FW: [canberrabirds] The Stilt Issue

To: "" <>
Subject: FW: [canberrabirds] The Stilt Issue
From: Geoffrey Dabb <>
Date: Sat, 20 Aug 2016 04:05:14 +0000

22 persons expressed an opinion.  The result is:


Australian Black-winged Stilt  11

Pied Stilt 4

White-headed Stilt  4

Yapping Stilt  1

Other  2


Thanks to those who took the trouble to respond.


This pending issue is a good illustration of the difficulty of finding English names that will please everyone.  In putting those choices I did not mention the background arguments and considerations, although some of you drew attention to some of those.  Here is a summary.


The Australian species was generally known as the ‘White-headed Stilt’ for 128 years following its naming by Gould.  Prevailing opinion in Australia in the 1970s recognised it as a subspecies of the widespread ‘Black-winged Stilt’ which is why it bears that name up to the present time on the list published by COG.  However no sooner was Australia making that change than the emerging global lists (in particular Sibley & Monroe 1970) were treating our stilt as a separate ‘White-headed’ or ‘Pied’ Stilt.  The 1978 recommendations, which are the foundation for many of our English names, suggested ‘White-headed’ or ‘Pied’ IF there was to be a return to recognition of the separate species. 


Compared to the days of prescriptive national bird lists name issues now are more subject to personal choice. It is accepted observers might maintain personal lists based on their choice of a global list eg  IOC or HBW/BLI or eBird/Clements. However there is still, and needs to be for various purposes, a national list.  People have varying approaches to choice of English names for the national list, broadly (a) the global setting is the main consideration (b)  rather, local usage and minimum change should be decisive or (c)  a clean slate, the best creation regardless of past or international usage.  Moreover, some people bring a bias in favour of the name in the global list they prefer.


Sample for and againsts for each of the above names are -  


Australian Black-winged Stilt  - FOR: familiar, minimum change,  AGAINST: long, clunky, does not sit well internationally with the widespread (naked) ‘Black-winged Stilt’.

Pied Stilt -  FOR: short, some support in usage.  AGAINST:  all Himantopus stilts are ‘pied’.

White-headed Stilt  -  FOR: definitely a traditional and established name; translation of ‘leucocephalus’  AGAINST: real possibility of confusion with the more ‘white-headed’ Banded (also ‘leucocephalus’)

Yapping Stilt   FOR: an imaginative and possibly catchy local coining  AGAINST: novel, no real usage, maybe a bit odd  [Don’t all stilts yap?  Well no, not as yappily as this one  -  easy to check with all the recordings on the internet]





From: Geoffrey Dabb
Sent: Friday, 19 August 2016 5:01 PM
Subject: FW: [canberrabirds] The Stilt Issue


Thanks to all who responded to the below.  I have 15 replies.  Anyone else like to offer a view?  Reasons are of interest, but not necessary.  I’ll circulate a summary of the result.  g


From: Geoffrey Dabb [m("","gdabb");">]
Sent: Thursday, 18 August 2016 9:55 AM
Subject: [canberrabirds] The Stilt Issue


One of our local bird species, the Black-winged Stilt, has recently undergone a change of status in the Australian list, reverting to Himantopus leucocephalus (the original Gould name).   There are various possibilities for an English name:


Australian Black-winged Stilt

Pied Stilt

White-headed Stilt

Yapping Stilt (to overcome confusing plumage-based names)


I’d be interested in the result of an informal vote by chatline members on these possibilities.  Could I ask each of you to let me know your preference?



<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the Canberra Ornithologists Group mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the list contact David McDonald, list manager, phone (02) 6231 8904 or email . If you can not contact David McDonald e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU