Whats in an indigenous bird name - a job for the ESIG?

To: Alan Gillanders <>
Subject: Whats in an indigenous bird name - a job for the ESIG?
From: Robert Gosford <>
Date: Fri, 27 Jul 2007 09:50:49 +0930
Dear all,

I've watched this very interesting debate from the sidelines so far and will now contribute my two cents worth. I think much of it relates to the colonial legacy so apparent in much of Australian ornithology and inherited by contemporary birders (in the broadest sense of that word).

I think that, for whatever reasons, many people have shied away from addressing this issue because of (a) the regional variation in (English) common names, and I note there have been some very valuable discussions here in the past, and (b) the adoption of indigenous names for birds. As the recent discussion shows, similar sort of concerns as with English common names persist - this is hardly surprising as at the time of invasion there were more than 250 languages/dialects across Australia, many of which are still in use today - so there is substantial regional variation.

Unfortunately I don't think that this issue has been helped by the disappointing treatment given to Australian and New Zealand indigenous names in the various indices of HANZAB and the subsequent publication by BA, which collected those names in "Some indigenous names of Australian birds" by John Peter - though I think the introduction provides a useful starting point for a discussion of indigenous involvement in Australian ornithology.

This naming issue, like many issues to do with indigenous ornithology in Australia, has been poorly dealt with and, unlike Tony, I encourage further debate.

There may be much to learn from the approaches taken to place names in Australia - particularly here in the NT. In that regard I note the protocols and policies at the NT Place Names Committee:, particularly the following:

"Aboriginal Names
The use of Aboriginal names is encouraged and the collection and compilation of recorded Aboriginal place names is supported. Known recorded Aboriginal place names should be made clear where possible with a historical background, identifying origins etc, more particularly in their areas of current occupation and traditional association. Aboriginal place names from one area should not be applied or transposed to another. Where the name of a single feature has been published in both Aboriginal and English forms and both forms are in general use, the Board may retain both forms, either of which may be used official.

Dual Names - Aboriginal/Non Aboriginal
A dual naming system or use of alternate/alternative names may be used for the naming of a physical feature where no official or recorded name exists and where a name change is not possible or acceptable. Where a dual name is contemplated, research into the English name and the known Aboriginal name for the feature must determine which name should be dominant or have priority for "official use" as compared to the secondary or alternate name (eg. Uluru/Ayers Rock ). In any combination of languages, the standard orthography will be adopted in the use of names from the two cultures and should provide English generic terms in replacement for Aboriginal generic term where necessary or possible orthographic adaptations of the name."

Of course these protocols, which are for fixed things like hills and rivers etc rather than highly mobile birds, don't provide all the answers - but the might provoke some more considered thought and approaches to the issue of bird nomenclature than we have seen to date.

I've been busy with travel, presentations and planning and will get back to addressing some outstanding issues with the new Ethnoornithology Special Interest Group (the ESIG) that BA have decided to host and support and this is one issue that would seem to me to be appropriate for the ESIG's consideration.

Best and I hope this has moved this valuable discussion along ...

Bob Gosford
Yuendumu, NT

Alan Gillanders wrote:
"However the Kunwinjku names would not be appropriate down here in Bundjalung country so we need an official common name that is broadly applicable."

Why not? We use names from all over the place in Bandjalung country.


To unsubscribe from this mailing list, send the message:
unsubscribe (in the body of the message, with no Subject line)


To unsubscribe from this mailing list, send the message: unsubscribe (in the body of the message, with no Subject line)

<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 birding-aus 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 archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU