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Are bird names supposed to be written in capital letters? (1 Viewer)

Jeremy surveyed the damage.

Unbeknownst him, his life was about to suddenly become a lot more complicated. The dwindling evening light made it a lot more difficult to ascertain exactly what had been taking place. He raised his hand to his brow in an attempt to concentrate.

The Table was there yes – that was largely untouched. It’s solid, unforgiving Presence had stood unscathed through worse horrors than this, or so the Annals told. The Large Brass Chandelier, however was bent and twisted almost out of recognition like some horrific parody of a large brass chandelier, the Flex torn ignomiously from its roots. Napkins, divers cutlery implements, the Knives, Forks and Eating Spoons lay scattered in Boolean waves, the calm regularity of the placements seemingly shattered forever.

His life’s work was in tatters
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So is the above wrong then? (And on how many levels? ;) )


Birds, in any kind of report are specific entities, surely, and by default take on a requirement to be capitilised?
 
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I capitalize Savannah sparrow and Bachman's sparrow but not song sparrow or swamp sparrow.

This is a good reason why capitals should be used throughout - how are people supposed to know that 'savannah' refers to some obscure city in the US Sate of Georgia, not the habitat.

I immediately thought you were being inconsistent to use small letter for savannah, capital for swamp ;)
 
Ah!... But these are general terms not specific breeds. I certainly do capitalise terms such as Highland Pony, Clydesdale Horse, Suffolk Punch, Dales Pony, Falabella etc. (and looking at the dreaded Wiki... even they do the same!)

I don't capitalise *bird", "owl", "rail", "woodpecker" etc. But do Barn Owl, Water Rail and Green Woodpecker.

Brown trout, sea trout, cut-throat trout, rainbow trout, steelhead trout are all specific species (or sub-species in the case of steelheads and sea trout). None qualifies for capitalisation in text. Atlantic salmon does. Arctic char does. Chinook salmon does. Sockeye (or red) salmon doesn't.

Clydesdale, Suffolk and maybe Highland are all proper nouns and qualify for capitalisation, much as Grant's zebra, as in the example I gave, or Blyth's pipit.
 
This is a good reason why capitals should be used throughout - how are people supposed to know that 'savannah' refers to some obscure city in the US Sate of Georgia, not the habitat.

I immediately thought you were being inconsistent to use small letter for savannah, capital for swamp ;)

I'd have said that the capital letter for Savannah proves the rule. The fact that it is there and capitalised shows that it is a proper noun, and therefore likely to be named after a place (as in this case) or a person, as in the case of many other species.

If it were named after habitat, as is the desert sparrow, the use of the small case would indicate that.
 
As they are effectively nouns I do not usually capitalize bird names. The only exceptions are name or locations references.

i.e. I capitalize Savannah sparrow and Bachman's sparrow but not song sparrow or swamp sparrow.

I am the 1%?
What is the reasoning behind them being "just nouns", but not proper names? I think that it's perfectly logical to apply the "proper name" rule to species, so as to avoid confusion with general terms (as has been argued before in this thread), and to all species for that matter, not just birds.


Of course, that's under the naive assumption that there's any kind of logic or reason behind English spelling in the first place...
 
What about birds like Cape Gannet? It's named after the Cape of Good Hope, which is a cape ( which means it really should be written "cape of Good Hope", or even "cape of good hope" as 'cape', 'good' and 'hope' are not common nouns ). As for "desert sparrow". There are lots of sparrows that live in deserts, but only one Desert Sparrow.
 
What is the reasoning behind them being "just nouns", but not proper names? I think that it's perfectly logical to apply the "proper name" rule to species, so as to avoid confusion with general terms (as has been argued before in this thread), and to all species for that matter, not just birds.


Of course, that's under the naive assumption that there's any kind of logic or reason behind English spelling in the first place...

:t:


p.s. There is very little logic behind English per se, never mind the spelling. ;)
 
Trouble is, British common names (even the official BOU names) frequently omit the qualifying prefix for the 'default' species in a British context. So if leading capitals were to be used for species in general literature, then journalists, novelists, travel writers etc would have to navigate a bewildering minefield: Robin, thrush, Blackbird, sparrow, Starling, Buzzard, eagle, Cod, trout, Perch, stickleback, Haddock, Cat, bat, deer, Dog, Badger, Mole, vole, Hedgehog, Hazel, oak, Beech etc etc... (OK, I've probably got some of those wrong.)

I'm sure that attempts to get it 'right' would lead to widespread (and very annoying) inconsistency, compared to using lower case.

Birders frequently trot out examples such as 'little owl' as creating ambiguity, but in practice a reader would usually need to be exceptionally thick to be unable to see from the context whether an author was using a general description or referring to a particular species.

