The following is based on analysis of dictionaries and other sources. Comments and corrections welcome. Malaysian names are now being updated. For consistency, Vietnamese bird names (except for ducks and chickens) are preceded by the word Chim meaning 'bird'. Ornithological lists mostly omit this as understood. Hover over Green Lettering Green lettering at this site hides a tool tip with glosses, further explanations, etc. Hover cursor to reveal. to see additional information.
The usual name for the egrets, smaller herons, and bitterns in Vietnamese is Cò. This is a general category term that is not used solely for the Ardeidae; it also covers the physically similar storks and ibises. Cò ngàng is a term specifically used for egrets.
The great herons, with their larger size and more distinctive colouring, are known as Diệc.
The Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) is called Vạc, reflecting its cry (onomatopoeic), and the name has been extended to similar-looking smaller herons and bitterns. The Black-crowned Night Heron is known by similar onomatopoeic names in Thai (แขวก kʰwàeek) and Malaysian/Indonesian (Kuak or Kowak).
Naturalists assign names to the ardeids as follows:
|Vạc (unmarked refers to Nycticorax nycticorax)||Botaurinae||Bitterns||Botaurus|
|Ardeinae||Night Herons||Gorsachius, Nycticorax|
|Diệc||Ardeinae||Great Herons||Ardea (except Ardea alba)
Egretta sacra (Nguyen, Le, Phillipps)
|Ardeinae||Night Herons||Gorsachius -- alternative name|
|Small Herons||Butorides, Ardeola|
|Egrets||Bubulcus, Egretta, Ardea alba|
Nguyen, Le & Phillipps revise the Ixobrychus names slightly in order to make Cò lùn 'dwarf stork' a generic name . They also change the name of Egretta sacra from Cò (egret) to Diệc (great heron), a recognition that, despite its assignment to the egrets under the scientific taxonomy, the dark-coloured Egretta sacra is felt to belong with the great herons rather than the white-coloured egrets.
On the other hand, TVC (33), in an apparent nod to the scientific taxonomy, renames both Ardea alba and Botaurus stellaris to Diệc. The latter, in particular, is clearly an artificial creation based on the scientific name.
The name Cò is used by ornithologists for genera in the following families:
|USE OF Cò IN OTHER FAMILIES|
|Cò||Ciconiidae||Storks||Mycteria, Anastomus, Ephippiorhynchus|
|Cò quăm||Threskiornithidae||Threskiornithinae||Ibises||Threskiornis, Pseudibis, Plegadis|
Herons and bitterns are favourites for similes and folk expressions in Vietnamese. For example:
Mệt lử cò bợ 'exhausted (as a) Chinese pond-heron' = 'dog-tired, exhausted'.
Làng cò bợ 'band of Chinese pond-herons' = 'drunkards'.
Người như cò hương 'body like a black bittern' = 'skinny as a rake, thin as a lath'.
Ốm như cò ma 'sick as a cattle egret' = 'sick as a dog, very ill'.
Kêu như vạc 'cry like a night heron' = 'cry incessantly'.
The Chinese have a proverb: 鷸蚌相争，漁人得利 . 'The yu (= snipe) and the clam struggle; the fisherman profits'. This derives from an old story of a snipe/sandpiper who put his bill inside the clam's shell in order to eat the clam. The clam countered by clamping its shell tightly onto the bird's bill. The two were locked in a battle that neither could win. Along came the fisherman and claimed them both. The moral of the story is obvious.
Vietnamese has borrowed this proverb, but substitutes a cò (which we have noted covers smaller herons, storks, and ibises) for the snipe: Cò trai giữ nhau, ngư ông được lợi 'The stork and the mollusc hang on to each other, the fisherman gains the benefit'. (Vietnamese sometimes also substitutes a fight between a cockle and a clam, ngao sò.)
The characters used for ardeids in the now obsolete Chữ Nôm characters include:
Images from the Vietnamese Nôm Preservation Foundation dictionary. (Errors are the sole responsibility of the author of this site)
|Cò||, , , , ,|
|Vạc||, , ,|
Cò is a general name for storks (excluding adjutants), ibises, and certain types of medium-sized ardeid. Its scope includes the egrets but excludes the great herons and some night herons and bitterns. Attempts have been made in the ornithological naming to bring Vietnamese names into conformity with the scientific taxonomy.
นกกระส nók krà-săa 'largewader (bird)' is popularly used for Ardea great-herons (except for egrets) in the Ardeidae, and also for the storks (Ciconiidae), cranes (Gruidae), and ibises (Threskiornithidae). However, in modern ornithological Thai the name has been restricted only to the Ardeidae and Ciconiidae species.
The name นกยางโทน nók yaaŋ tʰoon 'solitary heron' for the two Ardea egrets is paralleled in Northern Thai นกขวากตน nók kʰwàak ton 'solitary greatheron' reported for Ardea cinerea. Currently, ornithological 'solitary' heron names are known only for these three species.
Kokokan 'kok-kok bird' is an Indonesian name for small herons and bitterns. It is a reduplicated version of the similar sound kok used in blekok 'pond heron'. Unmodified, kokokan is used in (29) for Ixobrychus cinnamomeus, suggesting the other kokokan names in (29) are extensions.
Nightherons are named after their distinctive loud calls. The same basic call is rendered here variously as kuak, kuak-kuak, kuar, kuaran, kowak, etc. A corresponding name in early Javanese is guwo.
