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31 Birds With Proper Nouns in Their Names

Learn about birds that start with all 26 letters of the alphabet!

A proper noun is a specific name used to identify a unique person, place, thing, or idea. Proper nouns are always capitalized in English, regardless of where they appear in a sentence. In the world of bird names, this usually means the name references a specific person or place. Let’s explore 31 such birds whose names include proper nouns, delving into the origins of their names and the stories they tell about the people or places they are named for.

1. American black duck

American black duck
American black ducks | photo by: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region via Flickr

Scientific Name: Anas rubripes

The American black duck is a large, dabbling duck with a distinctive dark brown body, lighter head, and yellow bill, often mistaken for a female Mallard but with darker plumage. This species is native to eastern North America, from Canada down to the Gulf of Mexico, inhabiting a wide range of wetland habitats, including marshes, rivers, and coastal bays.

Despite its name, the American black duck is not completely black but named for its darker plumage compared to other duck species. It feeds on a variety of plant and animal matter, foraging in shallow waters.

2. American wigeon

american wigeon
American wigeon (male) | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Mareca americana

The American wigeon is a medium-sized duck with a distinctive white forehead and crown in males, and a more subdued, speckled brown appearance in females. This bird is widely distributed across North America, breeding in the northwestern regions and wintering in the southern United States, Mexico, and Central America. Its habitats include marshes, ponds, and lakes where it grazes on aquatic plants and occasionally feeds on insects and mollusks.

The “American” in its name signifies its prevalence on the American continent, distinguishing it from its Eurasian counterparts. The American wigeon is known for its unique feeding behavior, often stealing food from other ducks, earning it the nickname “baldpate” due to its white stripe.

3. Canada goose

Two Canada geese
Two Canada geese | image by:

Scientific Name: Branta canadensis

The Canada goose is a large, recognizable bird known for its black head and neck, white chinstrap, light tan to cream breast, and brown back. It is native to the Arctic and temperate regions of North America, migrating in V-shaped formations to winter in the southern United States. The name “Canada goose” is directly linked to its widespread presence across Canada, where it breeds in a variety of habitats including lakes, rivers, and ponds.

These geese are adaptable, and increasingly found in urban parks and golf courses. Known for their loud honking, Canada geese are highly social and form strong family bonds. They are primarily herbivores, grazing on grasses and aquatic plants.

4. Zenaida dove 

Zenaida Dove | image by Dick Daniels via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

Scientific Name: Zenaida aurita

The Zenaida dove resembles the mourning dove, but with darker brown plumage. This dove is found across the Caribbean islands and parts of the Yucatán Peninsula, preferring open woodlands, gardens, and coastal areas for its habitat. In fact this dove is the official bird of the Caribbean Island Anguilla. Ornithologist Charles Lucien Bonaparte named the dove after his wife, Zénaïde.

Known for its gentle cooing, similar to that of the Mourning Dove but more melodious, the Zenaida dove is a symbol of peace and tranquility in its native regions. It feeds on seeds, grains, and occasionally insects, often foraging on the ground in pairs or small groups.

5. Egyptian goose

Egyptian goose
Egyptian goose | image by shirokazan via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Alopochen aegyptiaca

The Egyptian goose is recognizable by its brown body, distinctive dark brown eye patches, and pink legs. Native to Africa, particularly along the Nile River, its name reflects this ancient association with Egyptian culture, where it was considered sacred. The Egyptian goose has adapted to a variety of habitats including lakes, rivers, marshes, and agricultural lands.

This species is known for its loud, honking calls and aggressive behavior, especially during breeding season when it fiercely defends its territory. Interestingly, it has been introduced to other parts of the world, such as Europe and North America, where it lives in similar wetland habitats.

