A plane name only an ornithologist could love

  • Tue Dec 11th, 2012 3:10pm
  • Life

By Cory Graff

If you have visited the Flying Heritage Collection, you had to wonder about that odd name painted on the nose of the P-51 Mustang. Upupa epops is the scientific name for the Hoopoe Bird. It’s a very inside joke conceived by the plane’s pilot, Harrison “Bud” Tordoff. You see, before becoming an ace pilot during WWII, Tordoff was an ornithology (study of birds) student at Cornell University. That funny name of the Hoopoe Bird stuck in his head. Better yet, Upupa epops is a terrible creature by most accounts. The sly joke was that he’d named his beautiful and speedy fighter after a bird with puzzling flying characteristics, a cantankerous attitude, and a yucky anti-predator secretion that smells like rotting meat … Of course, you had to have studied birds for years to get Tordoff’s inside joke.