Anyway, although birders periodically whinge about it amongst themselves (and will no doubt continue to do so), it's ultimately a completely pointless argument. There's absolutely no way that a tiny fanatical minority is ever going to persuade non-specialist authors to use leading capitals wherever a name concerns (what happens to be) a biological species.
 
Anyway, although birders periodically whinge about it amongst themselves (and will no doubt continue to do so), it's ultimately a completely pointless argument. There's absolutely no way that a tiny fanatical minority is ever going to persuade non-specialist authors to use leading capitals wherever a name concerns (what happens to be) a biological species.
I highly doubt that all birders, or other people in favour of capitalization of species names, would warrant the epithet "fanatical", especially given the origins of that word. I know I don't care for it.

In my (limited) experience, the ones most affected by these issues are journalists who don't properly research their subject (i.e. reading a paper on a species they don't know about, and not checking out a handbook or, horribile dictu, Wikipedia, for background info - including the name - on said species). I trust that professional biologists wouldn't have a problem with such a simple rule. And the general public will usually get it wrong, either way. Which is lamentable, but not relevant to your argument. In fact, given that capitalization of species names is logical, we might even see an increase of correct usage from people who're alien to the subject.
In any case, it's not like spelling reforms were ever brough about by majorities. Usually the majority has no strong feelings for either side of the argument. And people who contribute data to birding websites, or do some casual birding (in some previous post in this thread, the strange argument has been brought forward that this issue were mostly a concern of competitive listers), while no majority, aren't exactly a tiny group. In fact, if we were to count, these people (for whom it's convenient to capitalize species names) would surely outnumber scientific authors (in the field of biology). In short, the "majority" argument is irrelevant because the majority of our species has no opinion on this matter.
 
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I highly doubt that all birders, or other people in favour of capitalization of species names, would warrant the epithet "fanatical", especially given the origins of that word.
Perhaps 'fanatical' is a little harsh, but it seems a classic case of a minority special interest group seeking to impose their particular priorities upon the uninformed masses. ;)
I trust that professional biologists wouldn't have a problem with such a simple rule.
Agreed. To be clear, I stated earlier that I support the use of leading capitals for species common names in ornithological literature (although personally I think it's better not to use common names at all in academic/scientific papers, where they frequently become an unnecessary and divisive distraction - just look at some of the comments on recent papers in the taxonomy forum).

I just think it's unrealistic to expect the practice to be followed in non-specialist literature. And the cause won't be advanced by discussing it with other like-minded folk on a birders' forum!
 
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....but only one Desert Sparrow.

Um, not quite.... Zarudny's Sparrow Passer zarudnyi was once a subspecies of Desert Sparrow P. simplex, and so technically, there are two Desert Sparrows, one that includes zarudnyi and one that doesn't...:eek!: (IOC5.1)

Now you could adopt a different nomenclature and have African Desert Sparrow and Asian Desert Sparrow...
MJB:-C
 
So shouldn't your Latest Life Additions be brown-headed nuthatch and barred owl then? :-O

(And for what it's worth I found it really weird, almost downright difficult, to type that without the capitals! Go on, try it, see how it feels!)

As I would with any nouns in a Newspaper Title, Main Heading, or other Form of Presentation.

Let's not get into Brown-headed vs Brown-Headed though!
 
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This is a good reason why capitals should be used throughout - how are people supposed to know that 'savannah' refers to some obscure city in the US Sate of Georgia, not the habitat.
Exactly. The rules of capitalisation as used by wikipedia exist only so that those 'in the know' can call those not, "snivelling little ignoramus". Capitalisation has to be consistent, either all, or none.

I always assumed Savannah Sparrow was named after the habitat, just like Prairie Warbler.
 
Well the issue of not knowing in case of savannah vs Savannah shouldn't be something you can be blamed for. Type it wrong, we'll tell you, and no problem after that point. Same way not everyone knows how to spell words they have never seen spelt before...
 
Let's just say that we accept the argument that normal grammatical rules apply to bird names and they should therefore not be written with an initial capital, this only applies when we are talking about individual birds (or flocks of them). When referring to a whole taxon, there is only one taxon with that name, so we're then dealing with a proper noun, and it should therefore have initial capitals.

As an example (with apologies to Farnboro John):

- On Fair Isle in autumn 1998, I saw two lanceolated warblers at point-blank range

but

- A visit to Fair Isle in autumn gives birders a good chance of adding Lanceolated Warbler to their list
 
Well the issue of not knowing in case of savannah vs Savannah shouldn't be something you can be blamed for. Type it wrong, we'll tell you, and no problem after that point. Same way not everyone knows how to spell words they have never seen spelt before...

Except "Savannah", with or without the capital, is spelled differently to the purely African "savanna".

Not sure what primitive wheat / Wheat has to do with it, though. ;)
 
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