Taxonomy & Bird Names

Whose Bird?

I am something of a fanatic when it comes to bird names, particularly eponyms, and the history behind both the naming and taxonomic order. In one sense taxonomy os just a construct to help us understand the relationships between orders, families and species.

This section includes both the science of naming (taxonomy) and sites helping with common names or translation of names into other languages. There are several explanations of taxonomy both in terms of how birds are named and the phylogenetic tree of families and species etc. Names old and new, common and scientific, as well as some hints at the attempt to unify English common names across the world.

Birders should try their best to familiarise themselves with the scientific (not Latin as scientific names are often mixtures of Latin and Greek and even other languages entirely) names of familiar birds because it enables us to talk across the nations. The word Paradae means something on both sides of the channel and Atlantic but not all of us know what a black-capped chickadee or a blue tit is. You don’t even have to set out to learn the names just look at them every time you check your list or consult the field-guide and you will surprise yourself at how many scientific names you already know.

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Useful Reading
  • 100 Birds and How They Got their Names

    | by Diana Wells | Alongquin Bppks | 2003 | Hardback | 297 pages, b/w illustrations | ISBN: 9781565122819 Buy this book from
  • A Thesaurus Of Bird Names

    | (Etymology of European - Lexis Through Paradigms) | by Michel Desfayes | Michel Desfayes | 1998 | Hardback | 2510 pages, includes CD-ROM | ISBN: 9782884260213 Buy this book from
  • An Asylum of Loons

    | (Charming Names from the Bird World) | By Adventure Publications | Adventure Publications | 2019 | Hardback | 80 pages, colour photos | ISBN: 9781591939047 Buy this book from
  • Audubon to Xantus

    | (The Lives of Those Commemorated in North American Bird Names) | By B Mearns & R Mearns | A&C Black | 1992 | Paperback | 588 pages, B/w photos, line drawings, maps | ISBN: 9780124874237 Buy this book from
  • Australian Bird Names

    | (Origins and Meanings) | Ian Fraser & Jeannie Gray | CSIRO | 2019 | Edition 2 | Paperback | 368 pages, b/w illustrations | ISBN: 9781486311637 Buy this book from
  • Avian Molecular Evolution and Systematics

    | Edited by David P Mindell | Academic Press | 1997 | Hardback | 382 pages, B/w illustrations | ISBN: 9780124983151 Buy this book from
  • Birds: What's in a Name?

    | (From Accipiter to Zoothera – The Origin of Bird Names) | By Peter Barry | New Holland | 2017 | Hardback | 208 pages, 100 colour photos, 30 colour illustrations | ISBN: 9781925546040 Buy this book from
  • Distribution and Taxonomy of Birds of the World

    | CG Sibley & BL Monroe | Yale University Press | 1991 | Hardback | 1136 pages, 24 maps | ISBN: 9780300049695 Buy this book from
  • Elsevier's Dictionary of Bird Names

    |(in Latin, English, French, German, Italian) | by M Wrobel | Elsevier | 2002 | Hardback | 1436 pages | ISBN: 9780444508362 Buy this book from
  • Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names

    | by James A Jobling | Christopher Helm | 2009 | Hardback | 432 pages, no illustrations | ISBN: 9781408125014 Buy this book from
  • Lapwings, Loons & Lousy Jacks

    | (The How and Why of Bird Names) | by Ray Reedman | Pelagic Publishing | 2016 | Hardback | 292 pages, b/w photos | ISBN: 9781784270926 Buy this book from
  • Latin for Bird Lovers

    | (Over 3,000 Bird Names Explored and Explained) | By Roger J Lederer & Carol Burr | Timber Press | 2014 | Hardback | 224 pages, colour & b/w illustrations | ISBN: 9781604695465 Buy this book from
  • Mrs Moreau's Warbler

    | (How Birds Got Their Names) | By Stephen Moss | Faber & Faber | 2019 | Paperback | 357 pages, b/w illustrations | ISBN: 9781783350919 Buy this book from
  • Pickcheese, Billy Wise and Cobble

    | (The Illustrated Folk Names of Birds) | By Steve Palin | Taghan Press | 2002 | Paperback | 56 pages, Colour illustrations | ISBN: 9781871482201 Buy this book from
  • The Bird Man

