â€œThe Hiccup bird is backâ€, I told my husband on Thursday. Now, most of you wonâ€™t know what I mean because hiccup bird is our family nickname for the Baltimore Oriole (now more correctly called Northern Oriole). When the orioles first return they give a two note call that sounds sort of like hiccup, so LeRoy and I refer to them as such. It is as if they are letting us know that they are here. But, very soon they begin to set up their nesting territories and their call changes to the much more familiar song, for which I do not have words. But, it is funny how, for those few first days, we think of them as the hiccup bird.
Names are interesting in that way, as are our thought processes for connecting names to the birds. I first learned to recognize the Red Necked Grebe when I took Ornithology one summer at Bemidji State University back in the 1970s, with Dr. Laddie Elwell. Some years later while taking an Animal Behavior class one summer at the University of Minnesota Itasca Biological Station (Itasca State Park), I met Holboel’s Grebe, first by its call, and then by sight. It just so happens that Dr. Phillips from the U of M used the older name, Holboel’s. Now, when I hear the red necked grebe I always think of it as Holboel’s grebe first and also recall Dr. Phillips and the class I took that summer
The same sort of thing is true for the â€œThunder Pumperâ€ or â€œSlough Pumperâ€, two names my mom and dad used when we would hear the deep throated call of a bird I never saw. It turns out that these names refer to the American Bittern, which I finally met in Ornithology and later saw in real life. These birds are not common and are very well camouflaged in their natural marsh or slough environment. So, when I hear an American bittern it recalls the sound I would hear in my youth, and I think of it first as the Thunder Pumper, and secondly as the American Bittern.
Enjoy the march of the seasons in the bird calls and songs and have fun identifying the bird, both by sight and sound.