FW: Bird name madness

To: Steve Read <>
Subject: FW: Bird name madness
From: Martin Butterfield via Canberrabirds <>
Date: Fri, 9 Feb 2024 06:22:10 +0000
Drat should have read “… plants or insects use scientific names.”

On Fri, 9 Feb 2024 at 17:20, Martin Butterfield <> wrote:
It is interesting that - in my experience - most people with more than a passing interest in plants or insects.  Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to apply to birds, so if communicating to a non professional audience common names are needed.

Also, the forces of political correctness leading the current push have scientific names honouring people in their sights as well as the English names.  

Peut etre nous utilisez les noms Francais?

On Fri, 9 Feb 2024 at 17:09, Steve Read via Canberrabirds <> wrote:

Hi all


The way I keep my sanity through these changes is to hold fast to the scientific name of the taxon. These tend to change only occasionally, and usually for a formalised and well-argued reason.


In this case we have Ixobrychus dubius, a perfectly valid taxon that is now recognised as a full species but which was previously only recognised as a subspecies of the more cosmopolitan Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus. Understanding that helps me from worrying about whether Australian Little Bittern or Black-backed Bittern is used as the common name for our bird by whichever authority. Geoffrey has explained below how in the views of some ‘Australian Little Bittern’ for I. dubius cannot sit as a name alongside the name ‘Little Bittern’ for I. minutus, but as it happens I don’t share those views – I think those two common names are quite compatible with each other.


Same logic helps with gull-billed terns or our koels &c. The scientific name relates to the individual taxon or taxa that we might find in Australia, even if the common names get tangled or new ones imposed with logic I might not agree with.


Happy birding



From: Canberrabirds <> On Behalf Of shorty via Canberrabirds
Sent: Friday, February 9, 2024 4:52 PM
To: Geoffrey Dabb <>
Cc: Canberrabirds <>
Subject: Re: [Canberrabirds] FW: Bird name madness


Ok, I will chime in even though this will never end in harmony.


Both Clements and IOC now refer to Black-backed Bittern ( eBird will update in their Yearly updates I would think ).


Both Clements and IOC refer to Pink Cockatoo.


Both Clements and IOC refer to Australian Crake ( Removing the (Spotted) )


Names will always be changing, we can either accept it or let it get us down.




On Thu, Feb 8, 2024 at 5:56PM Geoffrey Dabb via Canberrabirds <> wrote:

Oh dear, Martin.  I’m afraid that opens up some other issues.  First, are your preferences set to ‘English (Australia)’?  As we once discussed, a former birding colleague of ours here used to help by aligning ebird ‘English (Australia)’ with WLAB (Birdlife list), but without total commitment.


Just quickly, and I hope not too inaccurately, below graphic shows varying language treatment of Australian Little Bittern.  Furthermore,  ‘Eastern Koel’ and ‘Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo’ are not recognised in ebird English (Australia) unless I’ve missed something.



From: Martin Butterfield <>
Sent: Thursday, February 8, 2024 4:43 PM
To: Geoffrey Dabb <>
Cc: Canberrabirds <>
Subject: Re: [Canberrabirds] Bird name madness


The pious hope in your last sentence is almost an irresistible challenge.  May I suggest, should someone be less able than me to control their impulses, that as with other fields of natural sciences, the answer to that question is "it depends".  Mainly it depends on which eminent person in the field of study you are talking to.  


It is all a great pity, especially as in my most recent foray into looking at my concordance between eBird Australia and Bird Life Australia the names appeared to be moving more into alignment. 




On Thu, 8 Feb 2024 at 14:48, Geoffrey Dabb via Canberrabirds <> wrote:

Warning:  bird name issue


I must comment on a bird name point illustrated  by this issue of Gang-gang.  There is a report about the ‘Australian Little (Black-backed) Bittern’.  I sympathise with writers and editors who find this kind of thing necessary. We are entering a new age of English name duplication where different policies and preferences collide.


From an Australian viewpoint, the new species is the Australian representative of a species group known as ‘Little Bitterns’, with our subspecies being split relatively recently.  So it is, to us, the Australian Little Bittern.  However from a global perspective the name ‘Little Bittern’ belongs to a species that occurs in Europe, Asia and Africa, and the global namers do not want to add an adjective, which would be needed if there were more than one ‘Little Bittern’. Hence IOC invents ‘Black-backed Bittern’ for the Australian species, and inflicts it on Australian users of that list.


The same thing has happened with ‘Gull-billed Tern’.  To us, the new species is ‘Australian Gull-billed Tern’,  but the IOC retains ‘Gull-billed Tern’ for the widespread species and has invented ‘Australian Gull’ for our species.  To add to the confusion, both species are recorded in Australia, as Gull-billed Tern and Australian Gull (the familar Gull-billed Tern).


It is too much to hope that any single bird group is going to reach agreement on a single set of names, let alone  a joint approach with other groups.  We are going to see a lot more of ‘One name (second name) (maybe third name)’  so get used to it. I hope no-one will ask which is the right name.


From: Canberrabirds <> On Behalf Of
Sent: Tuesday, February 6, 2024 1:02 PM
To: CanberraBirds email list <>
Subject: [Canberrabirds] Fwd: February Gang-gang newsletter now available



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