Bird nesting

I used to do a lot of bird nesting when I was young, it was part of living on an orchard. We did it for fun – with encouragement. When my father was young he also lived in an orcharding area and they were paid for eggs gathered, but the funding for that was history when I did it.

It obviously involved a lot of tree climbing.

Sometimes we would just smash the eggs, but if we felt like it we would blow the eggs – prick a small hole in each end on a wire fence barb and blow the contents out.

We would mostly find thrush, blackbird and starling nests, also sparrows. There were no native birds around the orchards.

This topic was prompted by a conversation about baby birds. We used to call fledglings something like yunkers, but I can’t find any reference to this word in relation to birds. It may have been in local use only. Does anyone know anything about this term?

This looks a likely source from the Oxford dictionary:

Younker – a youngster


Early 16th century (denoting a young nobleman): from Middle Dutch jonckher, from jonc ‘young’ + hēre ‘lord’. Compare with Junker.

Maybe there was a Dutch orchardist who introduced the word. How widely was it used?

Leave a comment


  1. They were still paying for birds eggs in my young days – 2/6d per 100 eggs if I remember correctly. I never collected that many at once.
    One day Eric Anderson biked down with a kerosene tin full of eggs but fell off on the way. What a mess trying to count them.

  2. Maggy Wassilieff

     /  28th November 2017

    P.930 in Harry Orsman’s
    Dictionary of NZ English


    He identifies it as British dialect derived from Dutch origin…. as in OED.

    Then cites its use from 1920s onwards in NZ in reference to the young of animals (rabbits, baby birds)

    and gives one example of transferred use – to refer to a new pupil at a school.

  3. Kitty Catkin

     /  28th November 2017

    It wasn’t me.I have just got here.

    One comes across it in Victorian literature reasonably often, it usually seems to be used in a facetious way. My 1877 Annandales says that it’s from the Dutch jonker/jonkheer, literally young sir, young gentleman.

    Annandales defines it as a youing fellow, a lad, a youngster. I have never heard the animal/bird usage before.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  28th November 2017

      Young fellow.

      What a great man Harry Orsman was, I was lucky enough to have him as both lecturer and tutor at Vic-Old English and Middle English.

      • Maggy Wassilieff

         /  28th November 2017

        I envy you, then.

        I only got to know Harry when I did the botanical definitions and checking for his ODNZ.

        As he had worked for the NZForest Service at one time, he had some great stories to tell of folks we knew in common.
        And i appreciated the fact that he didn’t think my ears were too delicate for some of his tales.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  28th November 2017

          Did he tell the one about the young man saying ‘Aw, shit, Lady (wossname) , I can’t dance !’

          Oh, he was a marvel, it was such a privilege to be there in his seminars and at his lectures.

          Have you seen the fungus called Phallus Impudicus, which is more or less the Latin for ‘arrogant prick’ ? It is very well named and gives botany students a good laugh when they see it….


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