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BirdNote®: Salmonberry Bird

Air Date: Week of

Swainson’s Thrush, also known as the Salmonberry Bird. (Photo: © Gregg Thompson)

The names of birds and other creatures often give us clues to their behavior, or an insight into their unique personalities. That’s particularly true for names derived from Indigenous groups with long histories of living closely with nature. In this week’s BirdNote® Mary McCann explains how the Salmonberry Bird came by its name.


CURWOOD: Many geographic features in the United States derive their names from Native American words, think Dakota, Mississippi, and Iowa to name a few. And as BirdNote’s Mary McCann reports, many birds can also trace their names back to an indigenous language.


Salmonberry Bird

[Song of Swainson's Thrush]
The names of birds can tell stories. We’re hearing the song of the “Salmonberry Bird,” the name indigenous Northwest Coastal people gave to the bird known in English as the Swainson’s Thrush. The Salmonberry Bird’s name comes from its annual arrival in forests across northern regions of the continent, in May, when salmonberries ripen.
The native names of birds sometimes distill the essence of their appearance or behavior. In the Cherokee language, for instance, the Meadowlark is called “star,” because of the way the bird’s tail spreads out when it soars.
[Song of the Western Meadowlark]
The Cherokee name for nuthatch is “deaf,” possibly because of the bird’s disregard for the presence of humans.
[Call of the Red-breasted Nuthatch]
The names of birds in native languages express a long affiliation between people and place. As the writer Nancy Lord observes, “Words have power. Languages connected to place help us respect local knowledge, to ask and answer the tough questions about how the human and the nonhuman can live together in a tolerant and dignified way.”

A Swainson’s Thrush perching atop a branch. (Photo: © MB McCLintock)

[Song of the Swainson’s Thrush]

The song of the Salmonberry Bird reminds us of the abiding connection between birds and people and the nourishment nature provides us both.
[Song of the Swainson’s Thrush]
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Song and “quip” call of the Swainson’s Thrush and Red-breasted Nuthatch recorded by G.A. Keller. Western Meadowlark recorded by Gerrit Vyn.
Nancy Lord quote used with permission from Nancy Lord at nancylord@alaskawriters.com
Written by Todd Peterson
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2013 Tune In to Nature.org                  May 2013/2016/2020
ID# 060506SWTHKPLU                         SWTH-02b

CURWOOD: For photos make your way to the Living on Earth Website, loe.org



Listen to this story on the BirdNote® Website


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