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New official Checklist of the birds of Germany sparks debate

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Old Thursday 24th January 2019, 20:06   #26
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If someone is at it, could you please rename some of these gulls, so that German and English names are aligned?

So that Lachmöwe is actually Laughing Gull (not Black-headed), Schwarzkopfmöwe is Black-headed Gull (not Mediterranean), Mittelmeermöwe is Mediterranean (not Yellow-legged Gull), Heringsmöwe is Hering Gull (not Lesser Black-backed) etc. Or just lump them all to whatever name you fancy. Thanks!

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Old Thursday 24th January 2019, 20:10   #27
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BTW Dunnock is Middle English in origin, and is a vernacular name which having triumphed over Hedge Sparrow already, will now proceed to grind the appalling Hedge Accentor into the dust. Maybe I'll start using Siberian Dunnock and Alpine Dunnock
Excellent idea! And already done by Harrison's An Atlas of the Birds of the Western Palaearctic


As an aside, 'dunnock' ('dun', brown, + 'ock', small bird) means 'little brown bird'. So it's the original LBJ
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Old Thursday 24th January 2019, 20:14   #28
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"Hedge Accentor" is a bit of an etymological monster to me because it combines Germanic and Latin elements.
It's also awful because of its meaning - a conductor is one who conducts, so an accentor is one who accents.

Have you ever seen a hedge that has been accented by a Hedge Accentor?
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Old Thursday 24th January 2019, 20:15   #29
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If someone is at it, could you please rename some of these gulls, so that German and English names are alinged?

So that Lachmöwe is actually Laughing Gull (not Black-headed), Schwarzkopfmöwe is Black-headed Gull (not Mediterranean), Mittelmeermöwe is Mediterranean (not Yellow-legged Gull), Heringsmöwe is Hering Gull (not Lesser Black-backed) etc. Or just lump them all to whatever name you fancy. Thanks!
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Old Thursday 24th January 2019, 20:32   #30
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Yes, that will do...
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Old Thursday 24th January 2019, 20:36   #31
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Seagull
JL Seagull, if you please...!
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Old Thursday 24th January 2019, 21:22   #32
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Hi,

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If someone is at it, could you please rename some of these gulls, so that German and English names are alinged?
Seeing you stated a Swiss location, what's the deal with the Weidenlaubsänger anyway?

It would align nicely with the English "Chiffchaff" ;-)

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Old Friday 25th January 2019, 06:13   #33
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So to summarize your post, would it be fair to say you are arguing that Bearded Tit is a daft name and not okay, but Hedge Accentor is a daft name, but okay? :)
I'm not advocating any particular name for the Prunella, just interesting name over history English names have regularly changed without much fan-fair. Another good one - Long-tailed Bushtit I suspect is one that would struggle to catch on, despite it being an Aegithalos.
For the Prunella, if I had it my way, or wrote about that species or Genus in particular, I'd probably prefer European/Eurasian Accentor - or something a bit different like Scrub Accentor or even something slightly more evocative like Hawthorn Accentor (do they like Hawthorns elsewhere? I know only know them from UK and Iran!).

I find it fascinating how people are so keen and determined to cling on to old names, even if they are wrong, when we all know in generations time they will be in the past (like Goat-sucker and Hedge Sparrow, I'm sure there are many other examples too).

Another bug-bearer of mine - Willie Wagtail - just call it what it is, a fantail!

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Old Friday 25th January 2019, 06:30   #34
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For the Prunella, if I had it my way, or wrote about that species or Genus in particular, I'd probably prefer European/Eurasian Accentor - or something a bit different like Scrub Accentor or even something slightly more evocative like Hawthorn Accentor (do they like Hawthorns elsewhere? I know only know them from UK and Iran!).

Another bug-bearer of mine - Willie Wagtail - just call it what it is, a fantail!
Scrub Accentor equally poor in much of its range, and I don't recall any association with Hawthorns here - usually occurs in damp, often coniferous, forest in my area. The weakness with your suggestions for Dunnock highlight the weakness of numerous names that exist, so why not just enjoy the wierd and wonderful names that do exist, rather than seek to create a blandness across the board. Scientific names exist to reflect the taxonomy, vernicular names do not need to duplicate the role. Bearded Tit and Dunnock fine by me.

