlike “juvenile” and “bread and breakfasts”.

  72. Bathrobe says:

    People put too much store by ornithological names. Many were bestowed by 19th century biologists as they fanned out across the world to conquer new scientific horizons. Names often reflected local usage (if they were in English speaking areas) but just as often represented the preferences of the bestower, in many cases paying homage to this or that European collector.

    There have long been competing names, partly on a regional basis, enshrined in competing bird lists, all of which attempt to impose a single standard name for each species. But if you think that these regional lists enshrine local popular usage, think again. Even North American lists often privilege ornithological over popular usage, which (to cite a single example) is why they use “buzzard” in a way that differs from ordinary American usage.

    As scientific advances (particularly molecular biology techniques like DNA-DNA hybridisation) have revolutionised the taxonomy, ornithologists have constantly been trying to tinker with names in order to bring them closer to the taxonomy. This resulted in a lot of abominations like “laughingthrush”, designed to show that this is a particular type of bird, not a “laughing thrush”.

    Now there is the world bird list of the International Ornithological Congress (IOC), an attempt to create a standardised list of English bird names around the world. The site notes that “Wisdom begins with putting the right name on a thing” (Old Chinese Proverb), which is actually a reference to Confucius.

    Wikipedia summarises some of the rules for bird spelling and naming as follows:

    * Official English names of species are capitalized (as was already the practice among ornithologists)
    * Patronyms (names of people) are used in the possessive form, e.g., “Ross’s Gull”
    * Names used do not include diacriticals or inflection marks
    * Compromises are made between British and American spellings
    * Users are encouraged to spell and use pronunciation marks according to their preference
    * Geographical names may be the noun or adjective form, but must be consistent for the location, e.g., Canada (as in “Canada Goose” and “Canada Warbler”), not Canadian, but African (as in “African Piculet” or “African Wood Owl”), not Africa
    * Compound words adhere to a set of rules designed to be consistent in their balancing of readability and the relationships of the words
    * Hyphens are minimized, but for compound group names, hyphens are used only to connect two names that are themselves bird species or families, e.g., “Eagle-Owl”, “Wren-Babbler”, or when the combined name would be difficult to read, e.g., “Silky-flycatcher”.

    All this stuff is wonderfully laudable, with a capital L, but there is a lot of wrangling and compromising over names, including backtracks in the face of criticism, and earlier established or local usage is either incorporated or ejected in favour of their worldwide standard.

    So if you say “Canada Goose” you are following what the ornithologists tell you. If you say “Canadian Goose”, you are “incorrect”. But the same goes if you use any local or popular name (like “chicken hawk”) that doesn’t appear on their lists.

  73. Bathrobe says:

    I’ve written about the weird and wonderful world of naming at The Bell Miner: How orthography and ornithology catalysed a new folk etymology, which discusses how a bird called the “Bellbird” was turned into the “Bell Miner” by ornithologists.

    As it turns out, I was wrong about some of the details. In particular, “Bell Miner” is quite old — it actually appeared at the end of the 19th century — but the shenanigans of ornithologists setting “standard names” is captured well, as well as popular perceptions that the ornithological names are “correct” and others are not. The article concludes with a look at the kinds of howler that result when bird names are translated into other languages for their standardised world lists…

  74. AJP Crown says:

    Bath, the Bell Miner link doesn’t work. I’m interested in all of this so thanks for the explanation. I’m all for the Latin names myself. It’s the same with plants, it helps me unravel what Norwegians are talking about. The only advance on Linnæus’s idea has been Wikipedia, where I can look things up in one language and then just press a button to get an English lang. version. This morning I heard a woodpecker from my front door, which means it’s spring.

    I didn’t mean to imply I have any prob. with the ‘Canadian goose’ usage. I might easily say it myself.

    Stu, WTF? Crossword clue?

  75. Bathrobe says:

    The Bell Miner: How orthography and ornithology catalysed a new folk etymology (Forgot to include http://)

    Latin names are great, but they change all the time because they keep changing genus and family affiliations (due to new discoveries).

