I was interested to follow that thread about the Broad-billed
Sandpiper=Curlew Sand, and to note with dismay that the French
photographer uses the Clements checklist renamings on his website.
This all stems from the push to standardise vernacular names, which
was led by Burt Monroe and sadly adopted by Clements in his
checklists. Thus we basically have American renamings of a host of
Australasian and Africa birds, without much (if any) consultation,
and ignoring the well established local names of the birds in the
places where they actually live.
It's a kind of unwitting cultural imperialism, and causes endless
grief when we deal with American clients, as they all use these names
and assume that we do. If only the authors had the common courtesy
to take a look at standard field guides for each country and find out
what names were actually in use! To be fair, which is not half so
much fun, many names were changed where the potential for confusion
I work a great deal with North Americans, so really we have to have
both names on the checklists, and each trip sees me repeatedly going
through the hoops using our names as opposed to the imposed ones!
So, I have to get used to Green Oriole for Yellow Oriole (and it's
one of the few cases where a change might be justified as there is
another species with this name and our bird is more green than
yellow!). One of the worst in the old Clements was Gray Whistler for
the taxon simplex in the NT, which is actually brown rather than grey
above, with the regular Grey Whistler split as Gray-headed Whistler.
The new edition sadly lumps them anyway. Other horrors include Dull
Flycatcher for Lesser Shining, Australian Kite for Black-s Kite (to
avoid a name clash with the similarly named bird in NG and Eurasia I
suppose), Jungle Hawk Owl for Papuan Boobook (a classic, thus
involving 3 separate genera in name confusion, with Hawk Owl Surnia
and Papuan Hawk Owl Uroglaux!).
Rock Wren in NZ is another classic, our NZ birdoes will be thrilled
to know it's now South Island Wren to avoid confusion with the Rock
Wren of the US; I guess NZ Rock Wren was felt to be too cumbersome.
I recommend a look at Frank Gill and Minturn Wright's Birds of the
World: Recommended English Names (Helm 2007) which had a small
invited committee of experts from each region to come up with the
suggested English names, under the auspices of the International
Ornithological Congress (IOC). Here at least they do invite
discussion and submission of suggested names, so it's not yet a fait
accompli like Clements and Sibley and Monroe. We ought to be putting
in our suggestions before these things get officially adopted!
Any want to guess what is an Antenna Satinbird from PNG?
Chris Eastwood, let's hear from you on the vexatious subject of
English vernacular names!
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