Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Secret lives: Pariah / Black kite (Milvus migrans)

It used to be called the pariah kite on the Indian subcontinent, the shite-hawke in England. Its lovely habit of rooting through your dustbins probably earned it this name. Now its more simply called the black kite in India and the black-eared in England. To seperate it from the red, which the English seem to like better and perhaps the Brahminy kite (Haliastur indus) in India, so named for its white head. In Australia, the Brahminy is called the much more regal name of red-backed sea eagle. It's a dumpster diver just the same. 

I cannot help but think that the Pariah was pejorative name, and referred specifically to the occupations of pariahs in India. (Pariah was a catch all name for all lower castes who usually did the dirty work, collecting and clearing garbage, including said shite.) Bird names and identities have always had their own heirarchy. There are the special birds we see when we go out twitching, the ones we keep records of. And the others whose existance goes unnoted. The Pariah was onesuch. 

From the 'Boke of St. Albans'

An Eagle for an Emperor, 
a Gyrfalcon for a King; 
a Peregrine for a Prince, 
and a Saker for a Knight; 
a Merlin for a lady, 
a Goshawk for a Yeoman, 
a Sparrowhawk for a Priest, 

the movie.

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