Boobook v Hawk-Owl

To: Phil & Sue Gregory <>
Subject: Boobook v Hawk-Owl
From: David James <>
Date: Sat, 7 May 2011 04:05:33 -0700 (PDT)
Hi Phil,
I must agree emphatically. Indeed, the IOC broke at least three of its own 
guiding principles for English names when it adopted the confusing Rufous 
Boobook, the ironic Powerful Boobook, and the absurd Barking Boobook, namely:
4) Established names should prevail;
10) Species in the same genus may have different group names; 
And (given that these novel names have been adopted to replace the ONLY 
established names [insert very long list of references]):
1) Each species should have one name only
What is more, six species of the genus Ninox retain group name Hawk-Owl, 
including N. scutulata. This seems rather inconsistent. 
Given their is only one Surnia and one Uroglaux, I don't think the name 
Hawk-Owl causes very much confusion. Principle 10 indicates in the fine print 
that "The same group name may be applied to two or more unrelated groups (e.g., 
Warbler [Parulidae, Sylviidae] and Robin [Turdidae, Petroicidae, 
Erithacus])". In fact, it is a very common scenario and much too established to 
The primary goal of the IOC list is stated to be English name stability. No 
doubt the project will make good progress in many areas, and is to be widely 
applauded. However, the goal is not well served in this example.  Personally, I 
would not describe this example as "proactive".
David James

From: Phil & Sue Gregory <>
To: Birding Aus <>
Sent: Saturday, 7 May 2011 7:08 PM
Subject: Boobook v Hawk-Owl

Interesting thread about Boobooks and Lesser Sooty Owls; I have been pushing 
for the use of Boobook for the various small Ninox owls, instead of the widely 
used essentially American alternative Hawk-Owl, which invites confusion with 
both Hawk Owl (Surnia) and Papuan Hawk-Owl (Uroglaux).

Boobook is distinctive, commonly used the areas where the species occur and 
hopefully makes things less confusing, so there has been some movement and we 
have been seeing Brown Boobook appearing in lieu of Brown Hawk Owl for example. 
However what do you then do with the other larger Ninox- Powerful, Rufous and 
Barking owls? I'd say keep the prevailing usage and don't start calling them 
boobooks as well, but the IOC have been proactive and gone for all the Ninox as 
Boobooks, except of course for Morepork (which some lump with Southern Boobook 
despite the very distinct vocalizations).

This has resulted in confusion with the lurida taxon of Southern Boobook too, 
which Weick et al split- I don't have the book here with me at present so I 
can't recall what they call it  ( I do recall they unfortunately use Hawk-Owl 
though), but Rufous Owl = Rufous Boobook is certainly  very confusing and I'd 
argue for the status quo with Powerful, Rufous and Barking Owl- if it ain't 
broke don't fix it!
Phil Gregory

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