Willy Fantails

To: Philip Veerman <>
Subject: Willy Fantails
From: Andrew Bell <>
Date: Fri, 20 Jan 2017 03:53:33 +0000
"Go the Butchers!"

Sent from my iPad

> On 20 Jan. 2017, at 8:42 am, Philip Veerman <> wrote:
> I knew that was coming (about 'Ground Butcherbird'). Just a matter of who.
> Yes it would be nice if common names reflected relationships in some way.
> But not every one does. From Emu, Kiwi, Cassowary to Redthroat, there are a
> whole range of individual names that don't suggest any relationship. If
> Willie Fantail was the one that worked, it would probably be better. What is
> behind the suggestion to go from Willy to Willie? They undeniably wag their
> tails (a moot point about that their tails are usually fanned when they do).
> The confusion only arises by virtue of the whole other group called
> wagtails. But the main purpose of names is to be understood and then
> usefully be at least a bit descriptive.  About Ground Butcherbird, does it
> really matter for common names that our magpie is closer related to
> butcherbirds than magpies? Yes in a technical sense. But Ground Butcherbird
> does not cut it. An arbitrary decision for now in that set of opinions to
> extend the genus boundary of Cracticus to include Gymnorhina does not make
> the magpie less distinctive in its overall form and thus any less deserving
> of its own name. That the name given is already occupied by a separate group
> is very unfortunate and based in history (as with most of these problems).
> But that is what people relate to. Can you imagine Collingwood fans cheering
> for the Ground Butcherbirds? Indeed mostly it gets shortened to just "the
> pies". The group name Butcherbird refers to the habit of hanging prey in a
> fork of a tree or similar (apparently they do not impale food on thorns, as
> shrikes do, though the habit is otherwise similar). The Magpie does not do
> this, so on that basis Ground Butcherbird is a rather silly option because
> it describes something they don't do. I don't know what mag means but the
> pie refers to being black & white, so that is ok. Then there are the
> completely ridiculous names like Cuckoo-shrike (that are neither and are
> also pompous). I advocate deleting these and inventing new words that offer
> no wrong connections. A shortening to Cush as a group name would have the
> advantage of sounding nice and simple, yet maintaining a historical
> connection to a prior (silly) popular group name. One other thing I noted is
> that the new book "Backyard Bird Sounds" (Fred Van Gessel) lists the name of
> Magpielark as one of the birds featured and this begs the question where
> that comes from. It does mention its other names, with notably no mention of
> Magpie-lark. I have never seen Magpielark offered as a name before. Indeed I
> suspect that Magpielark is a better name than Magpie-lark because by
> deleting the hyphen, it conjures up an entirely new word, thus at least
> attempting to delete the connection to those other 2 groups, giving a name
> to a unique entity that is not a magpie or a lark. Pity though that without
> the hyphen it sounds the same.
> Philip
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Birding-Aus  On Behalf Of
> Greg and Val Clancy
> Sent: Friday, 20 January, 2017 8:44 AM
> To: Geoff Ryan; 
> Subject: Re: [Birding-Aus] Willy Fantails
> Well said Geoff.  Now lets try to change the Australian Magpie to 'Ground
> Butcherbird' now that it is in the genus Cracticus - it still is isn't it???
> Regards
> Greg
> Dr Greg. P. Clancy
> Ecologist and Birding-wildlife Guide
> | PO Box 63 Coutts Crossing NSW 2460
> | 02 6649 3153 | 0429 601 960
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Geoff Ryan
> Sent: Friday, January 20, 2017 7:32 AM
> To: 
> Subject: [Birding-Aus] Willy Fantails
> Surely it is more sensible to change anachronistic and confusing common
> names even if it upsets our possessive addiction to those names in common
> use.
> I know several people who still insist on calling the Australian
> Black-necked Stork a Jabiru. The up-coming generation of birders will not
> thank us oldies who refuse to adopt sensible common names. I grew up
> calling White-faced Herons - 'Blue Cranes'; Black-faced Cuckoo Shrikes -
> 'Bluejays'; Rufous Whistlers - 'Eechongs' and still have trouble not
> calling Magpie Larks - 'Peewees'. I am glad more appropriate and less
> confusing common names have been adopted for these species.
> Common names listed in Field Guides and species lists are not just used by
> parochials but by international birders - the less confusing and ambiguous
> the better.
> I'll probably be using the name Willy Wagtail up until the day I die but
> hope that the more sensible choice of Willy Fantail has replaced Willy
> Wagtail on the adopted lists of common names.
> Geoff
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