Looks as if this little bone of contention has been around for a good while.
American author Scott Weidensaul, in the preface of his book, Living On The
Wind - Across the hemisphere with migratory birds, includes the following
footnote. The comments in brackets are Weidensaul's, not mine:
*A note about bird names. While it isn't one of the crucial issues of the day,
there is a testy little debate in ornithological circles about whether or not
to capitalize the complete, proper names of birds, like Wood Thrush or Lesser
Gold Finch (but not the more general thrush or goldfinch, when the specific
name does not appear). Generally, those writing for scientific works tend to
capitalize, arguing that it reduces confusion (which it does), while those
pursuing a more literary style of writing do not, considering the practice
pretentious and visually awkward (which it is). Bird names are not capitalized
in this book, but they are in many of the writings from which I quote, which
can make for some pretty bumpy reading; likewise, the word "neotropical",
referring to the New World tropics and the birds that inhabit them, is subject
to similar ups and downs, depending on who is being quoted.
I once asked an editor at The Canberra Times why she'd removed the
capitalisations from the bird names and deleted the scientific names that I'd
included in a little story of mine she'd published, and her reply virtually
mirrored Weidensaul's comments.
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