Regarding Willie Wagtail, people do call it what it is, it is a Willie Wagtail. I remember my first time doing butterflies in South Africa and encountering the names - first impression, and remaining impression, was admiration at the amazing names. Not a reflection of taxonomy, but evocative nanes that had clearly been inspired.
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Old Friday 25th January 2019, 06:52   #35
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However, even a grumpy old fart like me can recognise that it is necessary to have a universally-accepted set of rules when it comes to scientific names, and when the genetics show that a genus is polygeneric (if that's the right word), there really isn't much option but to introduce a new name for at least one genus.

And this is the point. The scientific name is the one that has to be "right", that has to follow the rules. It's the one that actually matters. And because of this, vernacular names don't. They can be quirky and nonsensical and meaningless and random.
I also find this so fascinating, in that as you say, the English name is not the one that should matter, yet it's one that really irks birders, yet a genus change raises barely a quibble. These advancements in taxonomy, especially those using Next-gen sequencing I find absolutely fascinating, showing us the true relationship of species and groups (how long before we start calling Black Laughingthrush, Black Scimitar Babbler - which it clearly has been more closely related to for those that have really watched them in the field, rather than a quick tick). As a birder living in a region where these evolutions are so apparent, it is what drives me to want to observe even the common birds more-and-more.

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I have to say that I don't really buy the "somebody might be confused" argument. To quote Yossarian, "Who's they"? Who actually gets genuinely confused by the fact that at least six different families use the word "tit" (which I believe is simply an old word for any small bird).

I've never met anybody who was confused by the fact that English vernacular names aren't as rigid and rule-bound as latin names, and often make no sense. And if I ever do, I will take the 30 seconds it requires to explain the above to them, and we can both laugh about how stupid the English language is.
I've had this discussion with local birders, in Indonesia and China in particular, on multiple occasions over the past several years. In Indonesia, it's usually about why Willie Fantail is called a wagtail, when it clearly isn't a wagtail and it's a different genus.

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I hope personally never to have to blurt out "Bloodhead!" or "Shade-dweller" in the field lest I sound like a complete chickadee.
I'm yet to yell out Bloodhead myself (I'm having to continually correct myself in the field!), though Shade-dweller I've enjoyed using on multiple occasions now, and leaf-toiler is well intrenched with many local birders already, which gives us great satisfaction hearing that one randomly!
I good example of this - remember Olive-flanked Whistler? I haven't heard that English name for years and years since it changed to Hylocitrea ;-)

It makes for a healthy, humourous debate in the field, I've been finding!

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Old Friday 25th January 2019, 07:46   #36
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Personally I really like the name Bornean Shade-dweller. I'm quite tempted to go to Borneo and look for that, much more than I would be Eyebrowed Jungle-Flycatcher.

Leaf-toiler is a name that I haven't yet caught onto, but I don't like calling them tailorbirds so I need to get to grips with the new name. I'm finally starting to get to grips with cupwing now.
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Old Friday 25th January 2019, 08:05   #37
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I also find this so fascinating, in that as you say, the English name is not the one that should matter, yet it's one that really irks birders, yet a genus change raises barely a quibble. These advancements in taxonomy, especially those using Next-gen sequencing I find absolutely fascinating, showing us the true relationship of species and groups
I can see the point, but I think this is really for the very nerdy of birders. The ordinary birder cares about the species name and often doesn't even know the genus. (Talking about myself here obviously)
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Old Friday 25th January 2019, 10:39   #38
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I can see the point, but I think this is really for the very nerdy of birders. The ordinary birder cares about the species name and often doesn't even know the genus. (Talking about myself here obviously)
Spot on.
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Old Friday 25th January 2019, 10:55   #39
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For the Prunella, if I had it my way, or wrote about that species or Genus in particular, I'd probably prefer European/Eurasian Accentor - or something a bit different like Scrub Accentor or even something slightly more evocative like Hawthorn Accentor (do they like Hawthorns elsewhere? I know only know them from UK and Iran!).
Why on earth would you ever get rid of a name like Dunnock - it's concise, easy to pronounce, actually a traditional name yet accurate at the same time. And still worse, replace it with a monstrosity like "European Accentor"?
FWIW, the most recent Dunnock I've seen was moving in and around a hedge.
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Old Friday 25th January 2019, 12:11   #40
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I good example of this - remember Olive-flanked Whistler? I haven't heard that English name for years and years since it changed to Hylocitrea ;-)