  76. David Marjanović says:

    I did not know the IOC was explicitly engaged in Rectification of Names!

    molecular biology techniques like DNA-DNA hybridisation

    Ooh, that was a brief fad in the early 1990s that generated one big beautiful picture (called “the Tapestry”) and then disappeared when people developed techniques to actually sequence their DNA samples.

    It gave a measure of total gross similarity, which is generally not the same as a phylogenetic tree. A lot of the Tapestry is just flat-out wrong.

    This resulted in a lot of abominations like “laughingthrush”, designed to show that this is a particular type of bird, not a “laughing thrush”.

    Should have made it an explicit compound noun, like in German: “laughthrush”. Assuming anybody can read through ghth on the first attempt.

  77. AJP Crown says:

    Explanation of what’s meant by rigour (by analogy, in eg Architecture):

    Not that it would care, but look at a picture of a white-crested laughingthrush, Garrulax leucolophus, and see the paradox of giving this bird a name that presents in as many words two conflicting linguistic rules that don’t really work when the bird itself is aesthetically perfect.

  78. ktschwarz says:

    AJP: look things up in one language and then just press a button to get an English lang. version — do you know NatureGate? It covers wildlife of Finland, which I assume has a lot in common with wildlife of Norway. Unlike Wikipedia, it has exactly the same information in each language, translated by humans: no stub articles.

    Norwegian & Swedish Kanadagås = Danish Canadagås (huh, Danish tolerates c’s in loanwords much more than Norwegian) = Finnish Kanadanhanhi (Kanadan is genitive case).

  79. AJP Crown says:

    do you know NatureGate?

    No! That’s brilliant. Extremely useful for me. It goes straight on my Bookmarks menu at the top of the screen. Thank you so much, kt. I see it’s got butterflies, birds, trees & fish as well. I love how it narrows the options by colour, habitat etc. and that it’s a Finnish invention and so fairly local.

    Danish tolerates c’s in loanwords much more than Norwegian

    Yes. Norwegian is nearly all-K (also QU becomes KV in most loans) perhaps because it has an official body that decides on how to accept such things, as they do in France. I love the German word ‘Architekt’ which has both, and so doesn’t look very consequent, but I bet it is (because German).

  80. Bathrobe says:

    Avibase on Canada Goose:

    https://avibase.bsc-eoc.org/species.jsp?avibaseid=B59E18633E2EFD25

    Cornish notable for calling it “Goth Canada”.

  81. Trond Engen says:

    ktschwarz: Finnish Kanadanhanhi (Kanadan is genitive case).

    … and hanha is a pretty old loan by the look of it.

  82. The Douglas fir genus (Pseudotsuga) is technically a Douglas-fir.

  83. AJP Crown says:

    Trond: hanha is a pretty old loan

    But in which direction? Does Norway borrow from Finland?

  84. ktschwarz says:

    According to Wiktionary, Proto-Finnic borrowed *hanhi from Balto-Slavic.

    Almost every name in that Avibase list is “Canada something”; one exception is, as you might guess, Inuktitut.

  85. hanha

    Just sounds like honking to me.

  86. ktschwarz says:

    Wiktionary agrees again: the source of the loan to Proto-Finnic is traced to PIE *ǵʰh₂éns ‘goose’, “probably of imitative origin”.

  87. Trond Engen says:

    I was thinking of an Indo-Iranian or Iranian cognate of Germanic *gansa-. But probably rather a Baltic *žansa- (or something).

  88. David Marjanović says:

    I love the German word ‘Architekt’ which has both, and so doesn’t look very consequent, but I bet it is (because German).

    It is, because it’s pronounced accordingly (ch as /x/).

  89. January First-of-May says:

    Almost every name in that Avibase list is “Canada something”; one exception is, as you might guess, Inuktitut.

    An exception that I didn’t guess is Czech and Slovak, both of which appear to say “large barnacle”.
    (Presumably the word I’m interpreting as “barnacle” might actually be the local term for “goose” – cf. Polish – but even so there’s no part interpretable as “Canada”.)

    Russian apparently classifies it as Canadian but not as a goose (which would have been гусь in Russian).

  90. David Marjanović says:
  91. January First-of-May says:

    Barnacle goose.

    I know that, which is why I assumed that the word I interpreted as a cognate of barnacle was the local term for “goose”.

    Some googling indicates that it is actually the local term for “goose of the Branta genus” (or something along those lines), similarly to Russian казарка.

  92. Bathrobe says:

    Almost every name in that Avibase list is “Canada something”; one exception is, as you might guess, Inuktitut.

    I would like to point out, again, that these are ornithological names, set up by ornithologists as the official names in each language. Often names are simply translated holus bolus from other languages, and that tends to mean English. Some rely on the scientific names. Inuktitut is an exception in the table of words for Canada Goose, and I strongly doubt that Inuktitut even has a world wide list of bird names. You need someone to actually sit down and do it, which means that such lists generally exist only for European languages and a few major Asian languages.

    Compare the Ryukyu Robin (Larvivora komadori), where there is a broader range of naming.

    https://avibase.bsc-eoc.org/species.jsp?lang=EN&avibaseid=B2924FEF9094710A

    What is interesting about the Ryukyu Robin (Japanese: komadori) is that Temminck got it mixed up with the Japanese Robin (Japanese: akahige ‘red beard’) and reversed them in assigning the scientific names. It has never been changed.

    https://avibase.bsc-eoc.org/species.jsp?avibaseid=34A081EB894D43A5

    Many languages just follow the English with ‘Ryukyu Robin’ and ‘Japanese Robin’. French incorporates Temminck’s erroneous assignment of names in its list of official names. It’s all a bit of a game, ladies and gentlemen.

  93. Bathrobe says:

    ‘Barnacle Goose’ comes from a very old legend that these geese were actually born from barnacles. It is not a local term for ‘goose of the Branta genus’. In fact, the Brent Goose and the Barnacle Goose were once considered one species, now split but both belonging to the Branta genus. This would account for the use of ‘barnacle goose’ for ‘geese of the Branta genus’. (Ornithologists love to sound scientific, which is why they delight in saying things like ‘a term for geese of the Branta genus, when I suspect it would be more accurate to say that ‘it was formerly used for Branta bernicla and Branta leucopsis when the two were considered one species’.)

  94. January First-of-May says:

    In any case, what the Czech and Slovak terms (appear to) literally mean is “large barnacle [goose]” (no mention of Canada), while the Polish is “Canadian barnacle [goose]”.

    I’m not sure how to categorize the Russian.

  95. Just sounds like honking to me.

    I believe the same goes for the Turkic qaz (and the Japanese kari /karigane):

    かり2【雁】 ローマ(kari)
    〔ガン〕 a wild goose 《pl. geese》. [=がん2]

    かりがね【雁が音・雁金・雁】 ローマ(karigane)
    1 〔ガンの鳴き声〕 the ┌cry [honk] of a wild goose.
    2 〔ガンの別名〕 a wild goose.
    3 【鳥】 〔カモ科の鳥〕 a lesser white-fronted goose; Anser erythropus.

  96. David Marjanović says:

    It has never been changed.

    It can’t be changed, absent evidence from the publication itself that there has been an inadvertent error. There are many more such cases, of course.

  97. John Cowan says:

    ‘Barnacle Goose’ comes from a very old legend that these geese were actually born from barnacles.

    The OED s.v. barnacle shows that (a) the application of the word to the goose predates by several centuries the application to the crustacean; and (b) the earliest legend we have is that they hatched out of tree-fruit, a notion well expressed by Hakluyt (in a translation from the French): “There stand certaine trees vpon the shore of the Irish sea, bearing fruit like unto a gourd, which […] doe fall into the water, and become birds called Bernacles.”

    What is more, although the word is now international in scope, the earliest known use (in the 12C) is in English, and the English form before the addition of the Latin -ulum diminutive (via French) was bernak(k)(e). If this is to be interpreted at all, it must be as bare-neck or bear-neck, “of which”, says the OED, “the application is not evident.” Wikt implies that Old Normand had bernaque first (again for the goose), but gives no citations, and the word has even less etymology in French than in English.

