Common or standard names of birds
evolved over time. Many had linkages to local usage and differed from
place to place. New species discovery, splits of existing species,
changes in taxonomy of existing species and many other reasons
contributed to the emergence of new standard English bird names year
after year. There has always been merit in helping everyone
interested in birds to speak the same language as far and efforts have indeed been made with almost predictable
regularity every decade or so to do just that. We in India are
particularly blessed in this as we started life with Oates and Blanford's names in 1890 , streamlined it with Ripley's work in 1961,
almost ignored Sibley and Munro's 1990 recommendations but generally
Lindsey & Duckworth's 1996 adaptation of Sibley and
Munro's work as contained in "An
Annotated Checklist of the Birds of the Oriental Region".
many changes have taken place in standard bird names here in India
and the world over.
The International Ornithological
a group of about 200 international
ornithologists, organize the International
Ornithological Congress (IOC). The IOC
Gill and Minturn Wright (Co-chairs, IOC
Standing Committee on English Names) to "to
facilitate communication in ornithology and conservation through the
use of a standard set of English names of the world bird species"
(see Reference 2 below) in 1991. This project was completed
in 2007 and has since been updated, last in June 2008. The June 2008 update is
particularly important for India as it includes
splits proposed by
Rasmussen and Anderton in
'Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide'.
The net result of this renaming process affects about a staggering
250 species (if one includes new splits) compared with the Annotated
Checklist . So Indian birdwatchers will have to relearn or learn
afresh over 20% of the English common bird names if they want to
communicate effectively with others who use the same language. That
these changes were made "based
on interregional agreement and global consensus"
goes to show how keenly we defended the position and the existing names.
In case you are
frustrated with these attempts to force us to align with the way of thinking
of others and feel that this is just another attempt
to sell new books or whatever else, please read my personal comments
In case, however,
you are of the true tribe of birdwatchers who have no time for such
diatribes and would like to get on with the next twitch please
this link to get straight into the changes.
Standard Bird Names
- do we need them?
for birds occurring in India
Sumit K Sen
References and Sources:
1. Gill, F. & M.Wright. (2006). Birds of the
World: Recommended English Names. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press
2. Gill, F., Wright, M. & Donsker, D. (2008). IOC World Bird Names
(version 1.6). Available at
3. Grimmett, Richard; Inskipp, Carol & Inskipp, Tim (1998):
Birds of the Indian Subcontinent. Christopher Helm, London.
4. Inskipp, Tim; Lindsey, Nigel & Duckworth, William (1996): An Annotated
Checklist of the Birds of the Oriental Region. Oriental Bird Club, U.K.
5. Rasmussen, P. C. & Anderton J.C. (2005) Birds of
South Asia: The Ripley Guide, Smithsonian Institution
1. 10,000 Birds:
Good, Bad, and Ugly of the IOC Recommended
2. Marine Ornithology:
Birds of the world: Recommended English names
3. Aimophila Adventures:
Gill & Wright, Birds of the world: Recommended