It makes for a healthy, humourous debate in the field, I've been finding!

James
Hylocitrea is indeed an interesting one, and to prove your point it probably is the name I would use in the field. All I can say is that it is not a completely made-up name - it's simply the name of its monotypic genus, so it already exists in the body of historical literature - but perhaps more importantly, it actually sounds quite nice. It is far catchier than yet-another-forgettable-whistler-name!

Here's a somewhat related conundrum for you, though: what about Madanga? I doubt many people mourned the loss of "Rufous-throated White-eye" because Madanga is cool and highly memorable, and - again - was derived from an existing genus name. However, I believe it is now considered to be well-nested within the genus Anthus, so "Madanga" presumably now makes absolutely no sense. Buru Pipit? Personally, I suspect Madanga will remain in common usage.

Having said all this, I'm not blind to reality. When a seminal field guide is published, the names used therein will inevitably become the new normal. People new to birding will simply use the name in the field guide, without necessarily knowing anything about "old" names, let alone caring about them.

And to be fair, I can see the rationale in your wanting common names to make "taxonomic sense". You are arguing from a point of logic, I am arguing from a point of view of emotional attachment to the familiar. My take is that the binomial is the one that needs to be rational, and the vernacular is the one that should reflect real world usage even where it makes no sense.
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Old Friday 25th January 2019, 12:20   #41
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And to be fair, I can see the rationale in your wanting common names to make "taxonomic sense". You are arguing from a point of logic, I am arguing from a point of view of emotional attachment to the familiar. My take is that the binomial is the one that needs to be rational, and the vernacular is the one that should reflect real world usage even where it makes no sense.
Taxonomical logic isn't the only logical way of looking at the issue. Considering factors like mass appeal, practicality (cool and memorable names will be better than long and awkward ones) and cultural heritage is entirely logical, too. Emotional attachment can aid in conservation, too. It is logical to include that in one's analysis.
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Old Friday 25th January 2019, 12:33   #42
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Why on earth would you ever get rid of a name like Dunnock - it's concise, easy to pronounce, actually a traditional name yet accurate at the same time. And still worse, replace it with a monstrosity like "European Accentor"?
FWIW, the most recent Dunnock I've seen was moving in and around a hedge.
I saw a couple from my Nottingham window, dwelling in the shade they were, so European Shade Dweller .......
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Old Friday 25th January 2019, 12:51   #43
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Hi,

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Taxonomical logic isn't the only logical way of looking at the issue. Considering factors like mass appeal, practicality (cool and memorable names will be better than long and awkward ones) and cultural heritage is entirely logical, too. Emotional attachment can aid in conservation, too. It is logical to include that in one's analysis.
Very good point.

I'd even argue that with modern methods speeding up progress, taxonomical consensus will change more rapidly than in the past, and while it's necessary to track this by changing scientific names, it's neither necessary nor beneficial to do so with traditional names.

And maybe "traditional" is a better word here than "common", as I'm thinking about the common names for native birds that have been in popular use for centuries ... Bornean birds are a different issue altogether in my opinion.

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Old Friday 25th January 2019, 13:11   #44
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I actually like the idea that there are often more than one name for the same bird, sometimes these can be colloquialisms or simply names that have derived from folklore or description (lapwing, Peewit being great examples for the bird that nobody actually refers to as Green Plover). Whilst I can understand that some might want the names to be reflective of their true taxonomy, that would all be rather dull and boring. It is the historical and often much more evocative descriptive/local names that win for me every time. Bearded tit does what it says on the tin. OK so it has a moustache not a beard and its not a tit either but it does make sense. A flighty little thing with a high pitched call that clings to things and has "facial hair". I don't think however moustachiod reed climber will ever catch on?

