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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 17:21   #1
birdmeister
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Capitalization of Common Bird Names?

Hello all,

I thought I would bring this subject up as I think about it a good deal when looking at books/websites and seeing bird names capitalized fully, partially, or not at all.

In a magazine that I get (Birdwatchers' Digest to be specific), bird names are capitalized in two ways. Either they are all lowercase (e.g "house finch"), or the first part is capitalized because of a name/location (e.g "Swainson's hawk", "California quail").

My method (I sometimes see it on BF too) is to capitalize both words regardless (e.g "Song Sparrow").

Is one way the correct way, or are both acceptable?

I suspect I'm opening quite a large can of worms...

Last edited by birdmeister : Saturday 12th August 2017 at 19:00.
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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 17:34   #2
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I suspect I'm opening quite a large can of worms...
Correct :)

Personally, I use capitals.
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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 17:46   #3
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There's another thread on the subject at the bottom of this page if you scroll down ... So just re-opening the can ...

Capitals, yes imo, excepting where part of the name follows a hyphen eg Great-crested Grebe or Ruby-throated Hummingbird.
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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 18:11   #4
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Capitals, yes imo, excepting where part of the name follows a hyphen eg Great-crested Grebe or Ruby-throated Hummingbird.
Yep (except it's Great Crested Grebe, 3 separate words, no hyphen )
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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 18:29   #5
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Why are we discussing common English/American names again, why oh why, we are not a language forum, we should be discussing birds, and they have perfect Latin names. This is an international forum and English names don't mean anything to foreign birdwatchers or ornithologists, and they certainly don't care how to spell them (If you want to know, the Dutch spelling rules say that birdnames are not capitalized, except at the beginning of a sentence)..

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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 18:54   #6
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Originally Posted by Fred Ruhe View Post
Why are we discussing common English/American names again, why oh why, we are not a language forum, we should be discussing birds, and they have perfect Latin names. This is an international forum and English names don't mean anything to foreign birdwatchers or ornithologists, and they certainly don't care how to spell them (If you want to know, the Dutch spelling rules say that birdnames are not capitalized, except at the beginning of a sentence)..

Fred Ruhe
All perfectly fair points, but... part of the fun of forums (fora?) like this is getting stuck into meaningless, pointless, esoteric discussions, just for the hell of it. Doesn't have to be serious, or academically rigorous, or follow any set of rules or criteria. I find threads like this best viewed as pub discussions without the pub (he types on his phone in the garden of The White Lion). Personally I capitalise, agree Great Crested Grebe shouldn't have a hyphen (it's a Crested Grebe which is Great, not a Grebe with a great crest) but agonise over whether to capitalise the second bird name in a hyphenated double barrel (I prefer Hawk-Cuckoo to Hawk-cuckoo, but suspect the latter is more correct).

More drunken opinions please!
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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 19:18   #7
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Originally Posted by Fred Ruhe View Post
Why are we discussing common English/American names again, why oh why, we are not a language forum, we should be discussing birds, and they have perfect Latin names. This is an international forum and English names don't mean anything to foreign birdwatchers or ornithologists, and they certainly don't care how to spell them
So, it is simple, if you don't want to discuss the common names again, read one of the other threads, it is not compulsory to comment here.

As for "they have perfect Latin names" and "English names don't mean anything to foreign birdwatchers", you are fully entitled to use the Latin names as you wish, but bear in mind that Bird Forum is not, in the most part, a scientific forum or journal, but rather a site for everyone from a casual lay person who occasionally watches birds in the garden right up through to experienced international ornithologists - to many of these persons, it is the Latin name that means little.

Although it is an international site, it is an English language site - I can only admire the considerable language skills that many of our non-native English speakers possess, I also have little doubt that these 'foreign birdwatchers' generally master the English names of the birds we discuss too.

Incidentally, I can also think of examples where different guidebooks use different Latin names for the same species, so not Latin names are not always so perfect either

So, do please tolerate us to debate an element of our interest, ie the names of the birds we are so interested in.
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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 19:29   #8
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Well, you seem to have problems with my personal opinion, but keep in mind this is not a language forum, and the topic is discussed over and over again.
Latin bird names differ, yes, but that has a reason: in what genus people think a species belongs and which name has priority

Ans by the way, I just opened my sixth pint of beer, so I cannot be accused of being too sober.

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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 19:37   #9
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I personally believe this thread belongs in the birds and birding area of BF -- and I am betting that a little search will find past threads there.

To answer the original query: all variants are acceptable to some people. If you are writing for a magazine or website, then they may have made rules but those rules will only apply for that one location.

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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 19:38   #10
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Well, you seem to have problems with my personal opinion, but keep in mind this is not a language forum, and the topic is discussed over and over again.
No problem with your opinion, but if you are exasperated with the topic, why not just read some other thread? If a member is interested enough to post and ask on the issue, then it is a valid talking point. And if it has been discussed over and over again, then clearly many are interested :)
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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 19:40   #11
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Capitals for me too, not because I think they're "correct"(?), but because I'm a bird chauvinist and wish to honor our avian friends in this way. By the same token, I would never dream of capitalizing the names of mammals and other non-avians.

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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 19:41   #12
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Capitals for me too, not because I think they're "correct"(?), but because I'm a bird chauvinist and wish to honor our avian friends in this way. By the same token, I would never dream of capitalizing the names of mammals and other non-avians.

