Posted by: atowhee | December 12, 2010


This is a Levaillant’s Cuckoo, hiding in one of the few tall bushes on the savannah in Queen Elizabeth National Park.  It is one of a couple dozen birds we encountered in Uganda, birds named for figures in the early exploration of Africa by European scientists.  There was even a Cassin’s Gray Flycatcher, named for John Cassin of Philadelphia who was an expert on taxonomy of birds across the globe in the 1850s.

Francois La Vaillant was a French naturalist at the turn of the 19th Century.  He wrote a comprehensive description of the known birds from Africa and published it from 1801-6.  He did a lot of collecting himself in Africa.  And was a bit of charlatan, creating “new species” by putting together different parts of differing species.  At any rate, this cuckoo, named for him, was real enough.

This bird is the Ruppell’s Long-tailed Starling.  Properly spelled Ruppell has an umlaut mark over the “U.”  Ruppell was a German naturalist who spent considerable time exploring and collection specimens in Africa in the 1820s and 1830s.   It was his collection work that turned up the stork named for the Turkish official, Abdim.

On Ruppell’s second African expedition he was accompanied by Friedrich von Kittlitz.  Kittlitz has several namesake birds, including a murrelet found off the Pacific Coast of North America. He first collected that bird on a round the world voyage, before he went to Africa with Ruppell in the 1830s. For Friedrich this plover was named Kittlitz’s Plover.  We saw this bird on the Kazinga Channel:

This striking bird is the Klaas’s Cuckoo, named by the aforementioned Levaillant after his Hottentot servant.  So we know nothing about the dutiful Klaas beyond his station and his cuckoo.

This is a flock of Abdim’s Storks.  Other namesake birds we saw were: Chubb’s Cisticola.  Near some villages they were so abundant, I composed a little jingle:  Coca-cola, Pepsi-cola and Cisti-cola.  The former two were the most abundant of global soft drinks.  Chubbie was more often found in low-growing shrubs than towns.  The Chubbs, son and father, were British museum curators.  The son operated in South Africa and likely named this bird after his ornithologist father.

Then there was Elliot’s Woodpecker, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Ayre’s Hawk-Eagle, Deiderick’s Cuckoo, Petit’s Woodshrike, Shelley’s Greenbul, Grauer’s Warbler, Ross’s Turaco, MacKinnon’s Fiscal. This pictures shows the fiscal, a member of the shrike family, all gray and black and white and shrikey lookin’.

Then there are further namesakes:  Holub’s Weaver, Vieillot’s Black Weaver, Carruther’s Cisticola.  This bold black and yellow bird is a Baglafecht Weaver.  Of the Ubiquitoous African weaver clan.  I can find no evidence that name is based on a person.  No Hermann Baglafecht, it seems.  Still trying to figure out the origin of the word whch is obviously Dutch or German, both of which countries were actively involved in early exploration in the area.


  1. Very interesting post. Love em all.
    Thanks for sharing.

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