Descriptive names are meant to convey an image not necessarily an exact description of the finer points of plumage etc. The fact that the Americans call buntings sparrows makes total sense to me. If you were pointing out a small mainly brown seed eating bird to a non scientific/non birder (eg a young child) "sparrow" conjures the right image every time. Sparrowhawks do not survive on a diet of nothing but sparrows. The name does tell us that they prey mainly on small birds and therefore makes sense. Whilst on the subject of American birds, the fact that many hawks over there are actually Buteos and not accipitors matters not a jot. The word hawk tells us all we need to know about their position in the food chain. The rest is semantics.
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Old Friday 25th January 2019, 13:24   #45
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PS I grew up with House, Tree and Hedge sparrows but I always knew that the latter was not a true sparrow but was actually an accentor and more correctly referred to as a Dunnock. It will never be a hedge accentor as far as I am concerned
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Old Friday 25th January 2019, 14:40   #46
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Here's a somewhat related conundrum for you, though: what about Madanga? I doubt many people mourned the loss of "Rufous-throated White-eye" because Madanga is cool and highly memorable, and - again - was derived from an existing genus name. However, I believe it is now considered to be well-nested within the genus Anthus, so "Madanga" presumably now makes absolutely no sense. Buru Pipit? Personally, I suspect Madanga will remain in common usage.
How about Madanga Pipit?


Does perhaps make one think it is a pipit from Madanga though . . . anyone know where Madanga is?
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Old Friday 25th January 2019, 14:44   #47
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Taxonomical logic isn't the only logical way of looking at the issue. Considering factors like mass appeal, practicality (cool and memorable names will be better than long and awkward ones) and cultural heritage is entirely logical, too. Emotional attachment can aid in conservation, too. It is logical to include that in one's analysis.
Indeed, very good points. I believe the name Sidamo Lark was changed to Liben Lark at the request of local people, in the hope that they would become more invested in its conservation. Hard to argue with that.

Anyway, apologies for taking a thread about German vernacular names off on the tangent of English names, although I guess the themes are similar!
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Old Friday 25th January 2019, 14:53   #48
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I'm not advocating any particular name for the Prunella, just interesting name over history English names have regularly changed without much fan-fair. Another good one - Long-tailed Bushtit I suspect is one that would struggle to catch on, despite it being an Aegithalos.
For the Prunella, if I had it my way, or wrote about that species or Genus in particular, I'd probably prefer European/Eurasian Accentor - or something a bit different like Scrub Accentor or even something slightly more evocative like Hawthorn Accentor (do they like Hawthorns elsewhere? I know only know them from UK and Iran!).

I find it fascinating how people are so keen and determined to cling on to old names, even if they are wrong, when we all know in generations time they will be in the past (like Goat-sucker and Hedge Sparrow, I'm sure there are many other examples too).

Another bug-bearer of mine - Willie Wagtail - just call it what it is, a fantail!

James
That's "fanfare" not "fan-fair", which is one good reason why people should learn names properly and not mess about with them improperly.

Another thing - nobody gains from someone putting "Common" or "European" in front of something else just because other birds with the same main noun have a qualifier. A Robin is a Robin is a Robin, and never mind the fact that there's an American Robin (which isn't a Robin, but good luck with changing it) and about 120 others - even including Bush Robin and a couple of other groups as one each. European Accentor is a godless invention of a chronic tinkerer.

Which seems to be the problem all over. I see a lot of this at work: with people doing a tour of a couple of years in post, they feel the need to make their mark, so as soon as they arrive they feel they have to change something.... nobody ever made their name by saying the last person had it exactly right! Change for the sake of change. Invalidation of what you've always known and for that matter all written references, guides, common understandings, for no good reason.

