birding-aus common name conventions

To: "'birding-aus'" <>
Subject: birding-aus common name conventions
From: "Andrew, Paul" <>
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 1999 09:40:29 +1000
Capitalisation in bird common names follows a convention established by
British and American Ornithologists' Unions. It is not just a question
of to capitalise or not to capitalise - also when and where to
Thus the usual examples of Brown Cuckoo-Dove and Grey Shrike-thrush
wherein -Dove is uppercase because a Macropygia is a 'Dove' and -thrush
is lower case because Colluricincla is not a 'shrike'. 
There are two problems with this convention, firstly use of a capital
following a hyphen irritates those who elsewhere like to follow rules of
grammar, and secondly we get Australian Owlet-nightjar (Christidis &
Boles) and Australian Owlet-Nightjar (Sibley & Monroe) presumably
turning on whether an Aegotheles is a 'nightjar'.

BirdLife International has taken the sensible course of never
capitalising the second part of the group name and this policy is
adopted in much of the conservation literature of IUCN etc.

There are no rules for other vertebrate taxa though the Australian
Museum has taken the brave step of capitalising in mammals and
herpetofauna in recent books. It is way past time that government style
manuals caught up.


Paul Andrew
Taronga Zoo
PO Box 20
NSW 2088

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