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ocularis White Wagtail (1 Viewer)

Frenchy

Well-known member
Does anyone know where the name "East Siberian" Wagtail came from for Motacilla alba ocularis? The earliest we can find is from Dutch Birding around 1998, such as https://crbpo.mnhn.fr/IMG/pdf/Sangster_et_al_1999_CSNA_1977-98_ARDEA.pdf , so does it originate there? No mention of it in Alstrom & Mild's Pipits and Wagtails, and its not called this in IOC or eBird. Quite rightly in my view, as its an awful name and not particularly correct. Why not simply "Siberian", or even better "Swinhoe's"?
 

MJB

Well-known member
Does anyone know where the name "East Siberian" Wagtail came from for Motacilla alba ocularis? The earliest we can find is from Dutch Birding around 1998, such as https://crbpo.mnhn.fr/IMG/pdf/Sangster_et_al_1999_CSNA_1977-98_ARDEA.pdf , so does it originate there? No mention of it in Alstrom & Mild's Pipits and Wagtails, and its not called this in IOC or eBird. Quite rightly in my view, as its an awful name and not particularly correct. Why not simply "Siberian", or even better "Swinhoe's"?
Re the informal name given to Motacilla alba ocularis, it breeds from the Taymyr Peninsula eastwards at High Arctic latitudes all the way to Alaska. It does not breed west of the Taymyr Peninsula nor in anywhere in Western Siberia which ends near Murmansk.

Eastern Siberia has popularly been used to describe that part of Siberia east of European Russia, roughly aligning with the divide between the eastern and western Palearctic. Geographically, Eastern Siberia would be better described as being from the Taymyr eastwards. The term 'Northern Siberia' I would argue is a truly awful name simply because the whole of Siberia is in the north... Had ocularis been treated continuously as an informally named subspecies/species since Swinhoe described it in 1860, then the duration of that name would be a good reason (perhaps not the best reason) to continue to attach his name to it, but creating a new informal name, 'Swinhoe's Wagtail' isn't at all helpful.

The informal name Eastern Siberian Wagtail is therefore far more informative than just 'Siberian' and so is a most reasonable geographical modifier.
MJB
 

Frenchy

Well-known member
Hi MJB.

I can understand if you personally like the name, but i think your reasoning isn't terribly logical. Surely the term "Northern Siberian" would be just as good, simply because it breeds in the north of Siberia. To (correctly) say that it does not breed across the whole of Northern Siberia equally applies if I say it does not breed across the whole of Eastern Siberia. The whole of Siberia is also in "the East", depending on your starting point of course.

The name Swinhoe's Wagtail has been in use for far longer than "East Siberian", as it seems this was invented by Dutch Birding in the 90's. But, if that's wrong and it was in use before this, then fair enough.
 

l_raty

laurent raty

Frenchy

Well-known member
"Swinhoe's Wagtail" dates back to the late 19th C.
The oldest instance I can readily locate was in April 1882: Quarterly Bulletin of the Nuttall Ornithological Club.
It was still used by the AOU in the 4th ed. of their check-lists (1931) Check-list of North American birds - Biodiversity Heritage Library .
(In the 5th ed. -- 1951: Check-list of North American birds - Biodiversity Heritage Library -- they ceased using vernaculars for subspecies.)
Thanks Laurent. Would you say that we should therefore call it Swinhoe's? Or does it not matter?
 

Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
Common names don't necessarily follow the rules that scientific names do, nor should they. So I don't think it matters "when" a name is coined. More important is choosing the name that already is most in use and/or most useful to label a bird by.
 

johnallcock

Well-known member
Personally I think that East Siberian Wagtail is a terrible name. It's long and awkward, it gives the impression the taxon has been split from West Siberian Wagtail and it invites potential confusion with M. tschutschensis. Swinhoe's potentially runs into problems in an age when we are usually moving away from names honoring people. At one point Eye-striped Wagtail was in occasional use, but that seems to have disappeared.

But my dislike goes beyond ocularis. I think a lot of the Asian wagtail taxa have confusing or awkward English names - Black-backed, Amur, Transbaikalian, Hodgson's... 'Eastern' Eastern Yellow, Green-headed, Manchurian, 'plexa' (which as far as I know doesn't have a distinct name).
 

Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
Personally I think that East Siberian Wagtail is a terrible name. It's long and awkward, it gives the impression the taxon has been split from West Siberian Wagtail and it invites potential confusion with M. tschutschensis. Swinhoe's potentially runs into problems in an age when we are usually moving away from names honoring people. At one point Eye-striped Wagtail was in occasional use, but that seems to have disappeared.

But my dislike goes beyond ocularis. I think a lot of the Asian wagtail taxa have confusing or awkward English names - Black-backed, Amur, Transbaikalian, Hodgson's... 'Eastern' Eastern Yellow, Green-headed, Manchurian, 'plexa' (which as far as I know doesn't have a distinct name).
I'll agree that East Siberian isn't a good name, but I don't really see the issue with some of those like Black-backed, Amur, etc.
 

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