What’s That in the Woods? Birds!

What’s That in the Woods? Birds!

(On Some Philippine Birds and Their Local Names)

One day a nephew of mine asked me if ducks are birds. I said yes, but he seemed unconvinced. “Really?” he insisted.

Apparently, one of his friends had told him that birds fly in the sky; and since that ducks don’t usually fly high in the sky, he concluded that these are therefore not birds. I had to explain to my nephew that not all birds fly high and that there are species of birds that do not fly at all; and that the ability to fly is not the unique characteristic that makes an animal a bird. What then makes an animal a bird? Birds are animals characterized primarily by feathers, a beak with no teeth, and the laying of hard-shelled eggs. All living species of birds have wings, except for the now extinct flightless moa of New Zealand. Most species of birds can fly. Those that cannot fly include the ostrich, emu, and rhea. Many species of birds—like ducks, peafowls, quails, and penguins—can fly but not high in the air.

In the Filipino Language
“Anyway, Uncle, what is duck in Filipino?” my nephew’s next question. “Also, can I call a duck ibon? Because a classmate of mine said that in Filipino, duck is called bibe and not ibon.

In Filipino, duck is known as bibe, itik, or pato. And since that ibon is the Filipino word for ‘bird,’ and the duck is a kind of bird; therefore, you may call the duck ibon.

“What about goose? What’s its Filipino name?”
“Uwak or wak-wak.” Okay, since that you seemed really interested in learning names of birds in the Filipino language, here’s a list of birds that naturally live and are common in the Philippines with their corresponding names in Filipino.

Some Species of Birds and Their Filipino Names chicken
manok – (rooster tandang; hen inahen; chick sisiw)
eagle – agila
egret – tagak; tugak
hawk – lawin
hornbill – kalaw
myna – martinez
owl – kuwago
parrot – loro
pigeon/dove – kalapati
quail – pugo
sparrow – maya
swallow – layang-layang
turkey – pabo
vulture – buwitre
woodpecker – kamambitel

The Last Leaf
Some people have asked me why birds like the emu, flamingo, ostrich, pelican, and penguin have no local names in the Filipino language. The answer is, simply because the Philippines is not a natural habitat for these birds; therefore, a Filipino name for each of these birds did not evolve naturally. Usually, the common names comprising a particular language are logically of the things found (or at least have been existing for a very long time) in the culture where the language belongs; so, anything foreign to a particular culture the people will typically have no local name for it.