Birds-eye became Birds-ee over politics

As a lifelong resident of Southern Oregon, I was surprised to hear the pronunciation of Birdseye Creek Road recently on a local newscast. Everyone on the news team pronounced it as "Bird-see." I had always heard it as "Birds-eye." Have I been wrong all these years?

— Skip A., by email

Yes, Skip, you have been wrong all these years, although if you could jump in your time machine and motor back 150 years or so, you would have been right.

The namesake of Birdseye Creek Road was David Birdseye, who filed a donation land claim in 1853 on the property near the mouth of the creek. He built a log cabin there in 1855, which survived relatively intact until 1990, when it was gutted by a fire. It was restored and still stands off of old Highway 99, across the Rogue River from Gold Hill.

As for the pronunciation of Birdseye, here's what we found in our archives, in a story written by John Darling in 2005:

"David and Clarissa operated a trading post in Jacksonville and were parents of the first white child born in the Rogue Valley — Jim Birdseye in 1854 — says Ted Birdseye. Jim was the one who changed the pronunciation of the surname to birds-ee, he notes, so he wouldn’t be mistaken for an Indian in his run for county sheriff. Ted pronounces it the old way — birds-eye — although some older residents use 'birds-ee' for the adjacent creek and road, says Sheri Birdseye, a teacher at Elk-Trail Elementary School."

Just to clarify, Skip, you'll note that Sheri's pronunciation is "Birds-ee" rather than "Bird-see." But it also sounds as if, based on the family discussion, you might not want to give up on "birds-eye" just yet.

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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