mother calls her 'the Grebe,' " Victor went on. "At the dinner table
she'll ask, 'I wonder if the Grebe is at the movies tonight?' "
about the coot's feet?" I suggested. "They're good and ugly."
the fire. "We might run into some trouble there, too. Jim Tucker's wife,
Cilia, is known as the Coot."
Tucker?" I asked.
executive director of the American Birding Association."
We toyed with the
idea of giving our bird the feet of the blue-footed booby. Surely no one had
appropriated a bird name from this aptly described Pacific seabird, which
appears to have stood for a time in a pan of blue paint. Victor mentioned that
the blue feet would give it a distinction and interest it didn't deserve.
Rowlett argued that the blue color was very "chemical" and thus
human-oriented: It reminded him of the washed-out plastic blue of poor-quality
swim fins. Victor prevailed, and after a brief consideration of the bulky
webbed feet of the double-crested cormorant, we gave the bird the feet of a
jacana or lily-trotter—water birds whose feet are distinguished by abnormally
long, witch-finger toes.
help," Rowlett said, "if something was invariably impaled on those
fingery toes—bubble-gum wrappers, squashed paper cups, and so on."
no one has the lily-trotter as a bird name?" I asked.
"Probably," Victor said. "We'll just have to hope whoever he or she
is hasn't a short temper."