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New official Checklist of the birds of Germany sparks debate (1 Viewer)

Maffong

Well-known member
A few days ago the new "official" Checklist of the birds of Germany was published.
Barthel PH & Krüger T 2018: Checklist of the birds of Germany. Vogelwarte 56: 171-203
I can be found here

However this list has sparked some controversy and there's many things that should be discussed, even though the authors made a statement along the lines of "This list is science, science is not politics and therefore discussion is obsolete", which I think is absolutely wrong!
From what I have heard quite many German birders are unhappy with the outcome of this list, that had been awaited so eagerly for such a long time.

Here's what's new and could be discussed
  • Systematics and taxonomy now follow IOC
  • Many German vernacular names have been changed, including very charismatic ones like "Ziegenmelker" (European Nightjar), "Katzenvogel" (Grey Catbird). All names that used to be two words have been changed to one word names, e.g. "Dunkler Sturmtaucher" has become "Dunkelsturmtaucher" or "Großer Knutt" has become "Anadyrknutt"
  • Not new, but the acceptance into category A is handled very restrictive. Species like Snow Goose, Demoiselle Crane and several former category D species (see below) are being rejected unless there is very strong support (like rings) to support their wild provenience
  • Several introduced species that had just recently been added to the German list on the basis of a paper published in 2016 have been reassigned to Category E on dubious grounds. This includes Bar-headed, SNow and Swan Goose, Black Swan, Sacred Ibis, Ural Owl, Yellow-headed Amazon and Alexandrine Parakeet. Somehow Chilean Flamingo made it to category D
  • Many assumed ship-assisted birds were simply put into Category E. This includes Red Fox Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Brown-headed Cowbird. However other birds were included in category A (e.g. Mourning Dove, Grey Catbird, several North American Warblers, Vireos and Thrushes)
  • Many species that were formerly in Category D were downgraded to Category E, this includes Barrow's Goldeneye, Daurian Jackdaw, White-crowned Wheatear, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and others
  • Band-rumped Storm-petrel was quietly deleted from the list without any commentary

I have been waiting for a long time now for this updated list. However, given the many things I disagree with and the arrogant statement I mentioned above, I don't think that I will follow (m)any of the decisions of this list

Maffong
 

Xenospiza

Distracted
Supporter
Vernacular names have nothing to do with science and everything with the persons in charge wanting to make an imprint. This is not much different in the Netherlands, the UK or the US (I hate the name Pallas's Gull!)

Changing Ziegenmelker to Nachtschwalbe is definitely odd: I've only heard Germans say "Nachtschwalbe" when they wanted to show they saw one in the Netherlands! Moreover, a Nightjar is no swallow: the new name is even more anti-scientific than the translation of its scientifc name used currently!

It looks like they are turning back to the old German "vagrancy is impossible" stance. I don't really care about introduced species, so the treatment of Chilean Flamingo or those parrots is fine by me.
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
OK.

Don't think you can argue with adopting IOC.

Nobody has any business changing vernacular names. I particularly can't see the point of trying to do so in a language confined to a small part of the planet. The good news is that nobody apart from scientists and birders will ever read the list, so the vernacular names will continue (many years after the adoption by nobody important of "Bearded Reedling" British birders from robin-stroker to maniac still use "Bearded Tit" in the field.) That's why they are vernacular names.... However a letter to "Deutsche Vogeln" or whatever your national publication is called, explaining that linguistics is also science and these idiots clearly don't understand the meaning of "vernacular" would be fun. Good luck with overturning the insistence on combining clearly separate words to the detriment of clarity, understanding, grammar and indexing.

Categories. If what they've done is science there must be criteria. Demand to see them and compare decisions to their own criteria. Feel free to rubbish the criteria, too. Also look out for any public hint that the list authority has bowed to political pressure in allocating categories, as BOU acknowledgedly does: methinks they doth protest too much!

If there is, as you suggest, widespread disquiet, organise it. There are two important routes of protest:

1. Civil disobedience: just make them irrelevant by ignoring them. If you have control of publications, local or national (e.g. local annual reports), take no account of their list in compiling them. Even as an individual birder you can do this. Don't correspond with them. Don't ask their advice on stuff. Don't use the new vernacular names, ever.

2. Active measures: advise birders (advise recorders if you can get to them!) not to submit records, depriving them of basic material. Set up an alternative so that birders still have a system to follow: as a first move issue a downloadable list in e.g. Excel format and get it onto every birding website you can, so that it becomes easier for birders to use the list you are driving than the one the authorities want to introduce. Publicise the idea that birders and others shouldn't buy books and publications that follow the new list: this can include suggesting that birders shouldn't provide photos to such publications, and if the temptation to do so is irresistible (e.g. payment) then insist that retaining control of one's work includes it being correctly labelled according to the names in use before the authorities went barmy.

