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AOU-NACC Proposals 2016 (1 Viewer)

Nutcracker

Stop Brexit!
The comment I found a bit off was the one branding 'Sky Lark' a "Britishism" – it isn't; it always was Skylark in Britain, until someone at the BOU Records Committee decided to rename it Sky Lark for systematics purposes (so it would index with other larks "Lark, Sky"). But that never caught on, and was reversed by BOU quite soon after, while AOU held on to the change far longer.
 

Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
I don't think it was called a Britishism for that, more the the fact it lacked anything before the sky portion of its name

Kind of like Robin, Wren, etc.
 

l_raty

laurent raty
Talking of 'Britishisms', this had me rather intrigued:
The twelve or so species of Myioborus are monophyletic, share a distinct foraging behavior, and a distinct plumage character related to that foraging (white in the tail , which is used to flush (=start) insect prey. As such, the name "whitestart" could not be more fitting, and it clears up a confusion regarding relationships.
I really wouldn't have thought of this as a possible meaning of the name. Is there anything backing up such a derivation? (I.e., a relation between "start" in "whitestart" -- and thus presumably also in "redstart" as applied to the American birds -- and the verb "to start"?)


Without looking it up, I certainly wouldn't have been able to say that ""Start" of course is the modern English reflex of Middle English stert, Old English steort, tail of an animal". But, OTOH, I'd never have thought about doubting that the meaning of "redstart" is "red-tail" (with red = "reddish brown or reddish orange in color" a perfectly correct use of the word -- at least as correct as in [this]...), as (1) having red (same meaning) in the tail is a major typical character of the group (the original one, that is), (2) these birds must be so called in more than half the languages that have a name for them, and (3) other Germanic languages indeed still use a very similar word for tail. (Thus we also have roodstaartje, rödstjärt, Rødstjert, Rotschwanz [and obsolete Rotsterz], rougequeue, codirosso, colirrojo, rabo-ruivo, Ruticilla / Rubicilla, φοινικουρος / Phoenicurus, etc., which all mean precisely the same thing.)

I suspect that this name, applied to black-and-white-started Myiobori, may be much less likely to "upset" American native English speakers (who'll be used to it, and won't remember the meaning of the word), than the rest of the world (a significant part of which will be acutely aware of that meaning, and will see nothing else).
 
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Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
Talking of 'Britishisms', this had me rather intrigued:

I really wouldn't have thought of this as a possible meaning of the name. Is there anything backing up such a derivation? (I.e., a relation between "start" in "whitestart" -- and thus presumably also in "redstart" as applied to the American birds -- and the verb "to start"?)


Without looking it up, I certainly wouldn't have been able to say that ""Start" of course is the modern English reflex of Middle English stert, Old English steort, tail of an animal". But, OTOH, I'd never have thought about doubting that the meaning of "redstart" is "red-tail" (with red = "reddish brown or reddish orange in color" a perfectly correct use of the word -- at least as correct as in [this]...), as (1) having red (same meaning) in the tail is a major typical character of the group (the original one, that is), (2) these birds must be so called in more than half the languages that have a name for them, and (3) other Germanic languages indeed still use a very similar word for tail. (Thus we also have roodstaartje, rödstjärt, Rødstjert, Rotschwanz [and obsolete Rotsterz], rougequeue, codirosso, colirrojo, rabo-ruivo, Ruticilla / Rubicilla, φοινικουρος / Phoenicurus, etc., which all mean precisely the same thing.)

I suspect that this name, applied to black-and-white-started Myiobori, may be much less likely to "upset" American native English speakers (who'll be used to it, and won't remember the meaning of the word), than the rest of the world (a significant part of which will be acutely aware of that meaning, and will see nothing else).

The start explanation given above is commonly known and given here in the states, and I think is the result of birders in the field trying to associate a "common sense" explanation for a common name without knowing the etymology of the words behind it. I honestly had heard this explanation long before hearing that "stert = tail", and had assumed that was the meaning, without bothering to ever look it up. I would guess most folks stateside don't or didn't know anything about the origins of "start".
 

thomasdonegan

Former amateur ornithologist
I found the comments overall better prepared(?) As though they thought people might actually read them. Nutcracker is influencing me and my inner pedant

Fairly reasonable generally. I was pleased with the outcome on Aulacorhynchus but my inner pedant was disappointed with the reasons.

