"Wisdom begins with putting the right name on a thing"
(Old Chinese Proverb)

English Names

The English names of birds differ for the same species on different continents and vary annoyingly from list to list. On a world wide basis, different species may have the same name.

Nearly twenty years ago, the leadership of the IOC saw the need for better standardized vernacular names. First came French names (Devillers and Ouellet 1993), then Spanish names (Bernis 1995). English names were especially challenging. They took more than fifteen years to compile.

We believe that an improved system of broadly used English names will lead to success in ornithology and the conservation of birds worldwide. Names based on logical rules and consensus should aid clear and crisp communication among global stakeholders. The stakeholders include government officials, publishers, and philanthropists, many of whom are not comfortable with or literate in scientific names. Global birders also desire improved consistency and greater simplicity of English names. So do conservation biologists and the editors of the books on birds. All such stakeholders need to communicate clearly without using hyphens in four different ways and without trying to reconcile the treatment of different names in authoritative works. Thus on behalf of the IOC we encourage the use of these recommended, consensus-based names. We truly believe that the list of names recommended here has important strengths, and, if used widely, will promote consistency, authority and better conservation.




Frank Gill, Minturn Wright & David Donsker