Add that to James's expressed feeling that "Dunnock" - a perfectly good Middle English vernacular name that antedates everything else he wants to put in its place and is still in common use - is "wrong" and you get a chronic tinkerer with an over-inflated sense of the importance of what he thinks. It's not wrong, its been tried, tested and stuck with for centuries. James is wrong. He just can't see it, even when he's told to his face. He still wants to change stuff that's perfectly all right.

The same applies to the German committee, which has allowed the fact of its existence to go to its collective head. They aren't there to generate change. they are there to minimise and manage it when it is unavoidable. They should examine their terms of reference (and so should German birders, to make sure they aren't already exceeding them).

To finish, I've quoted this before but it bears repeating because its a Freudian slip of pure delight. In my copy of Collins (1st edition, never bothered upgrading) the entry for what is, sadly, labelled Bearded Reedling includes the following:

"A small, light yellowish-brown bird with long pale yellow-brown tail glimpsed among the dense jungle of reeds should always be a Bearded Tit."

The author's own hand, when writing his piece, was so revolted by his adulteration of centuries of tradition, that it betrayed him and stuck up for the Bearded Tit: and all the pre-publication proof-readers missed it because they saw what their own minds told them was right.

Here endeth the lesson.

John
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Old Friday 25th January 2019, 15:28   #49
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To finish, I've quoted this before but it bears repeating because its a Freudian slip of pure delight. In my copy of Collins (1st edition, never bothered upgrading) the entry for what is, sadly, labelled Bearded Reedling includes the following:

"A small, light yellowish-brown bird with long pale yellow-brown tail glimpsed among the dense jungle of reeds should always be a Bearded Tit."

The author's own hand, when writing his piece, was so revolted by his adulteration of centuries of tradition, that it betrayed him and stuck up for the Bearded Tit: and all the pre-publication proof-readers missed it because they saw what their own minds told them was right.
Reedling in the 2nd edition
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Old Friday 25th January 2019, 15:55   #50
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That's "fanfare" not "fan-fair", which is one good reason why people should learn names properly and not mess about with them improperly.

Another thing - nobody gains from someone putting "Common" or "European" in front of something else just because other birds with the same main noun have a qualifier. A Robin is a Robin is a Robin, and never mind the fact that there's an American Robin (which isn't a Robin, but good luck with changing it) and about 120 others - even including Bush Robin and a couple of other groups as one each. European Accentor is a godless invention of a chronic tinkerer.

Which seems to be the problem all over. I see a lot of this at work: with people doing a tour of a couple of years in post, they feel the need to make their mark, so as soon as they arrive they feel they have to change something.... nobody ever made their name by saying the last person had it exactly right! Change for the sake of change. Invalidation of what you've always known and for that matter all written references, guides, common understandings, for no good reason.

Add that to James's expressed feeling that "Dunnock" - a perfectly good Middle English vernacular name that antedates everything else he wants to put in its place and is still in common use - is "wrong" and you get a chronic tinkerer with an over-inflated sense of the importance of what he thinks. It's not wrong, its been tried, tested and stuck with for centuries. James is wrong. He just can't see it, even when he's told to his face. He still wants to change stuff that's perfectly all right.

The same applies to the German committee, which has allowed the fact of its existence to go to its collective head. They aren't there to generate change. they are there to minimise and manage it when it is unavoidable. They should examine their terms of reference (and so should German birders, to make sure they aren't already exceeding them).

To finish, I've quoted this before but it bears repeating because its a Freudian slip of pure delight. In my copy of Collins (1st edition, never bothered upgrading) the entry for what is, sadly, labelled Bearded Reedling includes the following:

"A small, light yellowish-brown bird with long pale yellow-brown tail glimpsed among the dense jungle of reeds should always be a Bearded Tit."

The author's own hand, when writing his piece, was so revolted by his adulteration of centuries of tradition, that it betrayed him and stuck up for the Bearded Tit: and all the pre-publication proof-readers missed it because they saw what their own minds told them was right.

Here endeth the lesson.

John
A lesson in common sense.......
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