Pucung is originally an old general name for any of several small herons and bitterns. Unmodified pucung has been especially identified with Butorides striata since the early 19th century. Principally in Malaysian, the name has been relatively recently extended to refer to any birds called 'heron' in English.
Blekek (also written belekek) 'kek bird' is the Javanese version of Malay berkek or berkik 'snipe'. Indonesian blekek has been recorded for various kinds of birds hunted as snipe, including true snipe and dowitchers (Scolopacidae), painted snipe (Rostratulidae), and as here, small herons (Ardeidae)
Blekok (also written belekok) 'kok bird' is the old name for Ardeola speciosa on Java, where only that one species of pond heron normally occurs, but the name has always been used for vagrants of other species as well. Blekok is extended as a general pond heron name for ornithological Indonesian in (30).
Bangau 'stork' is a widely used general name for large wading birds. In Malaysian bangau has principally come to refer to any birds called 'egret' in English, but earlier records include any mostly-white herons as well as great herons and storks. In addition, bangau is popularly used for cranes (Gruidae), the extralimital flamingos (Phoenicopteridae), and (especially in Indonesian) for adjutant storks (Ciconiidae). Bangau has also been extended as a general 'stork' name for ornithological Indonesian in (30).
Kendi 'watercarafe' refers to (originally South Asian) water containers whose shapes or modes of use suggest certain round-bodied, long-billed birds. Aside from its use as a descriptor for certain egrets in Ardeidae, kendi also serves as the base for Malaysian names of curlews and whimbrels (Scolopacidae). The derived form sekendi is used for ibises and spoonbills (Threskiornithidae).
Pucung is originally an old general name for any of several small herons and bitterns. Following an early ornithological extension, Malaysian pucung now may refer to any bird called 'heron' in English. Pucung was inserted into all ornithological Malaysian Ardeidae names (except those for egrets) in (24), a practice continued by most subsequent authorities.
Several loud heron calls are traditionally said to resemble the sounds made by cattle or buffalo. Lembu 'cattle' in the name for Ardea sumatrana refers to the perceived similarity in sound rather than a physical association with cattle. Kuak, the verb 'to make cattle noises', is conventionally written the same way as kuak, one of the onomatopoetic names for Nycticorax nightherons.
Kuntul (variously written kuntul, kontul, kontol, kundur, kutur, koto, kuntuk) is an old Indonesian, Javanese and East-Coast Malayan general name for egret. Unmodified kuntul may be popularly used in Indonesian for any egret, but refers especially to the largest species, Ardea alba. Optionally besar 'large' may be added to reinforce that identification.
Mostly from Robinson (& Chasen) 1927-1939 v1-4; additions from Madoc 1947 (et.seq.), and Glenister 1951 (both mostly names copied from Robinson)
中国鸟类种和亚种分类名录大全（修订版） 郑作新 著 科学出版社 北京 2000年
A Complete Checklist of Species and Subspecies of the Chinese Birds (Revised Edition) by Cheng Tso-Hsin, Science Press, Beijing 2000
中国鸟类分类与分布名录 主编：郑光美 科学出版社 北京 2005年
A Checklist on the Classification and Distribution of the Birds of China Chief editor: Zheng Guangmei, Science Press, Beijing 2005
中国鸟类野外手册（中文版）约翰・马敬能、卡伦・菲利普斯，合作者：荷芬奇，翻译：卢和芬 湖南教育出版社 长沙 2000年
A Field Guide to the Birds of China (Chinese translation) by John MacKinnon, Karen Phillipps, in collaboration with He Fen-qi, translated by Lu Hefen, Hunan Jiaoyu Chubanshe (Hunan Educational Press) Changsha 2000
世界鸟类分类与分布名录 主编：郑光美 科学出版社 北京 2002年
A Checklist on the Classification and Distribution of the Birds of the World Chief editor: Zheng Guangmei, Science Press, Beijing 2002
世界鸟类名称（拉丁文、汉文、英文对照）第二版 郑作新等 科学出版社 北京 2002年
Birds of the World (Latin, Chinese and English Names) 2nd ed. by Cheng Tso-Hsin et al, Science Press, Beijing 2002
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Chim Việt Nam Nguyễn Cử, Lê Trọng Trải, Karen Phillipps; Nhà Xuất Bản Lao Động - Xã Hội, 2000
Senarai Nama-nama Burung Semenanjung Malaysia dan Asia Tenggara by Ismail, Abdul Rahman, Perhilitan (Jabatam Perlindungan Hidupan Liar dan Taman Negara, Semenanjung Malaysia), Kuala Lumpur 1981
(List of the Names of Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Southeast Asia by Ismail, Abdul Rahman, Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Peninsular Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur 1981)
The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Vol. 1 - Non-passerines by Wells, David R., Academic Press, London 1999
A Field Guide to the Birds of West Malaysia and Singapore by Jeyarajasingam, Allen and Alan Pearson, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1999
The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Vol. 2 - Passerines by Wells, David R., Christopher Helm, A&C Black, London 2007
A Field Guide to the Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore (second edition) by Jeyarajasingham, Allen, Illustrations by Alan Pearson, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2012
A Field Guide to the Birds of Java and Bali (second edition) by MacKinnon, John, Gadjah Mada University Press, Yogyakarta 1990
Danh Lục Các Loài Chim ở Việt Nam (Latinh, Việt, Pháp, Hán) Trần Văn Chánh 2008-2009