FW: Help!

To: Geoffrey Dabb <>
Subject: FW: Help!
From: Martin Butterfield via Canberrabirds <>
Date: Mon, 5 Feb 2024 05:07:42 +0000
From the Birdlife website:
"The Research and Conservation Committee (RACC) provides advice to the Chief Executive Officer on scientific and conservation matters, particularly bird conservation objectives and strategic directions, research priorities and scientific publications."

Presumably this comes under the 'strategic directions ' element since I  can't see it is anything to do with "bird conservation objectives",  "research priorities" or "scientific publications".

It is also interesting that the page for this Committee on the website has the 'words'  Intro text and nothing else - see attached  screenshot (note the red line obfuscates my menu).  Given the impact this Committee seems likely to have on birding through the current debate I would have thought, at the very least, the membership of the Committee, and the Minutes of their meetings would be published for the information of members.

On Mon, 5 Feb 2024 at 09:29, Geoffrey Dabb via Canberrabirds <> wrote:

To understand the point that this important issue has reached, I think it is useful to keep separate views and preferences on the one hand, and the organisational and procedural story on the other. This long-running issue has come to a head over the last couple of years. There was a difference of view between Birdlife Australia’s Research and Conservation Committee and one of its subcommittees, that I shall call the Names Committee.  In October 2022 the latter, which I convened, received from the RACC chair advice that, pursuant to a Board decision, the Names Committee should provide recommended replacements for all eponymous names.  The proposed timing was the end of 2022.


By contrast with RACC, the Names Committee consisted of grey-haired persons of more traditional views. It resisted the proposal.  One issue was that the list provided was defective, not including some people names such as ‘King-Parrot’ and ‘Regent Honeyeater’.  In the subsequent discussions, involving the CEO, some reference was made to what was happening in North America.  I checked with the chair of the AOS checklist committee (November 2022) and received the following –


Dear Geoffrey,


We have indeed suspended consideration of proposals solely to change English bird names.  The AOS has appointed an ad hoc committee on English names to determine how best to deal with such proposals in the future.  New procedures and guidelines are not yet in place and I’m not sure when they will be – the process seems to be moving slowly.



The ad hoc committee referred to later reported, leading to the present controversy in North America. It is therefore apparent that the Australian move did not depend on what was happening across the Pacific, and that Australia was in fact ahead of the AOS.  The respective arguments and justifications are somewhat similar, but have a different flavour, if you read them carefully.  In Australia there is more anxiety about apparent deference to colonial symbols and values.


I am no longer a member of the Names Committee. I had begun to jot down an account of these events, but lost interest.  Given the unlikely possibility that anyone might be interested, I attach a draft.  The attached name lists are my own compilation. The point about the oceanic seabirds is that they don’t really ‘belong’ to Australia for naming purposes, or indeed to any one country. One suggestion is that North America and Australia might cooperate with respect to oceanic species on both lists, but that is a long way into the future, as are the ‘geographical eponyms’.


Incidentally, the way things seem to be lining up internationally is –


For revision: Cornell Lab, eBird, Birdlife International.  Against revision: IOC/IOU, some other global lists.



From: Canberrabirds <> On Behalf Of Philip Veerman
Sent: Sunday, February 4, 2024 8:09 PM
To: 'Canberrabirds' <>
Subject: Re: [Canberrabirds] Help!


This came from USA. I suppose there is a reasonable opinion there that some of the names commemorate people who or places that are probably not deserving of the honour. I don’t know enough about Australian situation to know if that is well argued here. Is there any reason not to commemorate Mr & Mrs Gould in Australia with the petrel and the finch? Surely though some of the people so commemorated just held particular positions without being deserving. What annoys me is seeing technical writing, used in USA, where species names are given in lower case but when the species English name is given for a person, the first letter is given in upper case (e.g. Cooper’s hawk & tree sparrow). A recent book I read had that throughout and it looks especially stupid because it sort of suggests that some species “are more equal than others”. Having written that, I think Mark’s Q is perfectly valid. Surely we have much higher priorities than this, in Australian ornithology. And yes it will get awkward and confusing and might generate redoing of books. Besides what is the big point of this, when there are surely a lot more scientific names given to commemorate a person than there are common names. I prefer Pink Cockatoo, it is so much simpler.




From: Canberrabirds On Behalf Of Mark Clayton via Canberrabirds
Sent: Sunday, 4 February, 2024 7:43 PM
To: Geoffrey Dabb; 'David McDonald (Personal)'; 'Canberrabirds list'
Subject: Re: [Canberrabirds] Help!


Why all this sudden decision to change all the names where people are concerned? It is going to get very messy in the long run and to me a complete waste of time!!




Sent from Mail for Windows


Sent: Sunday, 4 February 2024 6:57 PM
To: ;
Subject: Re: [Canberrabirds] Help!


Thanks David.  The draft ‘consultation plan’ seems very process-heavy.  It does entail consulting Birdlife Australia branches, among others.   I am no longer a formal participant in the coming project.


The adopted subspecies name that Birdlife is very proud of is ‘Mukarrthippi Grasswren’ (a made-up name) for the nominate subspecies of Striated Grasswren  - very few remaining in limited range, Yathong area.  The other name that has crept into use is ‘Kyloring’ for western subspecies of Ground Parrot..


From: Canberrabirds <> On Behalf Of David McDonald (Personal)
Sent: Sunday, February 4, 2024 6:35 PM
To: Canberrabirds list <>
Subject: Re: [Canberrabirds] Help!


Thanks Geoffrey. I agree, await more info from BLA.


That said, I find it irritating that, despite their promise to consult with the community, Birdlife Aust has unilaterally started changing English names. The much-discussed Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo they have reverted to the Pink Cockatoo, contrary to WLAB 4.3: . And somewhere in their material a species had been given an Aboriginal name – can’t find it at present at a quick search.


Best wishes – David


From: Canberrabirds <> On Behalf Of Geoffrey Dabb via Canberrabirds
Sent: Sunday, February 4, 2024 9:03 AM
To: 'Martin Butterfield' <>; 'cog chatline' <m("","canberrabirds");" target="_blank">>
Subject: Re: [Canberrabirds] Help!


Yes, I think I have mentioned the parallel Australian initiative.  There’ve been some developments in the ongoing process, but perhaps best to wait for the formal Birdlife Australia announcement.  Oddly, Martin, Birdlife Australia believes they are actually ‘helping’ matters.  I am probably guilty of understatement when I say this will depend on your point of view.  Jack the Ripper probably thought he was helping, in his own way. 


From: Canberrabirds <> On Behalf Of Martin Butterfield via Canberrabirds
Sent: Sunday, February 4, 2024 7:34 AM
To: cog chatline <>
Subject: [Canberrabirds] Help!


We will need it when (note, not "if")  this idea takes over


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