    By contrast, the OED’s first citation of barnacle for the crustacean is 16C, and even this is dubious: “Barnacles thousandes at once are noted alowe theis shoares [of Ireland] to hange by the beakes aboute the edges of putrified tymber […] whiche in prosces taking lyvely heate of the sonne become water-foules.” This also gives the crustacean-to-goose legend for the first time with no mention of trees; however, the use of beaks strongly suggests that the author had never seen a barnacle in situ: he attributes the report to Giraldus Cambrensis and to “credible persons” that he has heard himself. He also talks about the question of whether barnacles are fish or flesh for Catholic purposes: the question was unsettled in his time, at least in Ireland.

    Of course, the barnacle goose does not breed in Ireland but (until the 20C) solely in the Arctic, which is why there were so many legends: until modern times no European had seen a nest. The present breeding populations are on Greenland, Svalbard, Novaya Zemlya, and (since 1975) the islands of the Baltic Sea.

    There is another word barnacle meaning a clamp put on horses’ noses to subdue them, as for shoeing or surgery. The OED denies any connection and traces the word, again in the form bernakk, to the same 12C work (the Promptorum parvulorum, a kid’s Latin-English dictionary) as the above. Geese are territorial and can be pretty nippy (though rarely able to break human skin) if you threaten them, and barnacles clamp on to submerged timber very tightly indeed, so there may be a semantic link of some sort. The OED attributes the later sense ‘pince-nez’ to this word.

  98. Bathrobe says:

    Thanks for the clarification! The Wikipedia article needs to be corrected.

  99. But probably rather a Baltic *žansa-

    Yep: Latvian zoss, Lith. žąsis < *žansis. Erzya /šenš ~ šenže/ ‘duck’ may be from the same source as well (with the same *š-s > *š-š development; I wonder if any IE language shows evidence for this).

  100. Thornwolf says:

    Most midwest and east cost USA say Canadian goose/ geese.
    Most don’t know they are wrong.

  101. david lapin says:

    I’m sure it is correctly pronounced “Canada Geese”. I’d like to write more on the subject, but I need to tend to my dogs, a Germany shepherd, a France poodle and an England bulldog.

  102. J Barclay says:

    Despite only reading the first half of the MANY comments here, I have three comments of my own to add.
    First, it is odd that there is a large gap in comments from 2004 to 20014, and interesting because it was in this time frame that I, in Oregon, first heard someone correct the common (ubiquitous?) usage of Canadian geese to Canada geese – a conversation I have heard regularly ever since. Yes, many people still call them Canadian Geese, but you’re almost guaranteed to hear the correction “They’re called Canada geese.” A comment did acknowledge that this was common in Oregon, and I can confirm this.

    Second, there is no RIGHT way to call an organism, as the COMMON name is the name that people CALL IT. It is only the latin, or scientific name, that is formalised and proper. If people call it Canadian geese, then that is it’s common name, but not to say that it doesn’t have others. Wikipedia may say it’s common name is Canada goose, but that doesn’t negate that it may be called the ring-necked goose by another population of humans.

    Lastly, I would argue that to call something ‘of a place’ as ‘Canadian’ suggests can only refer to something that has citisenship, as countries are a cultural/political concept and not a fact of nature. However, this doesn’t stop it from being used, such as in the Puerto Rican worm lizard, which brings me to this page. Properly, it ought to be called the Puerto Rico worm lizard, but alas, that is not the common usage and not the common name. Thus, for anyone saying here that one of these names is right while the other is wrong, their argument rests on assumptions that are themselves invalid – as pointed out using sarcasm in the post above.

    All three of these points irk me equally, but I think point two is what irks me most about the conversation on this page. A common name is not formal and therefore cannot be wrong.. just less common, less useful, or even less accepted.

  103. Trond Engen says:

    J. Barclay: A common name is not formal and therefore cannot be wrong.. just less common, less useful, or even less accepted.

    A sensible approach, and not at all controversial around here, except sometimes a tongue can get stuck in a cheek.

    the Puerto Rican worm lizard, which brings me to this page

    A pretzel from the Amphisbaena bakery*.

    *) Unfortunately not. I couldn’t find that. This appears to be from Paraguay so A. something else.

  104. I think it’s really neat that leglessness in squamates appears to have evolved at least three separate times.

  105. Stu Clayton says:

    To lose one leg may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose all of them looks like carelessness.

    On the other hand, it’s clear the legs were not needed for survival.