6. West Mexican chachalaca

West Mexican chachalaca
West Mexican chachalaca | image by Dick Culbert via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Ortalis poliocephala

The West Mexican chachalaca is a medium-sized bird belonging to the Cracidae family, with olive-brown plumage and bare throat skin, which is more prominent in males. This species is endemic to the Pacific slope of Mexico, from Sinaloa to Oaxaca, inhabiting tropical and subtropical forests, including deciduous and evergreen zones.

Chachalacas are known for their loud, raucous calls that can be heard at dawn, contributing to the morning chorus of their habitats. They feed on fruits, seeds, and leaves, often foraging in groups, which emphasizes their social nature.

7. Anna’s hummingbird

Anna’s hummingbird

Scientific Name: Calypte anna

Anna’s hummingbird is named in honor of Anna Masséna, Duchess of Rivoli. She was the wife of François Victor Masséna, the 2nd Duke of Rivoli and a 19th-century French nobleman who was also an avid ornithologist. Naming birds after royalty was a popular practice during this time period.

This vibrant hummingbird is a resident of the western coastal regions of North America. Males sport an iridescent rosy-pink head and throat feathers. Even females may have a few pink feathers on the chin. This bird exhibits unique flight behaviors including hovering in mid-air and executing dramatic dives during mating displays. Unlike many hummingbirds, Anna’s hummingbird is less migratory and can be found year-round in its range along the Pacific coast of the U.S., frequenting open woodlands, gardens, and parks.

8. California quail

California quail
California quail | image by Alan Schmierer via Flickr

Scientific Name: Callipepla californica

The California quail, the state bird of California, is known for its plump body, scaled appearance, and distinctive black plume that droops forward from its head. Native to the western United States, especially California, this species has adapted to a variety of habitats, including chaparral, scrub, and urban areas, where it forages for seeds and insects.

Their familiar “Chi-ca-go” call is a common sound in their range, especially in the morning and late afternoon. The California quail is celebrated for its adaptability, contributing to its popularity among birdwatchers and its status as an emblem of Californian wildlife.

9. Indian peafowl

Scientific Name: Pavo cristatus

The Indian peafowl, also known as the peacock, is renowned for the male’s extravagant eye-spotted tail feathers, or “train,” which it fans out in a spectacular display during courtship. The female, or peahen, is more subdued in coloration, with a mixture of muted greens and browns. Native to the Indian subcontinent, this species has adapted to a range of habitats from dense forest to cultivated lands and even urban areas, reflecting its versatility. Indian peafowls are omnivorous, feeding on a variety of plant parts, insects, and small vertebrates.

Known for their loud calls at dawn and dusk, they are social birds that live in small groups. The “Indian” in its name denotes its origins and cultural significance in India, where it is not only the national bird but also an integral part of mythology and folklore. 

10. American flamingo

American flamingo foraging
American flamingo foraging

Scientific Name: Phoenicopterus ruber

The American flamingo is a bird famous for its vibrant pink feathers, long, curving neck, and stilt-like legs. This flamboyant color comes from carotenoid pigments in their diet of shrimp and algae. Native to the Caribbean islands, the northern coast of South America, and the Galápagos Islands, it frequents saline lakes and lagoons where it feeds by filtering water through its specialized beak.

The “American” in its name refers to its distribution in the Americas, distinguishing it from its African and Eurasian relatives. American flamingos are social birds, living in large colonies that help protect against predators and enhance their foraging efficiency.

11. African collared-dove

African collared dove
African collared dove | image by Ron Knigh via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Streptopelia roseogrisea

The African collared-dove is a small, elegant bird known for its pale gray plumage and a distinctive black collar around the neck. Originating from sub-Saharan Africa, this dove inhabits open woodlands, farmlands, and urban areas, showcasing its adaptability to various environments.

These doves are known for their gentle cooing calls, contributing to the serene atmosphere of their surroundings. They feed on seeds and grains, often foraging on the ground in pairs or small flocks.