Capitals all the way for me, mammals, butterflies, birds ...
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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 19:47   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred Ruhe View Post
Why are we discussing common English/American names again, why oh why, we are not a language forum, we should be discussing birds, and they have perfect Latin names. This is an international forum and English names don't mean anything to foreign birdwatchers or ornithologists, and they certainly don't care how to spell them (If you want to know, the Dutch spelling rules say that birdnames are not capitalized, except at the beginning of a sentence)..

Fred Ruhe
Thanks for your input, Fred.

I realize that in some scientific circumstances it makes more sense to use a bird's scientific name, but for everyday usage it makes more sense for me to use English common names. In any predominantly English-speaking country, common names are the default and using them helps in clear communication.

Of course, in the end, if I write "ring-necked duck" instead of "Ring-necked Duck" it doesn't really matter. However, in my post I was looking to find out what is the capitalization that is most widely considered "correct".

Many thanks to all who have answered so quickly, and for mentioning hyphenation (which I neglected in my OP).

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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 19:49   #14
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Capitals all the way for me, mammals, butterflies, birds ...
And trees? Or do you draw the line at the animal kingdom?
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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 20:02   #15
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"Latin names"...erm...no...can we then, all you pedants, agree to call them "Scientific names"...which is what they are...?
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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 20:04   #16
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And trees?
Plant species too. I am not alone - for example, THIS field guide for trees, and THIS Bird Forum thread on orchids.
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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 20:14   #17
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So, it is simple, if you don't want to discuss the common names again, read one of the other threads, it is not compulsory to comment here.

As for "they have perfect Latin names" and "English names don't mean anything to foreign birdwatchers", you are fully entitled to use the Latin names as you wish, but bear in mind that Bird Forum is not, in the most part, a scientific forum or journal, but rather a site for everyone from a casual lay person who occasionally watches birds in the garden right up through to experienced international ornithologists - to many of these persons, it is the Latin name that means little.

Although it is an international site, it is an English language site - I can only admire the considerable language skills that many of our non-native English speakers possess, I also have little doubt that these 'foreign birdwatchers' generally master the English names of the birds we discuss too.

Incidentally, I can also think of examples where different guidebooks use different Latin names for the same species, so not Latin names are not always so perfect either

So, do please tolerate us to debate an element of our interest, ie the names of the birds we are so interested in.
Well said, Jos.

This forum is here to discuss whatsoever its members wish and there's clearly an interest in Anglophone bird names. That doesn't mean everyone has to find it an interesting topic or agree. To a large degree, whether you like it or not, English is the ornithological lingua franca as far as field guides and other popular works are concerned so discussing how English names should be written is a perfectly reasonable subject even in an international forum such as this. Finally, personally, I prefer the term 'scientific' names as many "Latin" names are based on Greek words or those from other languages (albeit in a Latinised form).
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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 20:47   #18
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"Latin names"...erm...no...can we then, all you pedants, agree to call them "Scientific names"...which is what they are...?
Many are actually Greek anyway not Latin so if you're going to get shirty (F Ruhe), at least do it accurately!.


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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 21:08   #19
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Many are actually Greek anyway not Latin so if you're going to get shirty (F Ruhe), at least do it accurately!.
Well, they may be from the Greek, Russian, Chinese, Arabic, they are Latinized, so they are Latin and follow the Latin grammar.

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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 21:29   #20
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... so they are Latin and follow the Latin grammar.
Tut tut, after telling us "this is not a language forum", you're now giving us a grammar lesson
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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 21:44   #21
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Against grouchiness in the discussion of English usage the Gods struggle in vain!

That said, I find "latin names" quite acceptable, not because they're "latinized" (how pedantic can one get?) but because the term is long established in educated English usage.
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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 22:19   #22
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Ans by the way, I just opened my sixth pint of beer,
Really? I'd have thought beer was sold by the half-litre or litre in the Netherlands?

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Capitals all the way for me, mammals, butterflies, birds ...
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Originally Posted by fugl View Post
And trees? Or do you draw the line at the animal kingdom?
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Originally Posted by Jos Stratford View Post
Plant species too. I am not alone - for example, THIS field guide for trees, and THIS Bird Forum thread on orchids.
Caps for me too, for all species, including plants. BSBI (Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland) uses caps for the official standard English plant names (e.g. Ribwort Plantain for Plantago lancolata, etc., etc.).
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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 22:33   #23
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Really? I'd have thought beer was sold by the half-litre or litre in the Netherlands?.
No, it is sold in in units of 30 cl., 50 cl., 30 l. 50 l. and 1000 l. (the last three only for bars and café's), (the main units, but there are also bottles of 25 cl., but they are not common), but, as always, I tried to adjust to English terms and understanding, I am an easy and adaptable person.

Fred, at least nutcracker, I use my own name, you just hide behind an alias.
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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 23:18   #24
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. . .at least nutcracker, I use my own name, you just hide behind an alias.
A remark no less fatheaded now than when you first made it some time ago in another thread. Or is it just all those "pints" talking?
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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 23:27   #25
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dear Fugi,

In another thread I said I did not discuss things with people who don't use their own name. I still think that people who try to discuss subjects under an alias are cowards.

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