NEW TITLE: Bush thick-knees, commonly known as curlews.
NEW TITLE: Bush thick-knees, commonly known as curlews. Keith Ireland

YOUR STORY: Who has a curlew what thick-knee is?

NO DOUBT the "powers that be" have genuinely good reasons for changing the common names of some of our better-known birds. Unfortunately the public in general are quite often unaware of such changes, with the result that previous "common usage" names are still used by the majority.

Thus the use of the new name, e.g. lapwing, brings a blank expression in response until it is stated that the person is probably more familiar with its former title "plover", which is well known.

Mention the name "curlew" and most people will know that this is the bird that screams out at night, maybe even causing trepidation to the unwary. It is a very common bird which has adapted well to being part of the human environment. However, now its official name is "thick-knee", probably because of its large knobbly knees.

The new name was almost a cause of great embarrassment to me in the not too distant past.

I had been out that afternoon and when I arrived home, my wife Glenda told me that a lady had rung and she was most concerned about the welfare of a pair of nesting curlews.

They had a nest on a vacant allotment next to where she lived and that very morning, workmen had arrived and unloaded a whole lot of gear and were ready to start building.

Rather than just turn up on her doorstep, I said to Glenda that I would firstly telephone the lady and see if it was all right for me to come around and have a look at her thick-knees.

Very quickly Glenda replied that she didn't think that I should say that at all.

How right she was.

It would no doubt be somewhat of a shock for an elderly lady to receive a phone call from a man she didn't know and had never met, asking if he could come around to look at her thick-knees.

I was extremely careful that afternoon to make sure I only called the birds curlews.



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