If it all matters. Alternatively do all your birding in English and submit all records in that language, so at least they will need to translate them. Just never give in.

John
 

edenwatcher

Well-known member
"Discussion is obsolete". "Science is not politics"???
As a scientist, science is very much about discussion...

Rob
 

Maffong

Well-known member
The exact sentences are
In der aktuellen Fassung der Liste der Vögel Deutschlands sind Änderungen vorgenommen worden, die teilweise auch viele gut eingearbeitete Vogelbeobachter und Ornithologen überraschen dürften. Ob diese Neuerungen maß- und sinnvoll sind, kann aber kaum ein Diskussionsthema sein, denn es handelt sich um Wissenschaft, nicht um Politik oder meinungsbildende Überzeugungsarbeit.
which translates to:
In the current version of the checklist of birds of Germany some changes have been made that are likely to surprise even some adept birdwatchers and ornithologists. If these alterations are reasonable and sensible can hardly be a matter of discussion, as this is science and not politics or opinion-forming persuading

In my opinion this statement is outrageously arrogant and one of the main reasons why the responsible committees have dropped significantly in my esteem.

Maffong
 
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DMW

Well-known member
British birders from robin-stroker to maniac still use "Bearded Tit" in the field.

Are you sure they are talking about the bird, though? ;)

Joking aside, I agree with all the comments here, and it seems almost breathtakingly ignorant to claim that the imposition of vernacular names not in common usage is a matter of science, and therefore closed to debate. Whoever wrote that shouldn't be left in charge of a pencil.

Some time ago the Oriental Bird Club adopted a whole slew of simply appalling and vacuous new English names for birds, which (almost) everybody ignored.
 

Xenospiza

Distracted
Supporter
Well, they are obviously listers and not scientists at all... what an amazing amount of arrogance.

It's a good thing I'm not a member of Club 300, because I would not be making myself very popular, haha!
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
Are you sure they are talking about the bird, though? ;)

Joking aside, I agree with all the comments here, and it seems almost breathtakingly ignorant to claim that the imposition of vernacular names not in common usage is a matter of science, and therefore closed to debate. Whoever wrote that shouldn't be left in charge of a pencil.

Some time ago the Oriental Bird Club adopted a whole slew of simply appalling and vacuous new English names for birds, which (almost) everybody ignored.

It's very hard to ignore them though when the latest field guide, adopts so many name changes, that it makes me feel like a total beginner again, Eye-browed Jungle Flycatcher will never be Bornean Shade Dweller in my lists I can assure you!
 
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jurek

Well-known member
I agree that local bird names should be names which are actually used by people.

It is now easy to check and prove objectively what bird names are really used in language as of 2019. For example, whether Germans really call Nightjar "Ziegenmelker" or "Nachtschwalbe" or still another name. Apperance of social media means that currently it is easier than ever to know which bird names are really used by people. Note, that results may be surprising, because language studies show that slang names of things overtake the language used in dictionaries often decades earlier than official or dictionary names are changed.

There is no reason whatsoever of existence of "official German names" different from names really used by birders. There are scientific names for this purpose.

It is obvious that common names will always be often incorrect and not used phylogenetically. There are just too many of "incorrect names". The example that nightjar is not a swallow is perfect.

And what shows that the whole topic of changing bird names is vanity project - is that the paper, unlike a proper disctionary, does not list the previous German names for comparison.

About introduced species and rarities - it only shows how subjective is concept of bird lists.

By the way, Cackling Goose in Germany is most likely C from breeding population in the Netherlands.

One question - is Pin-tailed Sandgrouse really unlikely to reach Germany? I know there are records in northern France and Belgium.

Another question again - is apperance of American songbirds in Central Europe in wrong season really unlikely? The common theory is when birds which are blown across the Atlantic, a proportion survives and continues to follow the normal North-South migratory movements on the wrong continent. Which matches quite well that in addition to American vagrant songbirds on the Western coasts of Europe, there are much fewer records inland.
 
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Sangahyando

Well-known member
Here's what's new and could be discussed

Systematics and taxonomy now follow IOC
Good for me, I guess.


Many German vernacular names have been changed, including very charismatic ones like "Ziegenmelker" (European Nightjar), "Katzenvogel" (Grey Catbird). All names that used to be two words have been changed to one word names, e.g. "Dunkler Sturmtaucher" has become "Dunkelsturmtaucher" or "Großer Knutt" has become "Anadyrknutt"
I think a lot of these make sense. However, the treatment of German names for North American birds is inconsistent. They simplified the names of the Yellowlegs and Dowitcher species pairs (fair enough - "Greater" and "Lesser" are relatively bland anyway). But in the case of Molothrus ater and the Catharus thrushes, they went the other way despite using a similar argumentation. I don't see how making the "common" names of species more garbled helps science.

