Today I was struck by a simple, plebeian bird word, one is is almost use too often and with too much understanding that we may not realize its real eccentricity.
"Rufous," from the Latin rufus (reddish), is a readily recognized bird description. There are more than 174 species of bird with "rufous" in their name, roughly 1.7% of all birds worldwide. This means that in any random assortment of 100 birds, you'll find 2 that are Rufous-something-or-other.
And then there are all of the birds that have rufous coloration on them, but not in their name. For me, it is a great relief to be able to describe anything in the red-range as "rufous" and then feel like I'm covered.
Rufous Morph Cassin's Sparrow
It seems to be such a versatile word, or at least a very well-applied word, in the bird nerd world. There's a bit of carry-over into mammalian and invertebrate descriptions, but all in all it doesn't come up outside of biological settings.
"Rufous" was first used/recorded in 1782 (according to wikipedia), so it's a relatively new term for one based in a language over 2,000 years old. How often do you hear "rufous" come up anywhere else? Even in a 48-count box of crayolas, you'll get "scab-red" and "brick-red," "burnt orange" and "burnt sienna,"red-orange" and "outrageous orange," but no rufous. If it's not codified in crayola, is it real? Well, at least in the bird nerd world it's real. I've been able to photograph 5 different rufous named bird (4 actually, since Rufous-sided Towhee no longer exists).
Spotted Towhee, once a part of the Rufous-sided Towhee conglomerate
What are some other instances of Rufous you have found, bird-world or otherwise? What's missing from this Rufous anthology? Share a comment; share a link.