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Birder Jargon Project: Hoodies and Woodies

July 27, 2011

Situation 1. Say you’re with a few companions scoping a medium sized lake in November.  Several small ducks emerge from a back arm and make their way towards the deeper part of the lake.  Before you can call out the name your companion matter-of-factedly calls out “Hoodies“.

Situation 2.  The same companions.  But it’s mid-April and you’re somewhere in the east birding a mature deciduous forest with a thick undergrowth of Dogwoods, Redbuds, and various tangly whatnots.  The air is thick with birdsong, but ringing loud and clear and just behind a tangle of grapevine is a sing-songy the red-the red-t-shirt.   A flash of yellow brings binoculars to faces and your companion, once again, and with the same authority, calls out “Hoodie” The same bird?

Context matters!  There are few situations in which a birder might be confused about which bird is intended, but those times are few and far between.  Unless you’re wearing an oversized hooded swaetshirt, the bird in the first example on the wide open lake in the cold months, are clearly Hooded Mergansers, but in the second, there are few birds that would think anything but Hooded Warbler.  Granted, birders in the southwest may well bestow the moniker “Hoodie” to Hooded Oriole as well, but I’ve never heard it.  There’s something about the suffix “ie” that begs to be added to those birds we might thing of as cute.  For that, both Hooded Merganser and Hooded Warbler fit the bill, but although the Hooded Oriole is the smallest Oriole in the Americas, its lankiness implies a slyness that seems the antithesis of the rounded other Hoodies.  But I could be wrong, birders out west may find Hooded Oriole to be an appropriate “Hoodie” itself.

But what of Woodies?  Despite the name Woody being applied in the general cultural milieu as the name of a cartoon woodpecker (at least the age-appropriate use of the word), we birders have never referred to our Picids as such.  No, when a birder calls out “Woodie” they’re calling attention to a nearby Wood Duck, arguably the most colorful of our native Anatids.

Oddly, the Wood Duck is the only Wood bird in North American to which the nickname applies.  We don’t call Wood Storks “Woodie”, or even the sweet-singing Wood Thrush.  Woodcocks get crazy names like Timberdoodle and Bogsucker, but no one has ever thought to call it by the name more commonly considered the sole province of the dapper duck.  No confusion here, just one flashy duck.

Now, assuming you speak clearly, you shouldn’t have any trouble telling your Hoodies and Woodies apart.

  1. July 27, 2011 2:48 pm

    I think “Hoodies” and “Woodies” may have originated from hunters…they have nicknames for pretty much all shootable waterfowl. Its interesting looking at ducks through a hunters eyes, if only because its very different…for example, I just learned about the existence of “storm wigeon”. Kudos on the crow blog, BTW.

  2. July 27, 2011 2:49 pm

    ps Ive never heard “Bogsucker” before, that’s awesome.

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