    One frequently encounters people who continue to argue a point although they don’t have a leg to stand on. Evolution leaves a lot of wriggle room, as snakes demonstrate.

  106. David Marjanović says:

    at least three separate times.

    More often. Way more often!

    Mammals can’t become stretched like that. Weasels already have twice the resting metabolic rate you’d expect for their size so they can stay warm in spite of their unfavorable surface-to-volume ratio.

  107. Stu Clayton says:

    It’s not a stretch to see that whales and otters are already long. Did snakes and worms have short ancestors ?

  108. Lars (the original one) says:

    Snakes are reptiles, and the earliest (and ancestral) reptiles looked much like what we call lizards now. You decide if that is ‘short’.

    The same goes for “worm lizards” of course. Worms in general — there are species all over the evolutionary tree that are called ‘worms’ of some kind, I don’t think there is any useful generalization to be made about their ancestors.

  109. Stu Clayton says:

    I was just trying to understand the rationale for bringing up “stretching”, in particular, as an evolutionary possibility, but just not for mammals. I would have thought possibilities of all kinds must have abounded, because different types of animal in fact abound. This is about genealogy, not the unfolding of plans, no ?

  110. Lars (the original one) says:

    I think the point is that most types of animals are ‘free’ to evolve to a thinner, longer body plan, so some of them do, but not so much mammals because it changes their surface to mass ratio and increases the calories per kilogram per day needed for endothermal metabolism.

    A similar effect is what makes very small birds like colibris rare — they need to feed on sugar because the square-cube thing leaves them no margin to maintain the ability to fly while actually digesting other foods. Fish and frogs can get down to the 7-8mm range because they only need to swim.

  111. Stu Clayton says:

    We might then speculate that most types of animals, including mammals, are “free” to evolve to a fatter, longer body plan. That way they don’t cross swords with the square-cube thing. For example, Trump is tall and consumes a lot of Big Macs, mitigated with Diet Cokes. This might not be a practical template for successful evolution, though, since Big Macs don’t abound in Nature.

  112. David Marjanović says:

    All of this. Snakes don’t need to care about staying warm, mammals do.

  113. Lars (the original one) says:

    Well, get big enough and the square-cube law hits you on the load-bearing front instead. Elephants don’t jump. I don’t know if Trump does.

    Whales can be the ultimate in long and wide because buoyant.

  114. David Marjanović says:

    Elephants don’t jump.

    They still could if they were a lot more muscular. Check out Triceratops.

  115. Stu Clayton says:

    Elephants don’t jump. I don’t know if Trump does.

    This morning I read that when there was a mike failure at the Democrat debates, Trump “pounced” on it.

  116. Lars (the original one) says:

    I was adding to my comment in re dinosaurs, and then the timer ran out and the results of my arduous research went poof.

    I was looking for an explanation why elephants don’t get larger, clearly it’s not just skeletal restrictions when Argentinosaurus could be 15 times heavier. Even for land mammals they are not at the upper limit, though. There are extinct elephant and rhino relatives that got up to about 15 tons, but that still leaves a factor of four to be explained.

    Maybe the existence of relatively agile predators like sabertooth cats made running mandatory? The dinosaur predators that could take on the big herbivores may have been slower.

  117. Stu Clayton says:

    Hint: work up the text in some other editor. When it’s finished, copy it to the comment field here

  118. Lars (the original one) says:

    I usually just copy the text to the clipboard before pressing ‘post’, but in this case I was using the edit facility and was not prepared for the edit box to simply disappear when the timer ran out. (I might have rescued it with Inspector magic, since I suspect it was just set to not display, but it was too warm).

  119. John Cowan says:

    Elephants (or so I have read) cannot run, but can walk (or amble) fast enough to trample a running man, and while they can stride over a six-foot trench with ease, a seven-foot trench is an impassable barrier (but this must be relative to the size of the elephant in question).

  120. David Marjanović says:

    an explanation why elephants don’t get larger

    Here.

    cannot run

    Elephants never get all fours off the ground at the same time, but biomechanically speaking they do run, which means using flexion & extension of their limbs as a spring mechanism as opposed to using straight limbs as pogo sticks.

