2023—The Magnificent One

It’s hard to imagine why this magnificent hummingbird, whose common name once was Magnificent Hummingbird, is now called Rivoli’s Hummingbird. Well, it all started in 1829 when a French natural historian and surgeon called René-Primevère Lesson, named this hummingbird Rivoli’s in honor of the 2nd Duke of Rivoli, a distinguished amateur ornithologist. It turns out that the Duke collected bird specimens and when a contact of his, an Italian doctor and naturalist named Paolo Emilio Botta, visited ports in Mexico and California in the early 1820’s, he sent species he collected to the Duke who in turn sent them to Lesson who apparently was responsible for naming birds. Lesson also named the Anna’s Hummingbird after the Duke’s wife, Anna. For some reason, in 1983, ornithologists in charge of naming birds (who are those guys?) changed the Rivoli’s Hummingbird to the Magnificent Hummingbird, a very appropriate name in my view. When I first saw this magnificent bird, it was called the Magnificent Hummingbird. But, in 2017, the same group (who ARE those guys?) split the species into two groups, and called the birds that live between the southern United States and Nicaragua, Rivoli’s, returning the bird to its original name. Those birds south of Nicaragua are called Talamanca Hummingbird. I did find out who those guys are. And, unlike those guys in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, they are not trying to get us. The American Ornithological Society committee on classification and nomenclature lumps and splits bird species, sometimes combining and sometimes splitting, often the result of DNA testing. That’s what happened to the Magnificent. And I guess since it’s been returned to its original name, all is well. But, I still think this gorgeous bird is truly magnificent.

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