American Birding Podcast



Hawk “Kettle” Finally makes the Dictionary

Birders have a unique vocabulary, cribbed together from science, literature, and a thesaurus thrown at a Crayola Crayon box. But for many of our favorite words, there’s been little in the way of official recognition.

Take “kettle” for instance. A birder knows that using the term doesn’t refer to vessel for making tea (unless you prefer that to coffee in the morning), but to the churning, swirling flock of raptors rising into the sky like so much boiling water. Not only the kettle itself, but the process of hawks rising on thermals is often referred to as “kettling”.

A kettling kettle of Broad-winged Hawks is a common south Texas sight in springtime. Photo: Volker Hesse/ Macaulay Library (S35982961)

This definition has been unknown in the dictionary until now. ABA member and Delaware birder Sally O’Byrne made a formal request to the American Heritage Dictionary to include, as a definition of “kettle”, the use that birders and hawkwatchers have known for decades. And it was accepted.

Thanks Sally, and thanks American Heritage Dictionary. It surely won’t be long before words like twitch, dip, and butterbutt find their birding usage enshrined in the venerable Oxford English Dictionary.