12. Cassin’s Finch

Cassin’s Finch (male) | image by PEHart via Flickr | CC BY SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Haemorhous cassinii

Cassin’s Finch is a stocky finch with a conical bill. The males have a rosy-red crown, head and breast, blending into a brown back and wings. They look very similar to the house finch, but their coloration is more of a raspberry, purplish-red. Females and immature birds have streaked brown plumage with hints of red on the crown and rump. This attractive finch is named after John Cassin, a 19th-century American ornithologist. Cassin was noted for his extensive work studying bird and publishing bird literature, particularly for North American species.

These finches primarily inhabit the mountainous regions of western North America, from southwestern Canada through the western United States, including the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada, down into northern Mexico. They inhabit both coniferous and mixed forests, particularly in areas with a high density of pine trees, which provide both food and nesting sites.

13. Caribbean dove

Caribbean dove
Caribbean dove | image by Ron Knight via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Leptotila jamaicensis

The Caribbean Dove is a medium-sized dove, with a brown back, pale belly, pink legs and a deep pink patch at the back of the neck. Native exclusively to the Caribbean region, particularly the Bahamas, Greater Antilles, and several smaller islands, it prefers dry woodland areas, scrublands, and gardens.

This dove is known for its low, mournful cooing that adds a unique soundtrack to its habitat. It feeds primarily on seeds and fruits, foraging mostly on the ground and occasionally in low vegetation. Heard more often than seen, they like to remain somewhat hidden on the forest floor.

14. Nashville Warbler

Nashville warbler
photo credit: William H. Majoros | CC 4.0 | wikicommons

Scientific name: Leiothlypis ruficapilla

The Nashville warbler sports a gray head, white ring around the eye, and bright yellow underparts with a darker olive-green back. Females are quite similar to males, but not quite as vibrant. Based on their name you may think they are common in Tennessee, but they actually only pass through the state during migration. They were first spotted and officially recognized in Nashville in 1811, which is how they got their name.

Nashville warblers can be seen throughout most of the U.S. during spring and fall migration. However they only stick around to breed for the summer in the northeast, and northwest. They like brushy, semi-open habitat, and are comfortable in regrowing forests. Interestingly, these warblers have been seen using porcupine quills in their nests!

15. Key West quail-dove

Key west quail-dove
Key west quail-dove | image by Charles J. Shar via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Scientific Name: Geotrygon chrysia

The Key West quail-dove, with its vibrant russet feathers, shimmering neck patch, and bold white cheek stripe, primarily nests in the Bahamas and throughout the Greater Antilles, excluding Jamaica. Despite its moniker, this species no longer breeds in Key West or the southern Florida mainland. So today, their name relates to their historical sightings rather than current breeding locations. This dove favors dense tropical forests and woodlands, feeding on seeds and fruits found on the forest floor.

16. Allen’s Hummingbird

Allen’s getting nectar from a flower | image by Steve Peck via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Selasphorus sasin

The Allen’s Hummingbird is a small, vibrantly colored bird primarily known for its shimmering orange-red throat and green back. This tiny hummingbird features a slender, slightly curved bill and rapid wingbeats that produce a distinctive humming sound. Males are particularly striking with more vivid colors and a narrow set of tail feathers that they fan out during courtship displays.

Allen’s Hummingbirds are predominantly found along the coastal regions of California during the breeding season, migrating to wintering grounds in central Mexico. They prefer coastal scrub and chaparral habitats, often venturing into suburban gardens where flowers are abundant. The bird is named after Charles Andrew Allen, a 19th-century American collector and taxidermist who was among the first to document numerous bird species in the western United States. 

17. Arizona woodpecker

Arizona woodpecker
Arizona woodpecker | Photo by: Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Leuconotopicus arizonae

The Arizona woodpecker stands out for its unique plumage among North American woodpeckers, being predominantly brown instead of the typical black and white. Males have a red patch on the back of the head. This species is primarily found in the pine-oak woodlands of southeastern Arizona and into Mexico, marking it as the only brown woodpecker in the United States. The Arizona woodpecker is known for its behavior of foraging on tree trunks and branches for insects, playing a vital role in controlling pest populations.

