Publishing conventions re bird-names.

To: "'Dr Richard Nowotny'" <>, <>
Subject: Publishing conventions re bird-names.
From: "David Parker" <>
Date: Mon, 31 Dec 2007 17:45:34 +1100
Richard and others,

I have recently finished reading the same book, but for Christmas was
also given a copy of Kenn Kaufman's 'big year' book title Kingbird
Highway: the biggest year in the life of an extreme birder. Again, this
book is an excellent read, and an amazing story of his travels, a
majority of which were done by 'thumbing' a ride. Kenn uses capital
letters for bird names in his book and also gives an excellent
explanation why he chose to do so. My only trouble is, having read the
book I have already leant it to another so can't give you his reasons.

Once I have the book I will let you know what it says, unless in the
meantime someone else puts it on.

David Parker
Griffith, NSW

-----Original Message-----
 On Behalf Of Dr Richard
Sent: Monday, 31 December 2007 3:11 PM
Subject: Publishing conventions re bird-names.

I'm currently reading Mark Obmascik's The Big Year [Free Press, 2004] (a
very enjoyable read, recommended to me by Jill Dening, which adds
considerably to one's understanding and enjoyment of the phenomenon of
big year [in this case in the US] - as recently recorded so
in this country by Sean Dooley). As I was reading of evening grosbeaks,
eagles, short-eared owls, black-and-white warblers, etc it reminded me
of an
old question to which I realized I still don't know the answer:  Why do
birders write 'Pied Butcherbird' (including in our field-guides and our
intra-disciplinary literature) while in main-stream books the convention
to write 'pied butcherbird' - without capitals? [And similarly for
honeyeater, red kangaroo, hump-backed whale, etc.]

>From first principles one might think the following should apply:


A butcherbird is a type of bird of which there are a number of distinct

A pied butcherbird (descriptive) is a butcherbird which has black and
colouring (which applies to a greater or lesser extent to 3 of our 4

A Pied Butcherbird is the distinct species Cracticus nigrogularis.


Writing 'I saw a pied butcherbird' seems to lack the same precision that
conveyed by 'I saw a Pied Butcherbird.'  This becomes even more obvious
potentially confusing) when one writes 'I saw a common tern.' Or 'I
heard a
singing honeyeater.'


Having hopefully established the issue to readers' satisfaction, my
to you all is:

Why is there a general publishing convention that common names of birds
other animals) are not capitalized (with its associated loss of
and how did it come to be?



Port Melbourne, Victoria



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