Nebraska Ornithologists' Union


Date of this Version



“An Unfortunate Name—With a Nebraska Twist” from Nebraska Bird Review (June 2010) 78(2).


Copyright 2010 Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union. Used by permission.


The past days have seen an amusing conversation about bird names conducted on the online discussion group NEBirds—just the sort of thing to get us through these dog-day afternoons of August. The scientific name of the Paltry Tyrannulet, a tropical flycatcher, is Zimmerius vilissimus, the genus so named by Melvin Traylor after American ornithologist John Todd Zimmer, who had a Nebraska connection through the university and State Museum in Lincoln. Combining the bird’s specific epithet from 1859—long preceding the new genus name of 1977—resulted in an English meaning of the entirety as “the very contemptible Zimmer.” Not what Traylor probably intended by his taxonomical revision and naming in honor of Zimmer.