  121. John Cowan says:

    Then there are Poul Anderson’s Ythrians:

    The Ythrian is carnivorous, aside from various sweet fruits. Carnivores require larger regions per individual than herbivores or omnivores do, in spite of the fact that meat has more calories per kilo than most vegetable matter […].

    They mass as high as thirty kilos; yet they can lift an equal weight into the air or, unhampered, fly like demons. Hence they maintain civilization without the need to crowd together in cities. Their townspeople are mostly wing-clipped criminals and slaves. Today their wiser heads hope robots will end the need for that.

    Hands? The original talons, modified for manipulating. Feet? Those claws on the wings, a juvenile feature which persisted and developed, just as man’s large head and sparse hair derive from the juvenile or fetal ape. The forepart of the wing skeleton consists of humerus, radius, and ulnar, much as in true birds. These lock together in flight. Aground, when the wing is folded downward, they produce a “knee” joint. Bones grow from their base to make the claw-foot. Three fused digits, immensely lengthened, sweep backward to be the alatan which braces the rest of that tremendous wing and can, when desired, give additional support on the surface. To rise, the Ythrians usually do a handstand during the initial upstroke. It takes less than a second.

    Oh, yes, they are slow and awkward afoot. They manage, though. Big and beweaponed, instantly ready to mount the wind, they need fear no beast of prey. You ask where the power comes from to swing this hugeness through the sky. The oxidation of food, what else? Hence the demand of each household for a great hunting or ranching demesne. The limiting factor is the oxygen supply. A molecule in the blood can carry more than hemoglobin does, but the gas must be furnished. […] The Ythrian has lungs, a passive system resembling ours. In addition he has his supercharger, evolved from the gills of an amphibianlike ancestor Worked in bellows fashion by the flight muscles, connecting directly with the bloodstream, those air-intake organs let him burn his fuel as fast as necessary.

    I wonder how it feels to be so alive.

    —”WIngs of VIctory” (1972), included in The Earth Book of Stormgate (1978)

    Herbivorous crocodyliforms.

  122. David Marjanović says:

    humerus, radius, and ulnar

    Ha! Nonrhoticity strikes again. 🙂 Or it’s a confusion of the ulna in the forearm with the ulnare in the wrist.

    The Ythrian has lungs, a passive system resembling ours. In addition he has his supercharger, evolved from the gills of an amphibianlike ancestor Worked in bellows fashion by the flight muscles, connecting directly with the bloodstream, those air-intake organs let him burn his fuel as fast as necessary.

    I don’t get it.

    I wonder how it feels to be so alive.

    It doesn’t: if you don’t have enough carbon dioxide in your blood, you pass out before your pH becomes dangerous and your blood turns into cottage cheese.

    Y’know, hyperventilation.

  123. David Marjanović says:

    Herbivorous crocodyliforms.

    Very weird they put lips on all except Armadillosuchus.

    Alligators today eat fruit sometimes. There’s an article about this on Tetrapod Zoology somewhere, probably pictureless by now.

  124. Lars (the original one) says:

    why elephants don’t get larger — so to summarize

    1) they would need to evolve lungs all over their body to help with respiration and cooling (like sauropods did)
    2) their heads are too large in order to have jaws for chewing their food, so they can’t have them on long necks out of the reach of predators — though ruminant giraffes do manage, and predators are smaller now, so maybe this one is surmountable
    3) if they did manage to get bigger, low numbers and the one offspring at a time strategy means they probably got wiped out by chance
    4) There’s a tradeoff between having a high metabolism so they can grow to adult size quick, and dying of heat stroke despite better lungs — the sauropods were probably able to lower the rate as they grew, mammals aren’t

    Also mentioned in passing, there are no T. Rex sized predators now because they probably needed lots of baby sauropods to feed on to survive at that size.

  125. David: really good link, thanks.

    I repeat my assertion that avian respiratory architecture is, no contest, the single coolest piece of biology I learned at university, and I can’t believe it isn’t taught at school.

    The range size is also a good point: the bigger the animal, the larger a continuous range the species needs. The African grasslands are big, but the world’s oceans are bigger! (Pangaea had broken up by the time the giant sauropods evolved)

    Hence why the sperm whale, a fifty-ton apex predator, can keep itself alive. It’s an apex predator that eats other predators, mainly squid and octopus. Imagine a fifty-ton land animal that subsisted mainly on lions.

