2017—What The Heck Is Semipalmated?
The other day on Boliver Flats in Texas with my friend Connie, I noticed a couple of birds that I thought were plovers. When I reviewed my Sibley Guide to Birds, I identified them as Semipalmated Plovers in breeding plumage. I got to wondering what in the world makes this plover “semipalmated?” What the heck does semipalmated mean? Often the common name of birds includes a characteristic that sets them apart from other similar species. But sometimes these names make no sense as in the “Worm-eating Warbler.” Don’t all warblers eat worms? But I digress. I looked up “semipalmated” in my Funk And Wagnalls and it turns out that semipalmated refers to a bird’s foot that has incomplete webbing between its toes, i.e., not quite a duck’s foot. The first photograph below shows the right foot of this Semipalmated Plover and it does have a minuscule web between its toes but I think there might be a better characteristic that would distinguish this species of plover from another. The second shot shows the “semipalmated” foot a bit better but the bird was further away from me when I took the shot and the shadowy silhouettes of the birds in the background are a little distracting.