Spotted: Kittlitz’s Plover


Words and image by Koos Pieters

Have you ever stopped to think who thought up the names of all of the nine-hundred-and-fifty-odd birds of southern Africa? And how did it come about that everybody agreed to the chosen names, given that general agreement is not exactly one of the strongest traits of mankind?

Paging through your average bird guide, you will come across a multitude of birds that were named after some or other famous person in relatively recent history. Names like Burchell, Bennett, Bradfield, Levaillant, Rüppel, Rudd and Haurtluab, to name just a few. And that seems like a good idea. If you identify a new species, it is only fair that you can attach your name to it. But how on earth did all the other birds get their names?

Well, while you get your mind around that one, let’s find out more about Mr. Kittlitz. According to Wikipedia, Friedrich Heinrich Freiherr von Kittlitz, who was around from 16 February 1799 to 10 April 1874, was a German artist, naval officer, explorer and naturalist. He was a descendant of a family of old Prussian nobility − “Freiher” meaning “independent lord”, and ranking with a baron.

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