Pandion haliaetus Redux

Pandion haliaetusAbout that binomial: Pandion was a mythical king of Athens who had two daughters, Philomel and Procne. The latter married Tereus, king of Thrace, even though he wanted Philomel. To get Philomel, the Thracian cut out Procne’s tongue and pretended she was dead. Unable to speak her woe, Procne informed her sister of her fate by way of weaving a tapestry, or a web in some versions, that told all. The sisters then took ancient Greek vengeance, killing, cooking, and serving Tereus’s own son to him. The gods, with their somewhat delayed sense of justice, punished the sisters by turning Philomel into a nightingale and Procne into a swallow (no singers, they), who would be pursued forever by Tereus in the form of a hawk. Still with me here? Linnaeus thought Ospreys were hawks of the genus Falco. Savigny said baloney to that and placed them in Pandion, where they remain the sole members of their genus, although perhaps the genus name should probably have been Tereus.

The specific part of the binomial is the Greek for “sea eagle”; fish hawk and fish eagle are other names for this fish-eater, which is no eagle.* “Osprey” is also a bit of mess, meaning more or less “bone-breaker,” a name which really refers to the Lammergeier, the enormous Old World vulture.

*The Bald Eagle is Haliaeetus leucocephalus, with an extra “e” in the genus.

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