18. Puerto Rican woodpecker

Puerto Rican Woodpecker clinging to the side of a palm tree trunk
Puerto Rican Woodpecker | image by Aaron Michael via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Melanerpes portoricensis

The Puerto Rican Woodpecker is a striking bird native exclusively to Puerto Rico, showcasing glossy black plumage with a distinctive white face mask, red belly, and a bold red throat patch in males. This species inhabits a variety of forested environments across Puerto Rico, including mangroves, coffee plantations, and secondary forests, demonstrating a versatile adaptability to different woodland habitats.

The Puerto Rican Woodpecker feeds primarily on insects, which it skillfully extracts from tree bark using its strong beak. Additionally, it consumes fruits and nuts, playing a critical role in its ecosystem not only as a predator but also as a seed disperser.

19. American kestrel

american kestrel
American Kestrel | image by Alan Schmierer via Flickr

Scientific Name: Falco sparverius

The American Kestrel is the smallest and most colorful falcon on the continent. Males display striking plumage with slate-blue wings and a rusty-red back and tail, while females are predominantly brown with black barring. Both sexes have a distinctive facial pattern featuring two black vertical slashes on a white face.

This versatile bird is found across a wide range of habitats in North and South America, from Alaska and Canada all the way down to Tierra del Fuego. It adapts well to various environments including cities, parks, farmlands, and open fields. American Kestrels are cavity nesters, often taking over old woodpecker holes or nesting boxes.

Diet-wise, American Kestrels are skillful hunters, preying mainly on insects and small mammals like mice and voles. They also eat small birds, amphibians, and reptiles. Their hunting technique involves hovering in the air to spot prey before diving to catch it.

20. Carolina parakeet

Carolina parakeet
Carolina parakeet | image by Fritz Geller-Grimm via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 2.5

Scientific Name: Conuropsis carolinensis

The Carolina parakeet, now extinct, was once found in many states in the east, midwest and plains regions. It was first encountered and documented in the Carolina’s giving it it’s name. This small parrot boasted a vivid green body, yellow head, and red around the eyes and beak, with no significant color difference between males and females.

Unique for being North America’s only native parrot, it had a strong social structure, often living and feeding in large flocks. These birds inhabited dense forests and swamplands, feeding on seeds, fruits, and sometimes agricultural crops. It is thought that deforestation that occurred in the 18th and 19th centuries was the biggest contributor to their extinction, as well as hunting and possibly disease.  

21. Florida scrub-jay

Florida scrub jay
Florida scrub jay | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Aphelocoma coerulescens

The Florida Scrub Jay is a handsome bird, distinguished by its bright blue upper parts, grayish underbelly, and white throat. Its appearance is similar to other jays but without the typical crest. This bird is unique as it is endemic to Florida, specifically adapted to the state’s scrub habitats—low-growing oak sand pines in sandy soil. The Florida Scrub Jay’s range is restricted to these scrub areas, which are increasingly threatened by development and habitat loss.

The diet of the Florida Scrub Jay primarily consists of insects, acorns, and seeds, but they are also known to eat small vertebrates and eggs during certain times of the year. They often cache food in the ground for later retrieval, which also plays a significant role in seed dispersal for their habitat.

22. Cooper’s Hawk

cooper hawk
Cooper’s Hawk | image by Ken Pitts via Flickr

Scientific Name: Accipiter cooperii

The Cooper’s hawk is a medium-sized hawk native to North America, recognized for its adept songbird-hunting skills in both open and wooded areas. In 1828 Charles Bonaparte named this hawk in honor of his friend and fellow ornithologist William Cooper. Cooper was a founding member of the New York Academy of Sciences.

This bird showcases a slate-gray back with a reddish-barred chest and a long, banded tail, adapting well to various environments, from dense forests to suburban neighborhoods. Cooper’s Hawks are known for their remarkable agility, chasing birds and small mammals through trees with swift, precise movements. They does mean that you may see them in your backyard stalking your bird feeders for doves! 

