Birds of the World
Birds of the World – Recommended English Names by Frank Gill & Minturn Wright – Christopher Helm 2006 £19.99p ISBN 0713679042
This is, surprisingly, the first ever list of the English names of the 10,000 or so living bird species based on the principles and rules laid down by the International Ornithological Congress.
It is laid out in Family Order but oddly with the English names first and the scientific names in the second column… surely it ought to be the other way round so that one can look up the beast in the [more or less] universally accepted name and then looking at the, in some cases new, recommended name? Usefully it also ads the regions where the birds can be found.
Oddly the book has an index – but what that does is allow you to look up a family by common [i.e. Shearwater] or scientific [i.e. Procellariidae] name and then scroll down the list to see the scientific name and the newly standardised common name. Scroll was a slip of the mind but, uniquely this book comes with a CD to consult too in the same way – touch of brilliance this.
It happens that I am fascinated by bird names and their derivation so find this a great landmark but many will be resistant to the change and, after all, a great many people are not in favour of the common names settled upon by the IOC – me included. My feeling is that it will be a very long time before, for example, British Birders give up their favoured names and recognize these internationally recommended ones… perhaps another edition will be needed at some future date that takes into account the strength of feeling of many different birders all over the world.
However, in the meantime it will be an invaluable resource to us all. Having just returned from a long trip to southern Africa I can attest that there are very many differences in common names and that it is very confusing – when guidebooks and guides adopt these nomenclatures it should make it easier for us poor birders let alone the English-speaking ornithological community.
Created: 30th Nov 2006