And the attempt to replace the traditional "Ziegenmelker" ("goat-milker"), a name grounded in folklore, with a more general one (opening an entirely new can of worms since "Nachtschwalben", apart from being similarly incorrect from a scientific point of view, is also the name of the family) is simply ridiculous. I don't get the point of such changes. Were any goats offended and demanded a name change?
In the same vein, changing "Mohrenlerche" ("Moor Lark", for Melanocorypha yeltoniensis) to "Schwarzsteppenlerche" (the kind of long-winded, awkward German word that foreigners make fun of) for the sake of "political correctness" (literal quote) is just plain f---ing dumb (did anyone complain, and even if, so what?) and the argument used even betrays ignorance of the etymology of the word.


The exact sentences are
In der aktuellen Fassung der Liste der Vögel Deutschlands sind Änderungen vorgenommen worden, die teilweise auch viele gut eingearbeitete Vogelbeobachter und Ornithologen überraschen dürften. Ob diese Neuerungen maß- und sinnvoll sind, kann aber kaum ein Diskussionsthema sein, denn es handelt sich um Wissenschaft, nicht um Politik oder meinungsbildende Überzeugungsarbeit.
which translates to:
In the current version of the checklist of birds of Germany some changes have been made that are likely to surprise even some adept birdwatchers and ornithologists. If these alterations are reasonable and sensible can hardly be a matter of discussion, as this is science and not politics or opinion-forming persuading
It's actually more hilarious and arrogant than that since "Wissenschaft" is a broad term encompassing not just science sensu stricto, but also any scholarly studies, e.g. history or economics. Or, you know, linguistics - somehow no-one ever thinks of consulting a competent linguist or two when tampering with "official" vernacular names, and these gentlemen are no exception.
 
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Maffong

Well-known member
One of the authors of the paper has now chimed in and tried to clarify that the above cited sentences were meant differently than how I (and other) understood them.
It was not intended to suppress discussion, but as far I understand his statement, that certain scientific criteria were used to assess the status of certain species and the results are thus scientifically corroborated (and therefore don't need to be discussed). What these sentences however fail to clarify is the fact, that these criteria themselves should be subject to discussion, which implies the consequences that if the criteria are adjusted the results may change, too.

Maffong
 

MJB

Well-known member
It's very hard to ignore them though when the latest field guide, adopts so many name changes, that it makes me feel like a total beginner again, Eye-browed Jungle Flycatcher will never be Bornean Shade Dweller in my lists I can assure you!

Andy, I went to Brunei twice in the 1980s, and in the jungle, I was very much the Bornean Shade Dweller...;)
MJB
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
One of the authors of the paper has now chimed in and tried to clarify that the above cited sentences were meant differently than how I (and other) understood them.
It was not intended to suppress discussion, but as far I understand his statement, that certain scientific criteria were used to assess the status of certain species and the results are thus scientifically corroborated (and therefore don't need to be discussed). What these sentences however fail to clarify is the fact, that these criteria themselves should be subject to discussion, which implies the consequences that if the criteria are adjusted the results may change, too.

Maffong

Not to mention that a number of the species were already in categories of the list, so that adjustment of extant, previously acceptable criteria has taken place without consultation. If we weren't talking about Germany where such matters can be sensitive I'd suggest that is a rather authoritarian approach to a subject where the widest possible discussion should precede change....... surely a paper on the proposed criteria changes should be put up for consideration by, at a minimum, the German equivalent of county recorders as well as academia at large? Especially if the criteria are going to depart from those generally accepted by the rarities committees of Europe, which given the wholesale binning of species likely to gain/already having acceptance elsewhere in the community of European nations seems to be the case!

Incidentally, how do German-German vernacular names compare to Austrian-German? Do the two nations' academic and linguistic communities normally co-ordinate their decisions on changes to common usage? (Or does one or other leave common usage to the vagaries of the common people, as is right and proper?)

John
 

fugl

Well-known member
.:. .And the attempt to replace the traditional "Ziegenmelker" ("goat-milker"), a name grounded in folklore, with a more general one. . . is simply ridiculous. . .

Indeed it is, even if the poor bird “never milked any goat”. . .

The Goatsucker

Old goatherds swear how all night long they hear
The warning whirr and burring of the bird
Who wakes with darkness and till dawn works hard
Vampiring dry of milk each great goat udder.
Moon full, moon dark, the chary dairy farmer
Dreams that his fattest cattle dwindle, fevered
By claw-cuts of the Goatsucker, alias Devil-bird,
Its eye, flashlit, a chip of ruby fire.