23. Mexican violetear

Mexican violetear feeding on flower’s nectar
Mexican violetear feeding on flower’s nectar | image by Mdf via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

Scientific Name: Colibri thalassinus

The Mexican Violet Ear, also known as the Mexican Violetear, is a colorful hummingbird known for its vibrant green plumage and distinctive violet patches on the sides of its head, from which it derives its name. The bird’s overall coloration is an iridescent green, with darker flight feathers that contrast beautifully during flight.

This species is primarily found in the highlands of Central America, from Mexico south to Nicaragua, inhabiting open forested areas, edges of woodlands, and coffee plantations. Although it’s named the Mexican Violetear, its range extends beyond Mexico, showcasing its adaptability to various mountainous habitats.

The Mexican Violetear feeds predominantly on nectar from a variety of flowering plants, utilizing its long, slender beak to access these sweet resources. It also consumes small insects, which are important for protein, especially during the breeding season.

24. Wilson’s Phalarope

wilsons phalarope
Wilson’s Phalarope | image by VJ Anderson via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Scientific Name: Phalaropus tricolor

The Wilson’s Phalarope is a distinctive shorebird, easily recognizable by its slender build and elongated needle-like bill. During the breeding season, females are more colorful than males, sporting a striking pattern of gray, white, and chestnut. Males are paler with more subdued tones. This reverse sexual dimorphism is unusual among birds, with females being both larger and more vividly colored.

Wilson’s Phalaropes are widely distributed across North America during the breeding season, primarily in the prairies of the western United States and Canada. They migrate to the saline lakes of South America’s Andean highlands for the winter. This species typically inhabits shallow waters where it spins in circles to create whirlpools, drawing up invertebrates like insects and crustaceans from the water column, which they then pick off the surface.

The bird is named after Alexander Wilson, often referred to as the “Father of American Ornithology.” Wilson authored a nine-volume work, “American Ornithology,” in the early 19th century, describing numerous new species and laying the foundation for the study of birds in North America. 

25. American coot

american coot
American Coot | image by fletchershauna via Pixabay

Scientific Name: Fulica american

The American Coot is a robust waterbird with a dark body, stark white bill, and forehead shield. The top of the shield as well as their eyes are a deep red. Unlike ducks, coots have lobed, not webbed, feet which are well-adapted for both swimming and walking.

American Coots are widespread across North America, inhabiting freshwater lakes, ponds, marshes, and occasionally brackish waters. They are year-round residents in the southern parts of their range but migrate southward from northern areas when water bodies freeze over in winter. Their diet is quite varied, consisting primarily of aquatic plants, algae, and small invertebrates, which they forage from both the water’s surface and its depths. 

26. Virginia rail

Virginia rail
Virginia rail | image: Becky Matsubara | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Rallus limicola

The Virginia Rail is a small, secretive bird with a slender build and a short tail, making it adept at navigating through dense wetland vegetation. It has a chestnut-brown body, gray cheeks, and longer legs built for wading in shallow water.

This elusive bird inhabits freshwater marshes across North America, preferring areas with abundant vegetation near water bodies. Its range extends from southern Canada through the United States, reaching into Central America during the winter migration. Virginia Rails primarily feed on aquatic insects, small fish, and crustaceans, which they skillfully extract from mud or shallow water. 

The name “Virginia Rail” was first assigned by early naturalists who identified and described the species from specimens found in Virginia. The name has persisted, though the bird is not limited to Virginia, being widespread throughout suitable habitats in many parts of North America.

27. Bullock’s oriole

Bullock’s oriole
Bullock’s oriole | image by Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Icterus bullockii

Bullock’s oriole is a colorful species, showcasing orange and black plumage, with males flaunting a vivid orange body contrasted by a black throat and eye-line, while females sport a more subdued yellowish-orange and gray. This bird, named after William Bullock, an English amateur naturalist. William and his father were both notable for their contributions to the study of birds and natural history in the early 19th century.

