[texbirds] 'rules' regarding capitalization and bird names in general (longish)

  • From: Stephen Gast <segast23@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: texbirds <texbirds@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 22 Sep 2013 09:50:08 -0700 (PDT)

I think we can expect continuing change, but also continuing convergence of 
English names and significantly fewer changes in the future (at least for North 
American names). There has been a concerted effort by the IOC (was Committee, 
but now is the IOU, the International Ornithologists' Union) to achieve 
international consensus around world-wide usage of  English names and thus a 
lot of the recent changes. This includes use apostrophes, and use of hyphens 
and capitalization rules after hyphens, as well as other stuff. 
This project has been ongoing since  at least 2005 and has truly global expert 
participation. While it started as a naming convention project it now also is a 
forecast for expected species splits, as well as a rapid inclusion of all newly 
discovered species. Therefore the IOC world list is larger than that of 
Clements (which is followed by the ABA), but which we have seen changing 
steadily in the direction of IOC. The IOC list reflects work in progress, work 
in preparation for publication, and is updated continuously.  Clements on the 
other hand is updated less than once a year, and adheres strictly to including 
only publicly published taxa. Thus they will always be a few years behind IOC 
in this regard. The IOC list at its inception did include a lot of species that 
were subsequently lumped. This was purposely done I believe in order to create 
the give-and-take desired for such a dynamic list. 
I have followed this effort since its inception and it has been quite 
interesting to see the scientific process at work as the ornithological 
professional community has begun to work more closely together. Certainly there 
are still many species 'in play', many disagreements over what is and is not a 
species (e.g. Eurasian Whimbrel? - which is not currently on either list but 
recognized by the British Ornithologists Union!) and the refinement and 
evolution of the Species Concept will continue, but the work to achieve 
consensus around common English names has been a big plus to us 
non-professionals that helps to open up timely access  for us to this process. 
Check it out at -  http://www.worldbirdnames.org/
There is even a comparison spreadsheet on the website that details the 
differences between Clements and IOC, not only just the species but also the 
names. There is still quite a lot of 'convergence' to be made between Clements 
and IOC, i.e. expect more changes - at least globally. It appears that the 
North American names/species are in better shape between the two than other 
parts of the world (but I haven't done the statistics on this).

Steve Gast
Houston, Texas


 From: Jim Sinclair <jim.sinclair@xxxxxxxxx>
To: emoon1@xxxxxxxxxxxxx 
Cc: texbirds <texbirds@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> 
Sent: Sunday, September 22, 2013 7:24 AM
Subject: [texbirds] Re: silly adherence to 'rules' regarding capitalization

Can't resist stirring the pot some more!
Scientific names change more frequently than common names.

Many 'common' names, like 'roadrunner' apply to more than one species.

The trend among several other disciplines is toward capitalization.

Capitalization does reduce ambiguity.
On Sep 22, 2013 6:54 AM, "Elizabeth Moon" <emoon1@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> Or you could always include the species name, in italics, and editors will
> respect that. If you see a common name in lower case & species name in
> italics, there can be no confusion and readers can begin to learn at least
> the genus and possibly even full species names.  You don't have to "know
> Latin" to use the scientific name; you just have to look in i a good field
> guide.    For someone coming to "official" birding from botany or
> entomology,  the use of capitals for common names seems odd, at least at
> first.  Esp. when there is no confusion possible (roadrunner, for instance.)
> Elizabeth Moon
> Williamson County
> Sent from my iPad
> > On Sep 21, 2013, at 9:44 PM, Anthony Hewetson <terrverts@xxxxxxxxx>
> wrote:
> >
> > Greetings Dan (and all):
> > I have been fighting this one with the editors of the New York Times and
> The New Yorker for decades.  The example I use is yellow warbler.  'Which
> specific warbler with  'yellow' in its plumage are you talking about?' has
> been my standard plea.  My pleas have fallen on deaf ears - or unreasoning
> central nervous systems - and I treasure the fact that there is at least
> one other person who is bothered by this nonsensical adherence to 'the
> rules'.
> >
> > Fat Tony; Lubbock
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > ________________________________
> > From: "antshrike1@xxxxxxx" <antshrike1@xxxxxxx>
> > To: texbirds@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
> > Sent: Saturday, September 21, 2013 6:16 PM
> > Subject: [texbirds] Yellow-bellied Flycatcher vs. yellow-bellied
> flycatcher
> >
> >
> > While sitting in the doctor's office yesterday, I was reading the May
> spring migration/birding issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine.  I was
> dismayed but not surprised to see all of the bird names written beginning
> with lower case letters except for names that involved a person's or
> place's name.  Thus Cliff Shackelford's article about Mississippi Kites was
> about "Mississippi kites".  And the article about how rare birds can show
> up during migration was illustrated with a photo of a blue mockingbird.
>  Other birds mentioned in the article included masked tityra and elegant
> trogon, although the photo of the "elegant trogon" was labeled "Elegant
> trogon".
> >
> > I see this frequently in posts on Texbirds by people new to the birding
> world and it is understandable.  But Texas Parks and Wildlife should know
> better.  I know why they do it this way.  It's because some old crusty
> grammar teacher (I'm only speaking from experience) very effectively
> brainwashed all the editors about the proper use of capital letters. They
> are just being diligent editors and following the rules.
> >
> >
> > Your response may be "So what?"  Well, these articles are written is a
> very basic, dumbed-down style, so as to not scare away basic nature loving
> Texans with too much information.  And for this magazine, I think that is
> entirely appropriate.  The problem is your basic "person on the street" has
> no concept of "species" and they're probably wondering "How in heck did
> that mockingbird turn blue?"  "Darned if it ain't a blue mockingbird!"
> >
> >
> > Starting a common bird name with lower case letters fails to communicate
> that a particular bird is of a specific species (redundant?)  and not just
> exhibiting a particular plumage or structural trait.  Thus yellow-bellied
> flycatcher is simply stating that some type of flycatcher (whatever that
> is) has a yellow belly.  This would include several empids, young Eastern
> Phoebes, Western, Cassin's, Couch's and Tropical Kingbirds, Greater
> Kiskadee, etc.  But Yellow-bellied Flycatcher means we are talking about
> Empidonax flaviventris, a particular species with a very specific set of
> traits, behaviors and genome, and not one of the species mentioned
> previously.  Since few of us speak Latin, a common name with each part
> beginning with upper case letters communicates better that the Latin genus
> and specific epithet.  A tufted titmouse (Don't ask me what a titmouse is!)
> might indeed be a Tufted Timouse or it could be an Oak Titmouse, Juniper
> Titmouse or maybe
> > a Black-crested Titmouse.
> > Is the rare stygian owl really an owl from the river Styx?  By their
> rules it should be Stygian owl.  But Stygian Owl means Asio stygius and you
> can argue with the ornithologist about the appropriate nature of that
> specific epithet.   Well, you get the point.
> >
> >
> > I propose a massive letter writing campaign to the editors at Texas
> Parks and Wildlife Magazine to try to encourage them to write bird names
> (and other species of animals and plants) beginning with upper case
> letters.  I know this would help enhance communication.  We need to start
> somewhere.  How can we expect the public to want to save a particular
> species when they don't even know what the word "species" means.
> >
> >
> > I feel better.
> >
> >
> > Dan Jones, Weslaco
> >
> >
> >
> > Edit your Freelists account settings for TEXBIRDS at
> > http://www.freelists.org/list/texbirds
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  • » [texbirds] 'rules' regarding capitalization and bird names in general (longish) - Stephen Gast