So fables say the Goatsucker moves, masked from men's sight
In an ebony air, on wings of witch cloth,
Well-named, ill-famed a knavish fly-by-night,
Yet it never milked any goat, nor dealt cow death
And shadows only--cave-mouth bristle beset--
Cockchafers and the wan, green luna moth.

--Sylvia Plath
 

Pariah

Stealth Birder
OK.

Don't think you can argue with adopting IOC.

Nobody has any business changing vernacular names. I particularly can't see the point of trying to do so in a language confined to a small part of the planet. The good news is that nobody apart from scientists and birders will ever read the list, so the vernacular names will continue (many years after the adoption by nobody important of "Bearded Reedling" British birders from robin-stroker to maniac still use "Bearded Tit" in the field.) That's why they are vernacular names.... However a letter to "Deutsche Vogeln" or whatever your national publication is called, explaining that linguistics is also science and these idiots clearly don't understand the meaning of "vernacular" would be fun. Good luck with overturning the insistence on combining clearly separate words to the detriment of clarity, understanding, grammar and indexing.

Categories. If what they've done is science there must be criteria. Demand to see them and compare decisions to their own criteria. Feel free to rubbish the criteria, too. Also look out for any public hint that the list authority has bowed to political pressure in allocating categories, as BOU acknowledgedly does: methinks they doth protest too much!

If there is, as you suggest, widespread disquiet, organise it. There are two important routes of protest:

1. Civil disobedience: just make them irrelevant by ignoring them. If you have control of publications, local or national (e.g. local annual reports), take no account of their list in compiling them. Even as an individual birder you can do this. Don't correspond with them. Don't ask their advice on stuff. Don't use the new vernacular names, ever.

2. Active measures: advise birders (advise recorders if you can get to them!) not to submit records, depriving them of basic material. Set up an alternative so that birders still have a system to follow: as a first move issue a downloadable list in e.g. Excel format and get it onto every birding website you can, so that it becomes easier for birders to use the list you are driving than the one the authorities want to introduce. Publicise the idea that birders and others shouldn't buy books and publications that follow the new list: this can include suggesting that birders shouldn't provide photos to such publications, and if the temptation to do so is irresistible (e.g. payment) then insist that retaining control of one's work includes it being correctly labelled according to the names in use before the authorities went barmy.

If it all matters. Alternatively do all your birding in English and submit all records in that language, so at least they will need to translate them. Just never give in.

John

Blasphemous stuff! 8-P

Owen
 

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Hauksen

Forum member
Moin!

One of the authors of the paper has now chimed in and tried to clarify that the above cited sentences were meant differently than how I (and other) understood them.

Well ... he's playing the "plausible deniability" card.

Regards,

Henning
 

James Eaton

Trent Valley Crew
The good news is that nobody apart from scientists and birders will ever read the list, so the vernacular names will continue (many years after the adoption by nobody important of "Bearded Reedling" British birders from robin-stroker to maniac still use "Bearded Tit" in the field.)

I'm British, and I use the term Bearded Reedling. It's not a tit, so just invites confusion for non-native English speakers new to birding, I've had this discussion on many occasions from young, keen new birders asking why older generations can't deal with in advancements in taxonomy and changing English names to move with the times. Didn't British birders use to call Hedge Accentor/Dunnock, Hedge Sparrow? At some point that changed.

It's very hard to ignore them though when the latest field guide, adopts so many name changes, that it makes me feel like a total beginner again, Eye-browed Jungle Flycatcher will never be Bornean Shade Dweller in my lists I can assure you!

It's clearly not a jungle flycatcher so why keep the name (why so much less grumbling with a genus name change?), other than to satisfy an older generation of birder from thousands of kilometres away who have likely only visited the species native range more than a couple of times, at best. At some point people moved away from Goat-sucker to Nightjar, yet you rarely hear birders grumble about that name change.... move with the times, Andy, you're sounding older than you are ;-)

James
 

PYRTLE

Old Berkshire Boy
Didn't British birders use to call Hedge Accentor/Dunnock, Hedge Sparrow? At some point that changed.
James

I'm 63, British ( as we're all lumped ), and still refer to the species as a Dunnock. My younger sister calls it a Hedge Sparrow, as I thought it easier to tell her when we were both in the Y.O.C.( aged 7, I was 11 ) and she nowadays looks at me blankly if I say Hedge Accentor.

Pat

I'm firmly in the FJ camp, "never give in", even though we disagree on occasion.
 
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