Clements names

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: Clements names
From: Phil & Sue Gregory <>
Date: Sat, 5 Jan 2008 22:32:57 +1000
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 exists. 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!
Phil Gregory

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