• BirdForum is the net's largest birding community dedicated to wild birds and birding, and is absolutely FREE!

    Register for an account to take part in lively discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.

Capitalization of Common Bird Names? (1 Viewer)

Farnboro John

Well-known member
At the end of the day as has been demonstrated by both sides, this is just a matter of personal preference?

I personally find capitalisation of English names in a document unattractive, a bit 'shouty'; my use of lower-case is deliberate, and not the result of any laziness. I refuse to accept it is 'wrong', but equally I accept that the alternative view has equal merit. So can we just live and let live with this?

Where I think we have to be careful is the attitude to American spellings, which I think spills over into an unnecessary chauvinism. I can understand the desire to preserve British (and Canadian etc.) English spellings ('license' is my personal hate word), but we really need to move towards an international nomenclature for English names of birds. Great northern diver for sure sounds better to me than common loon, and there maybe isn't a lot of logic in splitting Stercorarius spp. into skuas and jaegers. But I'd be happy to use them in the interests of international communication. I might even be persuaded to use capital letters.

And before anyone points it out, I know we'd still have Dovekie in Clements and Little Auk in IOC...so obviously no easy answers...

I think there is at least one easy answer and its the same one as for scientific names: priority. That is to say, nothing named previously by the Old World should be fair game for the New.... no need for chauvinism then.

John
 

Hauksen

Forum member
Hi,

At the end of the day as has been demonstrated by both sides, this is just a matter of personal preference?

Seen from one angle, it undeniably is - but from another angle, capitalization objectively transfers more useful information.

I would consider it more a question of how one values one particular aesthetic style over a bit of extra functionality.

Personally, I'd probably be as happy with bold-face common names as with capitalized ones, but capitalization is universally available and convenient to use.

And of course, bold-face words might also be perceived as shouty :)

Regards,

Henning
 

kb57

Well-known member
Europe
Hi,



Seen from one angle, it undeniably is - but from another angle, capitalization objectively transfers more useful information.

I would consider it more a question of how one values one particular aesthetic style over a bit of extra functionality.

Personally, I'd probably be as happy with bold-face common names as with capitalized ones, but capitalization is universally available and convenient to use.

And of course, bold-face words might also be perceived as shouty :)

Regards,

Henning

Henning, I guess I value what I perceive, rightly or wrongly, to be both an aesthetically appealing and grammatically valid convention in written English. I take your point completely about ease of reading, especially if you are from a non-native English speaking background (although I have to say your written English appears perfect!). I'm afraid I don't read or speak German, but I'm aware that capitalisation is much more extensive and correct in German grammar.
In French (which I do at least read pretty well) the opposite seems true; something I pulled randomly off the web: Le vanneau huppé est présent sur l'ensemble de l'hémisphère nord.
En France, il niche dans les trois quarts nord du pays et hiverne sur la quasi totalité du territoire
Now - turning to my other point - the main barrier to understanding for most non-French (but French-speaking) birders in that passage would be identifying the subject is the lapwing...I agree that capitalisation would help draw attention to it, but what would help even more would be to include 'Vanellus vanellus' after the French name. We have a nomenclature for international communication - although we don't need to use it in an English language bird forum, it would help if we learnt a few more scientific names - botanists and entomologists routinely communicate in 'latin'.
Agree with you on bold face, although I do use bold for emphasis, sometimes when I'm deliberately trying to be shouty (as in 'yaay, I've just seen species x') |=)|

Not being patronising but you do understand that we're not talking about capitalisng the whole species name, just the first letter of the first word and the species i.e Purple Heron, I don't think that looks 'shouty' at all?


A
I'm sure you didn't mean to be patronising, but I had appreciated that.

What I had in mind was what has already been alluded to elsewhere in the post, which is the propensity of some with a poor grasp of grammar to randomly capitalise for emphasis.
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
What I had in mind was what has already been alluded to elsewhere in the post, which is the propensity of some with a poor grasp of grammar to randomly capitalise for emphasis.

Surely if its done deliberately for emphasis, it's not random? Obviously it can be seen as incorrect in that case, but random it ain't. ;)

John
 

Hauksen

Forum member
Hi Kb57,

I'm afraid I don't read or speak German, but I'm aware that capitalisation is much more extensive and correct in German grammar.

When it comes to bird names, it's more that the name of a bird is one entity, and the German spelling makes it easy to recognize that (through contraction, not through capitalization):

blue tit = Blaumeise
three-toed woodpecker = Dreizehenspecht
wryneck = Wendehals
red-backed shrike = Rotrückenwürger
black redstart = Gartenrotschwanz
yellowhammer = Goldammer

(Funnily enough, some of the English bird names are actually contracted as well.)

