You might wonder if there are indeed any birds in the animal kingdom with a name beginning with ‘x’ – I have to admit, I couldn’t think of any off the top of my head – but you’d be surprised by how many there are.
Species Of Birds
All in all, there are seven main types of birds in the animal kingdom with names starting with the letter ‘x’.
These are the Xantus’s Hummingbird, the Xantus’s Murrelet, the Xantus’s Becard, the Xavier’s Greenbul, the Xinjiang Groundjay, the Xolmis Dominicanus, and the Xolmis Salinarum.
Also known as the Xantus, or the middle-sized hummingbird, the Xantus’s Hummingbird is a medium sized species of bird endemic to the Baja California Peninsula.
With a length of approximately 3-3.5 inches, and a weight of around 0.11- 0.14 ounces, it is very small, boasting a predominantly green plumage on the upper and back sides, cinnamon brown underparts, a red tipped tail, and a white stripe across the face.
With many habitats located exclusively within the Baja Peninsula of Mexico, there have been frequent sightings of migrations up the Pacific coast, and even as far as Canada.
With a diet based mainly on seeds and nectar, the Xantus also uses its long, curved beak, and long tongue to feed on small insects and grubs.
The Xantus’s Murrelet is a small seabird found in the California system of currents in the Pacific ocean. Also known as the Guadalupe murrelet, this seabird breeds throughout the Californian and Mexican islands of the Pacific.
Small in size, and with a black and white color scheme, the murrelet uses its light physical weight, strong wings, and sharp beak to propel itself down into the water, where it will dive for food – namely anchovies, sardines, and rockfish.
Making its home in small crevices, caves, and in cliffside shrubbery, the murrelet lives in scattered colonies, only laying two eggs at a time, which then incubate for a month.
Found in the Huachuca mountains of Southern Arizona, male Xantus’s becards have dark gray feathers on their backs with a lighter underside, whilst females have a striking reddish brown outer side, a rose colored band around their necks, and a pale brown underside.
Found in natural habitats in Central Africa, the Xavier’s Greenbul is a small songbird within the Bulbul family, making its home in dry, tropical forests, moist forest lowlands, and subtropical regions.
Commemorating the French explorer Xavier Dybowski, who was renowned for his collection of natural history specimens from the Congo, the Xavier’s Greenbul is also called the greater icterine bulbul, the greater icterine greenbul, and the Uganda icterine bulbul.
Also known as the Biddulph’s Ground-Jay, this bird is endemic to China, is usually smaller than an adult human’s hand, and has a brown and white coat of feathers.
Considered ‘near threatened’ by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), the Xinjiang Ground-Jay has suffered widespread habitat fragmentation and degradation as a result of widespread industrialization and urbanization throughout China.
Also known as the black and white monjita, the Xolmis Dominicanus is a species of passerine bird found in Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil.
Making its natural habitat in grasslands, tropical dry lowlands, seasonally flooded grasslands, and arable land, the Xolmis Dominicanus has a distinctive white coat of feathers, with jet black accents on the wings and tail.
Also known as the Salinas monjita, the Xolmis Salinarum is a member of the tyrant flycatcher species, and is endemic to Argentina.
Constantly threatened by habitat loss and destruction, the Xolmis Salinarum has depleted somewhat in recent years, making it one of the most protected species in the region.
As you will notice, three of the seven species of birds on this list were named after a man named Xantus, or, more accurately John Xantus de Vesey, a Hungarian exile and zoologist who served as an officer in the Hungarian uprising of 1848-1849.
After being captured and exiled to Prague, he was then arrested for a second time, before escaping to the United States of America in 1850.
Upon his arrival in the United States, he began working under zoologist Dr William Alexander Hammond as an assistant surgeon, developing an interest in zoologist, before becoming an avid collector of specimens himself.
After securing work for the United States National Museum, he was posted in the Baja Peninsula, working as a tidal observer in Cabo San Lucas, and being tasked with collecting biological specimens for the museum, collections of which can still be seen to this day.
After a brief stint as consular to Mexico, this ended in embarrassment when he misguidedly supported a rebel warlord, humiliating the Department of State.
Following this blunder, he soon returned to Hungary, where he served as the Director of the Zoological Garden of Budapest until his death in 1894 at the age of 69.
Despite his lack of success in Mexico, Xantus’s work in the field of zoology was extensive towards the end of his life, seeing him not only fulfill his role with the Zoological Garden of Budapest, but also the undertaking of several expeditions to Asia.
Because of this work, several species of plants and animals were named for him posthumously.
Some of these include the above-mentioned hummingbird, murrelet, and becard, as well as Xantus Leaf-Toed Gecko, the Xantus Swimming Crab, the Xantus Spineflower, and Xantus Milkwort.
And there we have it, everything you need to know about the species of birds whose name begins with the letter ‘x’.
Whilst they are not plentiful, each of the species represents distinct breakthroughs in the field of ornithology, several of which were seen as major discoveries in Baja Peninsula, China, and Africa.
So if you’re ever down that way, why not check them out?