Jobs & Behaviors

Part VI in a VI part series

21 Patrons & Counting!!

Woohoo! We did it, we reached our first goal on Patreon! We’re now up to 21 patrons and counting. As a thank you, I’ve crafted a longer series on the seemingly impenetrable thicket of scientific names. So if you’ve ever struggled to remember Glaucomys volans or Lithobates sylvaticus, or if you’ve wondered what they heck those names mean, then you’re in luck. Of course, if you want to skip the details and jump right to translation, check out my dictionary of the scientific names: An Etymology of Vermont Vertebrates, which covers all of Vermont’s vertebrates. Otherwise follow along and learn how things are named and how to interpret what their names mean.

Jobs & Behaviors

This is it! The last installment in my series covering the etymology of scientific names. At least for now. Who knows what the future will hold?! I hope you found this series helpful and now feel more confident wading into the world of scientific names. When I encountered my first scientiic name, Peromyscus maniculatus, it seemed an impenetrable thicket of Latiny gibberish. It took forever to commit that first name to memory. But once I started translating scientific names and I started to see repetition and patterns and familiar roots, it all started to make sense. My second latin name, Peromyscus leucopus, was a cinch to memorize. Digging into the etymology of these terms has also helped me understand the way in which other naturalists have sought meaning, order, and understanding in the endless variability of the wild world.

Passenger pigeon, Ectopistes migratorius (from Wikipedia)

Rood words for behaviors

Each species interacts with the world around it, barking, swimming, swooping, chomping, and singing their way through life. Taxonomists have memorialized some of these behaviors in taxonomic names.

Actions/Behaviors Root words found in scientific names Examples



ectopistes (G)
peregrinus (L)
vagrans (L)
migratorius (L)
Passenger pigeon, Ectopistes migratorius
Peregrine falcon, Falco peregrinus
Silver-haired bat, Lasionycteris noctivagans
American robin, Turdus migratorius



tachy (G)
agilis (L)
thourus (G)
Tree swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
Connecticut warbler, Oporornis agilis
Marsh wren, Cistothorus palustris 
Suck myzo (G) Sea lamprey, Petromyzon marinus
Run dramos (G)
tachy (G)
Henslow’s sparrow, Ammodramus henslowii
Fly volan (L) Southern flying squirrel, Glaucomys volans
nectris/nectos (G)
aithyi (G)
Mudpuppy, Necturus maculosus 
Ring-necked duck, Aythya collaris
Figh pugnax (G) Ruff, Calidris pugnax
Creep herpes (G) Red-headed woodpecker, Melanerpes erythrocephalus
Dance choro (G) Common nighthawk, Chordeiles minor
Digging fossor (L) Northern brook lamprey, Ichthyomyzon fossor
phero (L)
accipere (L)
Clark’s grebe, Aechmophorus clarkii
Sharp-shinned hawk, Accipiter striatus
Irritate erethizon (G) North American porcupine, Erethizon  dorsatum

Northern leopard frog, Lithobates pipiens (from Wikimedia)

Rood words for sounds

Behavior Root words found in the scientific name Examples
Sing molodi (G) Song sparrow, Melospiza melodia
Howl, hoot ulula (L) Northern hawk owl, Surnia ulula
Barking latran (L) Coyote, Canis latrans
Chirp pipiens/pipilo (L) Northern leopard frog, Lithobates pipiens
Eastern towhee, Pipilo erythrophthalmus
Chattering garrulus (L) Bohemian waxwing, Bombycilla garrulus
Noisy querulua (L)
streperus (L)
vociferus (L)
Harris’s sparrow, Zonotrichia querula 
Gadwall, Mareca strepera
Killdeer, Charadrius vociferus
Creak, rattle crepit (L) Clapper rail, Rallus crepitans
Military trumpet buccina (L) Trumpeter swan, Cygnus buccinator

A terrible, but goofy photo of a yellow-rumped warbler, Setophaga coronata

Rood words for eating

Eating Root words found in the scientific name Examples
Loving philos (G) Spring salamander, Gyrinophilus porphyriticus


phago (G)
vora (L)
estes (L)
Yellow-rumped warbler, Setophaga coronata
Worm-eating warbler, Helmitheros vermivorum
Townsend’s solitaire, Myadestes townsendi
Biting mordax (L) Rainbow smelt, Osmerus mordax
Strain, filter etheo (G) Fantail darter, Etheostoma flabellare
Break thrauso (G)
fraga (L)
Evening grosbeak, Coccothraustes vespertinus
Fish crow, Corvus ossifragus
Chisel, peck colapto (G)
copos (G)
Northern flicker, Colaptes auratus
Pileated woodpecker, Dryocopus pileatus

Great-crested flycatcher, Myiarchus crinitus

Rood words for royalty

Royalty Root words found in the scientific name Examples
Ruler archos (G) Great crested flycatcher, Myiarchus crinitus
Queen anassa (G) Yellow-crowned night-heron, Nyctanassa violacea
King regi (L) Golden-crowned kinglet, Regulus satrapa (satrapa is a Persian governor)
Tyrant tyrannus (G) Eastern kingbird, Tyrannus tyrannus
Cheat, impostor phenax (G) Snow bunting, Plectrophenax nivalis

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