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AOS community forum on English Bird Names (1 Viewer)

Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
A blanket rule may be easier to deal with, and not dealing with the folks who might be more in the gray, as you put it is a long way from the concept of Americans revelling in rising to a challenge as in:

"We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too." JFK, 12 September 1962. That speech inspired me then and continues to do so.

Jordan Rutter makes a salient point that many of the names are of people whose behaviour and actions in their lives were at times foul and objectionable, even in their day, but he shies away from examining each case on its merits, it seems, because he was so upset about those he checked out that he doesn't want to apply due diligence to every name. His examples are good, and makes a good case for changing them. That does not mean that all names will encounter the same degree of offence. His approach borders on the messianic, instead of calling for evidence-based decisions on the unexamined cases. Doing so will be hard, but isn't that what Americans can do so well?
MJB
You seem to be going out of your way to misread his comments as literal. If you visited the bird names website, you will see that they have an ongoing project to gather and write up the biographies of all the folks in patronyms. He didn't just stop at two and go "good enough"
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
You seem to be going out of your way to misread his comments as literal. If you visited the bird names website, you will see that they have an ongoing project to gather and write up the biographies of all the folks in patronyms. He didn't just stop at two and go "good enough"
That isn't the impression you got from the congress where a couple of people at least, commented that they should just get on and do them all at once for practical (publishing) reasons.

Imagine you change two then Sibley, Kaufman and Nat Geo, all have a new edition in which they are incorporated, then they change six mor, any publications are quickly out of date and people don't want that. You could end up with a situation where no N American field guide, is ever up to date, for the next 25-30 years?
 

Welsh Peregrine

Well-known member
Nothing is likely to change scientific names, where the rule of priority has a vital role to play; as this is the case, I find a value in common names sharing the same derivation being kept eg Cygnus bewickii as Bewick’s Swan.
 

MJB

Well-known member
You seem to be going out of your way to misread his comments as literal. If you visited the bird names website, you will see that they have an ongoing project to gather and write up the biographies of all the folks in patronyms. He didn't just stop at two and go "good enough"
I wasn't taking his comments as literal. I was taking him at his word. Thank you for pointing out the context in which that biography project seeks to work, which should be helpful. Unfortunately, reading his comments in isolation, I get the impression that he was not only impatient with any approach along the project's lines, but also that he had a lofty disregard for that kind of approach.
MJB
 

Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
That isn't the impression you got from the congress where a couple of people at least, commented that they should just get on and do them all at once for practical (publishing) reasons.

Imagine you change two then Sibley, Kaufman and Nat Geo, all have a new edition in which they are incorporated, then they change six mor, any publications are quickly out of date and people don't want that. You could end up with a situation where no N American field guide, is ever up to date, for the next 25-30 years?
My understanding is that they are gathering up the biographic data as evidence on why it should be done all at once (e.g., it's not just a couple of patronyms, but rather the majority).

The situation that you describe, about field guides never being up to date...that has been the status quo for the last 20 years already, with taxonomic splits (and common name changes that result from those), lumps, addition of new exotic species to the checklist, changes in range distribution, addition of Hawaii to the ABA area, and so forth.

I've been creating a spreadsheet of field publishable forms over the last month, so I have my faithful National Geographic (7th edition) published in 2017 laid out in next to me, one of the most recent and up to date field guides on the market, which covers all the birds in the ABA area.

There are no Hawaiian birds
Northern Harrier, Northern Shrike, White-collared Seedeater, White-winged Scoter, Gray-faced Petrel, Dusky Thrush, and Mexican duck splits are not recognized
Thayer's Gull and Northwestern Crow lumps not recognized
LeConte's Sparrow, LeConte's Thrasher, Canada Jay, Thick-billed Longspur, Blue-throated Mountaingem do not have their common names updated
New families from the storm-petrel, babbler, and nine-primaried oscine reshuffle/splits are not included
numerous genera level shifts and reorganizations are missing
Numerous rare vagrants which were unrecorded as of 2017 are left out

I will admit this might be less obvious for folks not in North America, as other regions largely rely upon field guide taxonomy rather than taxonomy established by "official" committees, or who have taxonomic authorities that only update every few years. But all field guides are basically, given the speed of taxonomic changes, doomed to be out of date in a few years.

