Winds of Change

To: Geoffrey Dabb <>
Subject: Winds of Change
From: Laurie Knight <>
Date: Sat, 4 Nov 2023 18:47:29 +1000
The joys of revisionism.  It’s one way for taxonomists to make their mark 
without defining a new species.

I guess it will be a straightforward process for species that only occur in one 
country.  I am not sure who would arbitrate over species that breed in numerous 
countries or are international migrants. (There are heaps of shorebirds and 
seabirds potentially affected).

I think they should rename Victoria’s Riflebird at the same time as Albert’s 
Lyrebird (Victoria became a shadow of herself when Albert died).

I wonder if the powers that be will want to change the name from Royal to 
Federal Spoonbill when Australia eventually becomes a republic  :)

Regards, Laurie

> On 4 Nov 2023, at 9:01 am, Geoffrey Dabb <> wrote:
> … are blowing through our bird names.  For more than 10 years the possibility 
> of changing English-language bird names referring to a person (‘personal’ or 
> ‘eponymous’ names) has been on the table.  There are no longer any ‘correct’ 
> or standard names, so the names used are a matter for the user  - whether an  
> organisation or government agency or field guide   -  or just someone talking 
> or writing about birds.  Birdlife Australia, as one name-using  organisation, 
> has taken an in-principle decision to move away from personal names.  How 
> this is to be done  will be explained in due course by Birdlife Australia. As 
> it happens, a similar decision has just been taken for North America by the 
> American Ornithological Society (AOS).  That’s OK.  Each generation can 
> decide on its own bird names.
> Here are a few more points. The initiative does not affect the many 
> scientific names that refer to a person.  For the time being at least, names 
> referring to a place that bears a personal name will not be affected (e.g. 
> Lord Howe Woodhen, Tasmanian Native-hen).  Both the organisations mentioned 
> see their projects as directed to species that occur mainly in the respective 
> geographic areas they cover.   So in the case of Australia Baillon’s Crake 
> might not be due for attention. That raises the question how the many oceanic 
> seabirds with personal names will be dealt with. Perhaps that will be a 
> matter for global lists as they adopt their own policies in reaction to this 
> development.
> Both organisations intend to take a consultative approach and look for 
> appropriate descriptive names.  Experience of that task suggests that this 
> will not be all that simple, particularly if features descriptive of the male 
> only are to be avoided.   Albert’s Lyrebird will be an early candidate for 
> the chopping block.  Not only does Prince Albert not deserve to have a bird 
> named for him but the ‘lyre’ refers to the male only, of a different species.
> Geoffrey
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