  126. David Marjanović says:

    1) The air sacs aren’t lungs; practically no respiration happens in them. They do seem to function in cooling. Their ability to fill in spandrels without adding any weight, unlike fat which does add a little, allows for making bones larger (giving them various mechanical advantages) without making them heavier. And their ability to add a lot of volume to the respiratory system allows for a very long windpipe; giraffes (and, including the nose, sperm whales) are close to a limit, indeed giraffes have narrower windpipes than you’d expect for their size so that more than the whole volume of the windpipe can get into the lungs and out.

    2) This is two issues. One is the larger you are, the more you need to eat, so the more time you need to spend chewing if you chew. You can do the math when it hits 24 h/day. The other is that in order to chew a lot, you need a big head, which makes it harder to have a long neck for reaching all that food. That’s why giraffes couldn’t grow much bigger. Somewhere around Paraceratherium (a giraffe-shaped rhino the weight of a very large elephant) the size limit probably comes within view.

    3) “[…] I think this messes with our heads to a certain degree when thinking about these questions, but treating offspring as Darwinian ammunition *does* work.”

    4) Still controversial

    lots of baby sauropods

    Over most of its range, T. rex didn’t have that, though there were plenty of elephant-sized and larger herbivores nonetheless.

  127. Lars (the original one) says:

    The air sacs aren’t lungs — but there was something about cross currents and pneumatic neck vertebrae that I didn’t quite unpack, sort of the opposite strategy of the giraffe by not needing to exchange the whole air volume of the windpipe but mixing the oxygen farther and farther into the neck with consecutive breaths? Might work better with the low BMR thing, at a guess.

    The article also mentioned in passing that atmospheric oxygen was lower back then. A stray thought: could that make photosynthesis more efficient and plant biomass production larger so that herbivores had more to eat per square km? (Since oxygen is on the ‘right hand side’ of the water + carbon dioxide -> sugar + oxygen reaction, maybe it could be more efficient with less of the products around). I suppose it would need carbon dioxide to be the same or higher than now as well.

  128. John Cowan says:

    I don’t get it.

    The conceit is that no warm-blooded animal weighing 30 kg with the capability of carrying an equal mass can get up the energy to fly without a system that depends on something faster than mere passive gas exchange. Even the through-and-through breathing system of birds can’t handle anything more than 15 kg or so, and that’s without freight. Pterosaurs apparently evolved much the same system using big balloon-like wings, but how anyone could believe after five minutes’ reflection that anything muscle-powered weighing 250 kg could take off and fly, as opposed to gliding down cliffs or something, is beyond me.

    if you don’t have enough carbon dioxide in your blood

    Life adapts to highly variable amounts, though. In the Cretaceous there was five times as much CO2 than today, and in the Devonian ten times; by contrast, less than half as much in the lowest depths of Quaternary glaciation. (Earth is still in an ice age.)

    On the world (or more properly the orthogonality) of Ghyll, the fastest form of freight is provided by tame horks, large but still flight-capable birds. But the maximum load of a hork is about 1 kg (compare carrier pigeons with a limit of 75 g), so TransAvian’s services are mostly used for extremely urgent documents, like Fedex in its early days. Hork flight probably looks lumbering, but they can sustain 80 km/hr, more than twice as fast as an unladen sparrow on Earth (though admittedly we know nothing about the composition of Ghyll’s atmosphere). Anything heavier than that, including passengers, has to go by pachyderm on one of the roads they themselves maintain (very fortunately): consequently, DermPachyges is if anything more successful than TransAvian, though the very different personalities of their CEOs has something to do with that.

  129. David Marjanović says:

    something about cross currents and pneumatic neck vertebrae that I didn’t quite unpack, sort of the opposite strategy of the giraffe by not needing to exchange the whole air volume of the windpipe but mixing the oxygen farther and farther into the neck with consecutive breaths?

    The windpipe is dead space. With each breath, more than the windpipe’s volume has to pass into the lungs and out again, or no fresh air will come in at all.