Bullock’s oriole inhabits open woodlands, particularly areas with scattered trees and shrubs across western North America. They breed from southern Canada through the western United States and winter in central and southern Mexico. Bullock’s oriole is known for its intricate hanging nests, woven from fibers and suspended from tree branches. Its diet mainly consists of insects and nectar, and it is particularly fond of fruit.

 28. American golden-plover

American golden plover
American golden plover | image by Alaska Region U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service via Flickr

Scientific Name: Pluvialis dominica

The American Golden Plover is a medium-sized shorebird known for its stunning breeding plumage, which includes a black face and underparts set against a speckled gold and black back. In non-breeding season, it adopts a more subdued gray-brown coloration, making it less conspicuous.

This species has a remarkable migratory pattern, breeding in the Arctic tundra of North America and wintering in southern South America, showcasing one of the longest migratory routes of any shorebird. During migration, they can be found across a wide range of habitats, including grasslands and coastal areas. Their “American” name indicates its distribution in the Americas, distinguishing it from its close relative, the Pacific Golden Plover, which follows a different migratory route across the Pacific.

29. Swainson’s hawk

swainsons hawk flying
Swainson’s Hawk | image by NPS / Jacob W. Frank via Flickr

Scientific Name: Buteo swainsoni

The Swainson’s Hawk is a large bird of prey with a slim, streamlined build, making it an adept flier over open landscapes. During the breeding season, it showcases a dark brown upper body and a lighter chest and belly with a distinctive reddish or buff chest band. The wings are broad and the tail is relatively short, featuring a white underwing with dark flight feathers.

This hawk breeds predominantly in the grasslands and prairies of North America, particularly from central Alaska down through the Great Plains into Texas. In the winter, it migrates to South America, showcasing one of the longest migrations of any North American raptor. Swainson’s Hawks primarily feed on small mammals, such as rodents and rabbits, but they can switch to insects, especially grasshoppers and dragonflies, during migration and in their wintering grounds. 

The bird is named after William Swainson, a British ornithologist and artist of the 19th century, known for his detailed illustrations and studies in natural history. 

30. Hudsonian godwit

Hudsonian godwit
Hudsonian godwit | image by Dominic Sherony via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Limosa haemastica

The Hudsonian Godwit is a large shorebird known for its long legs and straight, slightly upturned bill, which it adeptly uses to forage in mudflats and shallow waters. Its breeding plumage features rich chestnut-red underparts and a barred tail, which transitions to more muted grays and browns during the non-breeding season. 

Hudsonian Godwits breed in the open tundra of northern Canada and Alaska, preferring wet meadows and marshes near coastal areas. They undertake a lengthy migration to wintering grounds in southern South America, particularly in Argentina and Chile, making long, non-stop flights over the open ocean part of their migratory route.

The name “Hudsonian” refers to Hudson Bay in Canada, a significant area within their breeding range, reflecting the region where they were first notably observed. 

31. California gull

california gull
California Gull | image by Frank Schulenburg via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Scientific Name: Larus californicus

The California Gull is a medium-sized gull, identifiable by its clean white head and body, gray wings, and black wingtips dotted with white spots. One of its distinguishing features is a red and black spot on its yellow bill, which is particularly noticeable during the breeding season.

This gull is found predominantly in the western United States and Canada, though it is named after the state of California where it was first described. It breeds inland across large parts of the Great Basin, from Montana and North Dakota down through Nevada to California. In winter, it can be found along the Pacific coast from British Columbia to Baja California and eastward to the central United States.

The California Gull’s diet is quite versatile, encompassing a wide range of foods from fish and insects to eggs, small birds, and garbage. This adaptability makes it a common sight not only in coastal areas but also around lakes, rivers, and landfills.

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