I seem to have a habit of biannual posts about the local Whimbrel migration – see Whimbrel passing, 3 May 2021 – so, today, rather than the migration, let’s talk about some of the names for the Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus), courtesy of the writing and research of Stefan Buczacki in his massive publication Fauna Britannica.
Some of the vernacular names reflect the time of year these birds pass through on migration: May curlew, May fowl, May whaap (Ireland) and May bird (East Anglia); others their resemblance to their cousin, the Curlew: Curlew Jack (Yorkshire), Curlew knave (Cumberland), Curlew knot (Lincolnshire), and Half curlew (Norfolk, Suffolk).
The name Whimbrel itself comes from the bird’s call, something of a whimper. Another version of this is, in fact, ‘Whimperel’, a name once used in Durham. Whatever you want to call it, this is a beautiful bird well worth spending time watching if you get the chance.
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