Writer Tom McIntyre has been in Argentina, not just shooting doves but hunting birds behind pointing dogs and fishing. What caught my attention (and what he, an informed naturalist- hunter, knows well) was the unique identity of some of his quarry.
Europeans often name local species after familiar things, but folk taxonomy is unreliable. South Americans think of this fish, called a”dorado”* for its golden color, as a trout:
As a careful perusal of everything from its fins to the shape of its jaws suggests, it is not! It is a characin, an entirely New- World family. Other members include piranhas, the vegetarian fish of the Amazon basin, and the neon tetras in your tropical aquarium. And Tom caught his on live eels, a bait hat might intimidate the cannibal taimen of Mongolia (Tom’s is not huge for the species).
An even more interesting misnomer is the Argentinian name for this bird:”perdiz”; partridge.
Ecologically it does rather resemble a partridge, but evolutionarily it is ancient, more like a little flying rhea or ostrich! Tinamous– there are several species– are small, flying ratites (the ONLY flying ratites), part of the old southern “Gondwanaland” radiation that includes all of the above plus cassowaries, emus, extinct moas, and kiwis. Like the last they lay enormous eggs, but tinamou eggs resemble porcelain art objects in polished greens and blues.
They don’t act like ostriches though. Tom:
“Kick in the ass to hunt. Used a very good German shorthair who literally snaked through the grass as they ran a mile before flushing. Limit is eight and we filled two one day, in about three miles of jogging. Great fun. FYI, perdiz run like chukar (on flat ground), fly harder, faster, and lower than quail, and are the best game bird I have ever eaten.” (Tom may have eaten more species of game bird than anyone I know).
For now I will postpone the subject of the amazing pestiferous parakeets…
Look for an update on Tom’s upcoming article on his Argentine experience.
*The word dorado is apparently now also the preferred (PC?) term for the tropical salt water game fish known in my youth as the dolphin, apparently to distinguish it from the mammal.