Learning the Scientific Names of Birds

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Learning the Scientific Names of Birds: an activity for children of all ages. Scientific names of birds are important for two main reasons: they allow the world to communicate clearly about animals and they are designed to tell a person something about the bird. In this activity children will learn the scientific names of birds.

Image by Doug Swinson on Unsplash

  • Supplies:
  • Learning the scientific names of birds sounds quite complicated but is really quite easy and fun. Scientific names are usually based on Latin and Greek root words that make logical sense. For example, the scientific name for a red-tailed hawk (pictured above) is Buteo jamaicensis. The Mariam Webster dictionary defines Buteo as the Latin word for “hawk”. Wordnik.com had the following to say about the second part of the name, “The specific label jamaicensis is named for Jamaica, the country, and from the Latin ensis (which means belonging to a place).
  • The reason scientific names are used for species is simply to have a standard name that is universal across all languages. Greek and Latin are used because those were the languages being used when Carl Linneaus formalized the practice of binomial nomenclature (two name naming).
  • Using your field guide for birds, find the scientific name of the bird of your choice. If your guide doesn’t have scientific names, you can look it up on Google using the common name.
  • Search the bird on the Cornell site. In the information about the bird there is often an explanation of the scientific name and its meaning.
  • If Cornell doesn’t have the meaning use Google to search for it.
    • Enter both scientific names and the word “meaning”.
    • Check the results for the best explanation.
    • If you have trouble, try looking up each individual name individually.
  • If desired, make a matching game by printing the pictures of approximately 10-20 birds.
  • On a separate piece of paper, write the scientific name for each corresponding bird.
  • Laminate as desired and have fun learning while playing a game!
  • Take pictures and tag #theabundantgarden on Instagram to share your fun and for an opportunity to be featured @theabundantgarden.