Beast

Martineta


Latin name: Martineta
Other names: Kingfisher, Martinete, Martinet-pêcheur, Water-ouzel

A bird that does not decay when dead

General Attributes

There is considerable confusion over the identity of this bird. It is described in the Topographia Hibernica by Gerald of Wales (see Sources below), where is is called martineta. The account (and the name) is repeated in two bestiary manuscripts, Bodleian Library, MS. Bodley 764 and British Library, Harley MS 4751, both of which have illustrations of the bird.

Some translators (e.g. Richard H. Barber) call this the Water-ouzel or Dipper, which did exist in Ireland in Gerald's time (and still does). How this identification was arrived at is not explained, and seems dubious. Gerald describes the bird as diving for fish, which the Dipper does not do. However, Gerald's description of the bird as having "the belly white with a dark-coloured back" could match the Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus), a type of Dipper found in Ireland.

Other translators (e.g. Thomas Forester, 1863 say it is the Kingfisher. The name martineta did refer to the Kingfisher, and is part of the French name Martinet-pêcheur. The Kingfisher does dive for fish, and did exist in Ireland in Gerald's time. However, the Kingfisher is commonly referred to in manuscripts by some variation of the name halcyon.

The modern use of martineta as referring to a bird is to a type of tinamou found in Patagonia, not Ireland.

The manuscript illustrations are of little help; the bird they show could be either the Dipper or the Kingfisher.