Subject: Blackface
From: "Peter Ewin" <>
Date: Thu, 30 Jun 2005 14:36:12 +1000
I didn't think they went far enough. I find names like Heathwren and
Fieldwren boring and of no use. The problem with common names is that many
things are named after species of similar appearance from Europe that have
no relationship with taxonomically to the bird in Australia. So things like
Robins, Warblers and Wrens have no reason apart from convenience to be
called this.
I love the fact that many of the Myzomela honeyeaters outside Australia are
called Myzomela (so it would be Scarlet and Red-headed Myzomela). It makes
them sound far more exotic.
Any way my biggest gripe is the inconsistent use of capitals: Pygmy-goose v
Whistling-Duck, Rock-Thrush v Quail-thrush. I know this has been raised
before and there is some dodgy reason for it, but I hate it.

From: Susan Knowles <>
Subject: Re: [BIRDING-AUS] Blackface
Date: Thu, 30 Jun 2005 13:22:53 +1000

Some years ago the RAOU (as it then was) addressed the issue of common
names and I wish they had done it more vigorously.  My personal dislike is
gerygone.  I defy anyone seeing the name for the first time to have any
idea of it's pronunciation.  Names like this seem designed to keep birding
as almost a private club.

Susan Knowles

    Many members of Birding-Aus also read Wingspan, and would have seen
my article in the latest issue proposing that birders adopt abbreviated
common name for birds. Most Australians are disconnected from nature, and
I strongly suspect that ponderous common names are part of the problem.
?Black-faced cuckoo-shrike? is an example of a long, dull and ultimately
meaningless name for a wonderful bird that everyone sees but most people
don?t know, partly because its name is so complicated and
technical-sounding. Every Australian does know kookaburras, emus and
magpies, and they also could know the black-faced cuckoo-shrike if only it
had a one-word name rather a tongue-twisting turnoff. Attempts to change
common names always create controversy, so I am not proposing any formal
change. What I am suggesting instead is that names of common birds be
abbreviated in everyday use. ?Blackface? is ideal shorthand for this bird
(it goes well with ?silvereye?), and this name could be used in everyday
conversation, for example when talking to neighbours and children and
people in the local park. Birding immediately sounds more exciting and
accessible if we are heard talking about rainbows, emeralds and
yellowfaces. Birders already talk like this among themselves, mentioning
red-rumps and gang gangs, for example. I am suggesting that the full names
still be used in books and reports, but that abbreviated names be used in
less formal situations. What do birders think of this suggestion?

Tim Low

Susan Knowles

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