They would prefer to avoid the situation you describe however, of a small trickle being released over a decade. Granted, I don't know how reasonable this is going to be, as I don't know how it will play out. It's a huge job that the bird names for birds folks are basically putting on another group of people: Coming up with 100+ bird names that will be accepted, even begrudgingly, by the birder community is not going to be easy, and I don't think the language that is sometimes used by those folks is helping there argument with some folks.
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
My understanding is that they are gathering up the biographic data as evidence on why it should be done all at once (e.g., it's not just a couple of patronyms, but rather the majority).

The situation that you describe, about field guides never being up to date...that has been the status quo for the last 20 years already, with taxonomic splits (and common name changes that result from those), lumps, addition of new exotic species to the checklist, changes in range distribution, addition of Hawaii to the ABA area, and so forth.

They would prefer to avoid the situation you describe however, of a small trickle being released over a decade. Granted, I don't know how reasonable this is going to be, as I don't know how it will play out. It's a huge job that the bird names for birds folks are basically putting on another group of people: Coming up with 100+ bird names that will be accepted, even begrudgingly, by the birder community is not going to be easy, and I don't think the language that is sometimes used by those folks is helping there argument with some folks.
Changing names for scientific reasons has always happened with the resulting splits being welcomed by many and often leaving an original name untouched but to many, this move is unnessecary and has clearly created division.

It's not just American books that will become obsolete to an even greater degree than would be usual when they do this, but a whole raft of other major, global works, especially if, as seems likely, they shift their aim to the whole, World list.

The argument about Hawaii, IMHO, isn't comparable and I personally don't think it should have been added to the US list but others have different views and it's done now though I still don't have a North American field guide that includes them, five years later?
 

raymie

Well-known member
United States
My understanding is that they are gathering up the biographic data as evidence on why it should be done all at once (e.g., it's not just a couple of patronyms, but rather the majority).

The situation that you describe, about field guides never being up to date...that has been the status quo for the last 20 years already, with taxonomic splits (and common name changes that result from those), lumps, addition of new exotic species to the checklist, changes in range distribution, addition of Hawaii to the ABA area, and so forth.

I've been creating a spreadsheet of field publishable forms over the last month, so I have my faithful National Geographic (7th edition) published in 2017 laid out in next to me, one of the most recent and up to date field guides on the market, which covers all the birds in the ABA area.

There are no Hawaiian birds
Northern Harrier, Northern Shrike, White-collared Seedeater, White-winged Scoter, Gray-faced Petrel, Dusky Thrush, and Mexican duck splits are not recognized
Thayer's Gull and Northwestern Crow lumps not recognized
LeConte's Sparrow, LeConte's Thrasher, Canada Jay, Thick-billed Longspur, Blue-throated Mountaingem do not have their common names updated
New families from the storm-petrel, babbler, and nine-primaried oscine reshuffle/splits are not included
numerous genera level shifts and reorganizations are missi
Numerous rare vagrants which were unrecorded as of 2017 are left out

I will admit this might be less obvious for folks not in North America, as other regions largely rely upon field guide taxonomy rather than taxonomy established by "official" committees, or who have taxonomic authorities that only update every few years. But all field guides are basically, given the speed of taxonomic changes, doomed to be out of date in a few years.

They would prefer to avoid the situation you describe however, of a small trickle being released over a decade. Granted, I don't know how reasonable this is going to be, as I don't know how it will play out. It's a huge job that the bird names for birds folks are basically putting on another group of people: Coming up with 100+ bird names that will be accepted, even begrudgingly, by the birder community is not going to be easy, and I don't think the language that is sometimes used by those folks is helping there argument with some folks.
You make the "field guide problem" seem like much bigger than it actually is. I doubt North American field guides will ever include Hawaii, as it isn't really a part of North America and the avifauna is quite different. The harrier, shrike, and scoter splits are essentially just scientific name changes. Gray-faced Petrel and Dusky Thrush are only vagrants so don't really matter that much from a North American standpoint, the change in the LeConte's birds is only the removal of a space. The last two don't really affect anyone just trying to use the book to ID birds rather than as an encyclopedia of North American species, which is not what it was intended to do.

So, the changes that really matter for the average user of the field guide: Seedeater split, Mexican Duck split, Thayer's Gull lump, Northwestern Crow lump (this one isn't even accepted by Clement's yet), plus the new names for Gray Jay, McCown's (also not in Clement's), and Blue-throated Hummingbird. That's 7 inconsistencies with AOS/ABA and only 5 with eBird. Not as bad as it will be they change all the honorifics plus a few more.
 

Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
Only one field guide for North America has released a new edition since the proposal, and they included Hawaiian birds (Peterson's field guide). Of course, that is my least favorite bird guide, and I hate the way they implemented it. I've heard other authors plan to follow through, but given that it would mean new illustrations for about 60 or so species at least (some of the exotic and most of the seabirds are probably already figured), it might be awhile.
 

Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
Changing names for scientific reasons has always happened with the resulting splits being welcomed by many and often leaving an original name untouched but to many, this move is unnessecary and has clearly created division.

It's not just American books that will become obsolete to an even greater degree than would be usual when they do this, but a whole raft of other major, global works, especially if, as seems likely, they shift their aim to the whole, World list.

The argument about Hawaii, IMHO, isn't comparable and I personally don't think it should have been added to the US list but others have different views and it's done now though I still don't have a North American field guide that includes them, five years later?

Not all of the name changes have been taxonomy related. Canada Jay was basically just because Canadians wanted their name back for the bird. Mountaingem was for consistency with close relatives (which is pretty arbitrary).

I know there is a fear of folks going through and changing all names, but I really wouldn't worry about that. At best, you might just see a move away from naming new splits after people, which is probably already going on.
 

Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
You make the "field guide problem" seem like much bigger than it actually is. I doubt North American field guides will ever include Hawaii, as it isn't really a part of North America and the avifauna is quite different. The harrier, shrike, and scoter splits are essentially just scientific name changes. Gray-faced Petrel and Dusky Thrush are only vagrants so don't really matter that much from a North American standpoint, the change in the LeConte's birds is only the removal of a space. The last two don't really affect anyone just trying to use the book to ID birds rather than as an encyclopedia of North American species, which is not what it was intended to do.

So, the changes that really matter for the average user of the field guide: Seedeater split, Mexican Duck split, Thayer's Gull lump, Northwestern Crow lump (this one isn't even accepted by Clement's yet), plus the new names for Gray Jay, McCown's (also not in Clement's), and Blue-throated Hummingbird. That's 7 inconsistencies with AOS/ABA and only 5 with eBird. Not as bad as it will be they change all the honorifics plus a few more.
My point was that all field guides can never be fully up to date. As for the two not in Clements yet, that is just because they skipped there normal update. I can 100% guarantee you that those changes will be incorporated when they do. Honestly, rumor says there might be more significant changes in the pipeline for ebird that will effect ABA area birders that have nothing to do with common name changes, at least not directly.
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
My point was that all field guides can never be fully up to date. As for the two not in Clements yet, that is just because they skipped there normal update. I can 100% guarantee you that those changes will be incorporated when they do. Honestly, rumor says there might be more significant changes in the pipeline for ebird that will effect ABA area birders that have nothing to do with common name changes, at least not directly.
You can't leave us hanging like that 🤔
 

Maffong

Well-known member
I think I've said this a few times already, but I don't think that eponyms were ever a good idea in the first place. I still don't know where I saw Cory's and Scopoli's Shearwater even though I've seen them both now. I have no idea who either of these people were nor why they have these birds named after them.
AFAIK we're not even sure in many cases who these names are attributed to.
The question to me is, why should we bother to keep these names?
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
I think I've said this a few times already, but I don't think that eponyms were ever a good idea in the first place. I still don't know where I saw Cory's and Scopoli's Shearwater even though I've seen them both now. I have no idea who either of these people were nor why they have these birds named after them.
AFAIK we're not even sure in many cases who these names are attributed to.
The question to me is, why should we bother to keep these names?
I tend to agree but the fact is, they are there and there should be a better reason to change them, illustrated by your comment that you don't know who either Scopoli or Cory are so is it likley that that other eponymous characters are known, well enough in the US, to genuinely, be causing such offence?

I've been birding to one degree or another, all my life and I couldn't tell you who Swainson is or Harris or any of the others outside of really well known explorers like Darwin, Ross or Wallace.
 
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Farnboro John

Well-known member
I tend to agree but the fact is, they are there and there should be a better reason to change them, illustrated by your comment that you don't know who either Scopoli or Cory are so is it likley that that other eponymous characters are known, well enough in the US, to genuinely, be causing such offence?

I've been birding to one degree or another, all my life and I couldn't tell you who Swainson is or Harris or any of the others outside of really well known explorers like Darwin, Ross or Wallace.
I also consider that "do nothing" is the prime option. To make a change you have to propose names that are demonstrably better. This means they must have meaning or be memorable or both. For Cory's and Scopoli's Shearwaters that means you must devise a short, memorable name for each that separates it from the other in the field. Or forget the whole thing.