    In mammals, the lungs expand and contract. In birds, crocodiles and others, the lungs don’t move much; instead, they have outgrowths (air sacs) where no respiration happens which do the expanding & contracting. (Well, some of them do, see below.) This way, the lungs can be very small, and they can be a lot more efficient because (due to the way the air sacs are arranged) the air passes through them in the same direction during in- and exhalation. Because of these two things, they can afford much more surface per volume, making them even more efficient; mammal lungs have to remain robust enough to withstand all that movement without sticking together.

    Some of the air sacs grow into all the spandrels in the body, including those in the bones. Obviously no movement happens here, but there’s still a cooling and a lightening function.

    atmospheric oxygen was lower back then

    In the Triassic and Early Jurassic, yes. Then it became higher than today.

    Elephant size was surpassed in the Triassic, IIRC, definitely in the Middle Jurassic; but the extremely gigantic sauropods are all Late Jurassic and Cretaceous so far.

    I suppose it would need carbon dioxide to be the same or higher than now as well.

    Carbon dioxide was apparently higher than today, sometimes much higher, throughout the Mesozoic.

    The conceit is that no warm-blooded animal weighing 30 kg with the capability of carrying an equal mass can get up the energy to fly without a system that depends on something faster than mere passive gas exchange.

    And what is that conceit based on?

    Just the masses of the heaviest extant flying birds? Because that would be silly. Check out Pelagornis and Argentavis.

    Pterosaurs apparently evolved much the same system using big balloon-like wings

    Balloon-like? Wings?

    how anyone could believe after five minutes’ reflection that anything muscle-powered weighing 250 kg could take off and fly, as opposed to gliding down cliffs or something, is beyond me.

    Believing is the wrong approach, of course. People have done the math – searching Google Scholar for pterosaur launch brings up more than I can link to (unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a single paper that explains it all). For the past 10 years it has been universally accepted that giraffe-sized pterosaurs weighing up to 250 kg could lift off from the ground very, very quickly and fly away with no more problems than a vampire bat.

    Birds jump off with one set of limbs, and fly with the other. Pterosaurs were quadrupedal; they had no trouble jumping off with their wings, which is already half a downstroke – do half an upstroke, spread your wings, and you’re gliding already.

    It used to be underappreciated that birds (and bats and insects to lesser extents) launch not by just starting to fly, but by jumping. Even hummingbirds get 80% of the acceleration they need for takeoff from jumping.

    YouTube: 1:11; 1:03:09 (talk including long question session).

  130. David Marjanović says:

    Now that I’ve listened to the talk… a bit over 20 minutes in Habib says hummingbirds get down to about 50%, and it’s all other birds that are at 80–90. I’m sure I remember the numbers differently, but those, too, were from a secondary source, and I don’t have time today to look for the papers cited in the talk.

  131. John Cowan says:

    Check out Pelagornis and Argentavis.

    I have, and thank you. But despite its tandem-albatross wingspan, P. sandersi was probably not much heavier (around 24 kg) than Ardeotis kori, today’s heaviest flying bird (18 kg). Argentavis magnificens was apparently three times heavier, but I notice that its mass drops every time it is re-estimated.

    Balloon-like? Wings?

    I don’t mean to say that it used (hydrogen) balloons for lift, something presumably confined to human beings and dragons, but simply that its wings apparently contained air sacs. (Hydrogen lift plus hypergolic enzymes in the spittle would account for dragons’ fire-breathing, no doubt.)

    with no more problems than a vampire bat

    Except for, like, being four orders of magnitude heavier, the mass range between an African elephant and a squirrel. Even sandersi is thought to have either run downhill or off cliffs.

  132. David Marjanović says:

    today’s heaviest flying bird (18 kg)

    Gets to 22, and individual swans sometimes approach 30 while remaining able to fly.

    its wings apparently contained air sacs

    Ah, yes, but they just filled the space in the wing which had a more aerodynamic shape than found in bats. There’s not really a way to inflate most air sacs.

    four orders of magnitude

    Again, the math has been done. Five orders would not work; four does.

    Even sandersi is thought to have either run downhill or off cliffs.

    Because, as a bird, it must have been a hindlimb-powered launcher. Jumping off with its wings was not available to it.

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