    | (A Biography of John Gould) | by Isabella Tree | Ebury Press | 2004 | Hardback | 246 Pages Colour and Black & White Illustrations | ISBN: 9780091895792 Buy this book from
  • The Clements Checklist of the Birds of the World

    | by [the late] James F Clements | Christopher Helm | 2007 | 6th Edition | Hardback | 843 pages, no illustrations | ISBN: 9780713686951 Buy this book from
  • The Eponym Dictionary of Birds

    | by Bo Beolens, Michael Watkins & Michael Grayson | Bloomsbury | 2014 | Hardback | 624 pages, no illustrations | ISBN: 9781472905734 Buy this book from
  • The Howard & Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World

    | (Volume 1 Non-passerines) | edited by EC Dickinson & JV Remsen Jr | Aves Press | 2013 | Edition 4 | Hardback | 461 pages, with CD-ROM | ISBN: 9780956861108 Buy this book from
  • The Origin of English Names of European Birds and Mammals

    | (Including the Human Species) | By Michel Desfayes | Michel Desfayes | 2008 | Paperback | 127 pages, no illustrations | ISBN: 9782884260572 Buy this book from
  • The Oxford Dictionary of British Bird Names

    | By WB Lockwood | OUP | 1993 | Paperback | ISBN: 9780198661962 Buy this book from
  • The Richmond Index to the Genera and Species of Birds

    | By CW Richmond | Thompson Henry | 1992 | Paperback | 72,000 cards on 92 microfiche | ISBN: 9780816117956 Buy this book from
  • Whose Bird?

    | (Men and Women Commemorated in the Common Names of Birds | by Bo Beolens & Michael Watkins | Christopher Helm | 2003 | Paperback | 400 pages, b/w photos | ISBN: 9780713666472 Buy this book from
  • World Bird Species Checklist

    | (With Alternative English and Scientific Names) | by M G Wells | Worldlist | 1988 | Hardback | 672 pages, no illustrations | ISBN: 9780953242009 Buy this book from
Other Links
  • Allopatric Speciation

    This figure illustrates the sequence of events which may ultimately result in allopatric speciation. Once a physical barrier to migration allows the two descendent groups of the original population to exhibit independent adaptation to local climatic conditions, accumulated differences may ultimately result in reproductive isolation. If such isolation results, even after the barrier is later removed, the populations will not be able to interbreed. This page was last updated on January 10, 1999. Send comments or questions to Gary Anderson
  • Babel Bird (Bird Name Translator)

    A new internet-program for bird name translation. The program runs on our website since much of the interesting information on birding websites consists mainly of bird names and locations, the program makes birding websites understandable by one mouse click. Bird names are selectively translated into a wanted language and then added to the original bird names or replacing them. It is even possible to surf the web with our program as the start page. Just enter the address of the website you would like to visit, choose the options and go on. All the websites you visit by a link from an already translated website will be translated as well! The design of the sites does not change. Another option of the program is to translate your own texts, you can for example add scientific names to your bird lists or translate them into English before publishing them in EBN, national mailing lists, your own website or elsewhere. Further information on the program can be found in the helpfile: for those who would only like to translate single bird names, we developed babelbirdy at: this program works also with parts of bird names. We would like to improve the programs so every comment is appreciated.
  • Birdwatcher's Dictionary

    Run from an alphabetical list this is a useful on-line reference work.
  • Irish - English - Latin

  • Linnean Society

    As we enter the 21st century the Linnean Society of London remains a leading forum for contemporary discussions on genetics, natural history, systematics, biology and the history of plant and animal taxonomy. As the world`s oldest extant biological society, we are also proud of our heritage.
  • Recent Proposed Splits

    Check out which bird species have been split or lumped
  • Taxon Advisory Group

    The mission of an AZA Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) is to examine the conservation needs of an entire taxa, and to develop recommendations for population management and conservation based upon the needs of the species and AZA-accredited Zoos and Aquariums, Certified Related Facilities, and Sustainability Partners.
  • World Bird Names

    The site supplements the book "BIRDS OF THE WORLD - Recommended English Names" By Frank Gill and Minturn Wright
  • Zoonomen Nomenclature

    Another world species list but very comprehensive and usefully laid out. A tribute

Fatbirder - linking birders worldwide... Wildlife Travellers see our sister site: WAND

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