John
 

Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
I also consider that "do nothing" is the prime option. To make a change you have to propose names that are demonstrably better. This means they must have meaning or be memorable or both. For Cory's and Scopoli's Shearwaters that means you must devise a short, memorable name for each that separates it from the other in the field. Or forget the whole thing.

John
This is key. Birders will adopt "cool" names or names that they remember from their childhood better than boring names. Some species used to have much better names before they were chucked to honor some dude. Painted Longspur was turned into Smith's Longspur, Pinewoods Sparrow was turned into Bachman's Sparrow, and Canebrake Warbler was turned into Swainson's Warbler. But Vaux's Swift? Townsend's Warbler? Hammond's Flycatcher? Good alternatives escape my brain. They might exist but they are beyond my ability to immediately conjure.
 

Xenospiza

Distracted
Supporter
I've been birding to one degree or another, all my life and I couldn't tell you who Swainson is or Harris or any of the others outside of really well known explorers like Darwin, Ross or Wallace.
I read up on a few American ornithologists and naturalists today: it is quite interesting.

Wilson wrote anti-employer poetry when still in Scotland and died dirt-poor. I am sure no true American patriot would want to name any bird after such a proto-communist.
Cabot was an abolitionist who volunteered as a surgeon in the American Civil War, yet his tern breeds mostly south of the Mason–Dixon line. Debatable!
Bachman appears to have been the finest specimen of southern gentleman, entirely befitting his Deep-South Sparrow.
I'll leave it up to you what to make of Audubon.

The few others I read about just seem to have been passionate collectors, but not politically circumspect by any means.

Oh I'll just add this horrible ;) before you think I am entirely serious.
 

MJB

Well-known member
This is key. Birders will adopt "cool" names or names that they remember from their childhood better than boring names. Some species used to have much better names before they were chucked to honor some dude. Painted Longspur was turned into Smith's Longspur, Pinewoods Sparrow was turned into Bachman's Sparrow, and Canebrake Warbler was turned into Swainson's Warbler. But Vaux's Swift? Townsend's Warbler? Hammond's Flycatcher? Good alternatives escape my brain. They might exist but they are beyond my ability to immediately conjure.
I think you're right in that you've hit on the nub of the problem - the division between 'cool' and 'uncool' being one of the many insidious aspects of social life that steadily erode curiosity in favour of a binary view of a problem, issue or subject. The need to do so has baffled me since early childhood, because in most cases I found that a little bit of application helped gain me deeper understanding of allegedly 'boring' subjects. 'Boring' aspects often can lose that tag with just a bit of hard work, which is possibly why I'm endlessly fascinated by finding how how things work and how their mechanisms actually function. Learning bird names and their history simply isn't a major difficulty: recalling these names, well that's another question!

As I approach my 80th year, I find the latest molecular research into bird genetics hugely interesting, the relationships between the world of classical and quantum physics spellbinding (particularly in the field of quantum biology) and the 'how many angels on the head of a pin' approach to the English names of birds vastly entertaining...!
MJB
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
This is key. Birders will adopt "cool" names or names that they remember from their childhood better than boring names. Some species used to have much better names before they were chucked to honor some dude. Painted Longspur was turned into Smith's Longspur, Pinewoods Sparrow was turned into Bachman's Sparrow, and Canebrake Warbler was turned into Swainson's Warbler. But Vaux's Swift? Townsend's Warbler? Hammond's Flycatcher? Good alternatives escape my brain. They might exist but they are beyond my ability to immediately conjure.
Please tell me, the guy with purple hair and green lipstick on the congress broadcast, I hope he was speaking tongue in cheek when he suggested 'Punk Jay' over Blue Jay!?

The two, core objectives of the BNFB movement, are stated to be the removal of the historical domination of ornithology by wealthy, white, males and a more 'inclusive and welcoming' environment for ethnic minorities. I am really, very curious to know, if some people of colour, on their own initiative, have checked out some of these eponyms and basically said, 'oh, that's not very nice, I don't think birding is for me'?

Maybe you could canvass any contacts you have, people of colour who are genuine, regular, birders (if you know any?) because this whole thing is driven by white people right now and I'd wager that many of them, rarely pick up binoculars in reality?
 

Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
I know of 3 POC birders, and all three are for the proposed name changes, one of which is a good friend and an excellent birder that is pretty outspoken on these issues.
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia

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