Bird names and conservation

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  • #3529

    Just sent this to Oriental Bird Club email group:

    Seeing comments re bird names, following mention of the East Asia field guide:

    I even find it sad that get such strong attempts to standardise English names for birds; think these can swing too far, away from richness that some variety in names can lend language.

    I believe there’s a powerful case for standardising Latin names; having these do worthy, chiefly scientific jobs.

    But there should also be scope for having other names that are "common" names – including names accessible to common people, not just some elitist folk who are happy to learn jargon that includes "light vented" this, "buff-rumped" that, ad infinitum (it can seem; try skimming some lists of babblers, bulbuls, say).

    I don’t think this is just an academic point, or just confined to birders’ world ("You say jaeger, I say skua")

    But achingly dull bird names surely some impediment to conservation, to trying to rally support for habitats where poorly known (and poorly named!) species are clinging on.

    Kinabalu Friendly-warbler among classic bird names for small brown jobs, putting it on my "want" list for name reason alone; yet also been given Kinabalu Scrub-warbler, Friendly Scrub-warbler, which more correct, yet more along road to dullsville.

    Just the kind of name I feel can appeal to people who aren’t zealous birders, so perhaps helping pr efforts to rally support for conservation.

    I once told an American lady that we were watching some Goosander: "Goosander – that’s a nice name," she remarked. Something I remembered, as American name for the species is "Common Merganser" – not bad, but doesn’t roll off the tongue so readily.

    Jesper mentioned issues w Chinese bird names: some have characters that most people don’t know. Again, seem to be names for the "in crowd" – might be good if want to feel birding is elitist pastime, but liable to make it harder to reach out to people re importance of protecting biodiversity, which at present is surely the overriding issue.

    Again: balance is key. But for common names, I’d say if there’s choice between deadlydull one, and interesting – even more poetic – name, the latter should be favoured. Latin is there to do the serious stuff; though yes, even w Latin there have been efforts to pick names people might enjoy.

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