Capitalization of English bird names, as seen in the Collins and the Sibley's, is another way of making the conceptual entity of the bird name recognizable in print, and to discern name-giving adjectives from merely descriptive adjectives.

So it's more than just drawing attention to the bird names - it's making clear what their names actually are. (Just to point out that the two options you listed are not symmetrical ... one has an objective advantage over the other.)

However, I certainly wouldn't suggest that anyone should set aside his personal preference for a certain variant of spelling just because of something like that ... in fact, I'm happy to find people who consider questions of orthography and type-setting important enough to sacrifice a certain amount of utility in favour of aesthetics, because I can definitively relate to that :)

Regards,

Henning
 

fugl

Well-known member
. . .Capitalization of English bird names, as seen in the Collins and the Sibley's, is another way of making the conceptual entity of the bird name recognizable in print, and to discern name-giving adjectives from merely descriptive adjectives. . ..

As I've said in a previous post, I capitalize their names not for any practical reason but because of all the many "conceptual entities" in the world, birds are one of my favorites.

;)
 

DMW

Well-known member
Interesting to note that two yellow warblers have been found in Britain and Ireland today. I doubt I will ever see yellow warbler here in Jersey, as it is officially a no-go zone for Nearctic passerines, but I did see several yellow warblers here today. ;)
 

kb57

Well-known member
Europe
Hi Kb57,



When it comes to bird names, it's more that the name of a bird is one entity, and the German spelling makes it easy to recognize that (through contraction, not through capitalization):

blue tit = Blaumeise
three-toed woodpecker = Dreizehenspecht
wryneck = Wendehals
red-backed shrike = Rotrückenwürger
black redstart = Gartenrotschwanz
yellowhammer = Goldammer

(Funnily enough, some of the English bird names are actually contracted as well.)

Hi Henning

What is also interesting about the fact that we use yellowhammer for Goldammer; as well as being a contraction it also uses the German word for bunting (as I've just realised after a quick Google!).

'Start' and 'Schwanz' (which Google also tells me means 'tail') have diverged a bit more, but I always understood 'start' to derive from Saxon 'steort', which of course gives it a north German linguistic origin.
 

Nutcracker

Stop Brexit!
'Start' and 'Schwanz' (which Google also tells me means 'tail') have diverged a bit more, but I always understood 'start' to derive from Saxon 'steort', which of course gives it a north German linguistic origin.

Closer to Danish, 'stjert' (Rødstjert = Redstart, Blåstjert = Bluetail, Vipstjert = Wagtail, etc.) :t:
 

pe'rigin

Well-known member
Decision has to be down to the editor on what is acceptable, it's his\hers party.

Personally, I like lower case, unless a proper noun – Arctic tern and add plural (s) for birds – redshanks, black-tailed godwits, but not for snipe or grouse.

I also like to put into italic only the first instance of the bird seen by the author, there after in roman. I don't use italic if it's in general text writing.

I don't mind emboldening, but that can look uneven within a paragraph, so I largely refrain from doing that.

I never line break the birds name – golden
eagle
So I bring the golden over to next line.
These are my rules, for text, along with a few others. But it's up to the individual on how they want their text to read.
 
Last edited:

Hauksen

Forum member
Hi,

Closer to Danish, 'stjert' (Rødstjert = Redstart, Blåstjert = Bluetail, Vipstjert = Wagtail, etc.) :t:

You don't actually have to go so far :)

In Low German, the Wagtail is called "Wippsteert", which is an exact translation.

Regards,

Henning
 

Steve Lister

Senior Birder, ex County Recorder, Garden Moths.
United Kingdom
Excellent example of why bird names should be capitalised in the latest Waterlife from WWT.........

Quoting Nigel Jarrett in the Back Chat feature "The most unexpected thing that ever happened to me was being temporarily blinded by blue duck semen!"

I can't say for sure whether any duck semen is blue but I am sure that what he means is semen from a Blue Duck.

Steve
 

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
Excellent example of why bird names should be capitalised in the latest Waterlife from WWT.........

Quoting Nigel Jarrett in the Back Chat feature "The most unexpected thing that ever happened to me was being temporarily blinded by blue duck semen!"

I can't say for sure whether any duck semen is blue but I am sure that what he means is semen from a Blue Duck.

Steve

Case closed :)
 

DMW

Well-known member
Excellent example of why bird names should be capitalised in the latest Waterlife from WWT.........

Quoting Nigel Jarrett in the Back Chat feature "The most unexpected thing that ever happened to me was being temporarily blinded by blue duck semen!"

I can't say for sure whether any duck semen is blue but I am sure that what he means is semen from a Blue Duck.

Steve

Lucky it wasn't a Lake Duck...

http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2011/10/there-is-a-type-of-duck-that-sometimes-lassos-its-potential-mates-with-its-penis/
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top