There is a brief study of voice of the whole complex, with sonograms of comparable vocalisations of all populations and discussion of status of ALL of them (and other congeners) with recommendations for species rank is available here:
https://www.researchgate.net/public...dLife_International's_new_taxonomy?ev=prf_pub

[Note: this review was only high-level and a lot more statistical analysis could be done, but it is an initial "whole group" review.]

However, this was understandably not mentioned in the proposal (which was published almost contemporaneously). Still, committee members thought some months later, less understandably:

CM1 "I prefer to await see analysis of vocal data"
CM2 "NO, pending additional studies of characters other than mtDNA"
CM3 then did actually mention and kindly cited the above paper as "nice[ly]" dealing with the situation, and picked up on its main conclusions, but (bizzarely) asserted it only to cover Colombian populations and noted that "until the vocalizations of these allopatric taxa are studied and analyzed, any change in taxon rank based solely on plumage differences is premature", suggesting it was not read properly.

Strange stuff.

Whitestarts is the other one that irks (yet again). One dissenting member got it spot on, avoiding the need for any other comments! "YES. Although I am generally for stability the English names, the use of "redstart" for species in Myioborus by the NACC is no longer stable. Rogue field guide authors and alternative checklists have embraced the far better name "Whitestart," such that the NACC and its adherents are nearly alone in using "redstart." It is time to face the inevitable and adopt the better name. Not doing so makes us look like anachronistic old cranks. Most sources not affiliated with the NACC or SACC use "whitestart." Google Myioborus for instance. "
 
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Ian Lewis

aka Gryllo
Europe
Without looking it up, I certainly wouldn't have been able to say that ""Start" of course is the modern English reflex of Middle English stert, Old English steort, tail of an animal". But, OTOH, I'd never have thought about doubting that the meaning of "redstart" is "red-tail" (with red = "reddish brown or reddish orange in color" a perfectly correct use of the word -- at least as correct as in [this]...), as (1) having red (same meaning) in the tail is a major typical character of the group (the original one, that is), (2) these birds must be so called in more than half the languages that have a name for them, and (3) other Germanic languages indeed still use a very similar word for tail. (Thus we also have roodstaartje, rödstjärt, Rødstjert, Rotschwanz [and obsolete Rotsterz], rougequeue, codirosso, colirrojo, rabo-ruivo, Ruticilla / Rubicilla, φοινικουρος / Phoenicurus, etc., which all mean precisely the same thing.)

British Dictionary definitions for redstart

redstart
/ˈrɛdˌstɑːt/
noun
1.
any European songbird of the genus Phoenicurus, esp P. phoenicurus, in which the male has a black throat, orange-brown tail and breast, and grey back: family Muscicapidae (thrushes, etc)
2.
any North American warbler of the genus Setophaga, esp S. ruticilla

Word Origin

Old English rēad red 1 + steort tail; compare German Rotsterz
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Ian
 

l_raty

laurent raty
The start explanation given above is commonly known and given here in the states, and I think is the result of birders in the field trying to associate a "common sense" explanation for a common name without knowing the etymology of the words behind it. I honestly had heard this explanation long before hearing that "stert = tail", and had assumed that was the meaning, without bothering to ever look it up. I would guess most folks stateside don't or didn't know anything about the origins of "start".
British Dictionary definitions for redstart
[...]
Word Origin
Old English rēad red 1 + steort tail; compare German Rotsterz
American dictionary definitions agree on the origin ("red + obsolete start handle, tail") but, based on Morgan's reply (and Van's [I believe] comment on the proposal: "as if anyone knows that "start" is Middle English for tail"), the majority of American birders/ornithologists may be ignorant of it, and use the word without understanding it...
Out of curiosity: what about Britain -- do people generally know the meaning of the name? (My guess would be they do... Anyone understanding Dutch certainly does.)
 
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Kratter

Well-known member
I know why the name was changed, and I still prefer oldsquaw.

Here is the reasoning (from AOU 42nd Supplement, 2000):
"The Committee was petitioned by a group of biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska to change the English name of Clangula hyemalis from Oldsquaw to Long-tailed Duck, the English name used for the species outside of North America. The basis for the petition was that the species is declining in numbers in Alaska, and conservation management plans require the help and cooperation of Native Americans. The biologists were concerned about using the name Oldsquaw for fear of offending the Native Americans. Requests to change the name had been made to the Committee in past years by some who consider the word "squaw" to be offensive. The Committee refuses to consider political correctness alone in changing long-standing English names of birds, but is willing in this instance to adopt an alternative name that is in use in much of the world."

Do you consider conservation of a declining species important enough to outweigh your preference?

Andy
 

thomasdonegan

Former amateur ornithologist
Here is the reasoning (from AOU 42nd Supplement, 2000):
"The Committee was petitioned by a group of biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska to change the English name of Clangula hyemalis from Oldsquaw to Long-tailed Duck, the English name used for the species outside of North America. The basis for the petition was that the species is declining in numbers in Alaska, and conservation management plans require the help and cooperation of Native Americans. The biologists were concerned about using the name Oldsquaw for fear of offending the Native Americans. Requests to change the name had been made to the Committee in past years by some who consider the word "squaw" to be offensive. The Committee refuses to consider political correctness alone in changing long-standing English names of birds, but is willing in this instance to adopt an alternative name that is in use in much of the world."

Do you consider conservation of a declining species important enough to outweigh your preference?

Andy

Wow!! That does present a scarily high standard for those who would like AOU to adopt "Whitestart"!
 

mb1848

Well-known member
Wow.
Many rich white Norte American birders think the red is derived from the old term Redskin name for indigenous peoples like the Washington Redskins, and in order to get them interested in conservation of these birds the shift to white like white privilege makes these birders more comfortable.
 

Jeff Hopkins

Just another...observer
United States
Here is the reasoning (from AOU 42nd Supplement, 2000):
"The Committee was petitioned by a group of biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska to change the English name of Clangula hyemalis from Oldsquaw to Long-tailed Duck, the English name used for the species outside of North America. The basis for the petition was that the species is declining in numbers in Alaska, and conservation management plans require the help and cooperation of Native Americans. The biologists were concerned about using the name Oldsquaw for fear of offending the Native Americans. Requests to change the name had been made to the Committee in past years by some who consider the word "squaw" to be offensive. The Committee refuses to consider political correctness alone in changing long-standing English names of birds, but is willing in this instance to adopt an alternative name that is in use in much of the world."

Do you consider conservation of a declining species important enough to outweigh your preference?

Andy

I take it back. I did not know why the name was changed. That's potentially a legitimate reason.

But did they ask the community leaders if such a change would be helpful, or did they just assume it? Kind of like the NCAA making teams change their names even though local native groups actually supported the team name.

I think the answer would be yes, it is offensive (in this case). I'm just not a fan of the "white savior" syndrome.
 

Nutcracker

Stop Brexit!
Out of curiosity: what about Britain -- do people generally know the meaning of the name? (My guess would be they do... Anyone understanding Dutch certainly does.)

Yes, well-known; after all, it's so obvious when you see a redstart flying, or quivering its tail, the red is what one sees :t:
 

MJB

Well-known member
"More broadly, perhaps the Committee needs to take a stand on what is meant by "reproductive isolation" under the BSC. This is not an easy decision – Mayr himself actually waivered at one point."

Ummm, no he didn't. He might have wavered, in the sense that his decision faltered, but he didn't 'waiver', which Merriam-Webster insists is a noun, just like it is in UK English...;););)
MJB
 

Acanthis

Well-known member
Yes, well-known; after all, it's so obvious when you see a redstart flying, or quivering its tail, the red is what one sees :t:

Really? Do you guys use "start" in common speech?
I've never asked an English person this.

I mean from an early age I've known Redstart meant "red tail" but I had to find out by reading a bird book. I wonder how many birders actually take the time to search out the etymology of a particular bird name.
 

Nutcracker

Stop Brexit!
Really? Do you guys use "start" in common speech?
I've never asked an English person this.

I mean from an early age I've known Redstart meant "red tail" but I had to find out by reading a bird book. I wonder how many birders actually take the time to search out the etymology of a particular bird name.

The info is in most bird books, and most birders read lots of bird books - so I'd say the vast majority, like you (and me), knew it from an early age :t:
 

Paul Clapham

Well-known member
Blackstart

I was agnostic on the issue of "redstart" versus "whitestart" until I was scanning through a field guide and came across "Blackstart" (Oenanthe or Cercomela melanura). It's quite obvious what the name means, it's a grey bird with a prominent black tail.

So now I am in favour of birds identified by prominent white tails being called "whitestarts".
 

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