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

Spelling Rules

The construction and spelling of English names of birds have a significant history, including a seminal paper by Kenneth Parkes (1978, Auk 95:324-326), thoughtful treatments in the authoritative publications of the RAOU, AOU, and BOU as well as in many major field guides and handbooks. We strived to unify, clarify, codify, and extend these building blocks.  Briefly, the rules that we adopted are as follows  (click on >> for details):

  1. Official English names of birds are capitalized, as is the current practice in ornithology (e.g., Yellow-throated Warbler). >>
  2. Patronyms are used in the possessive case (e.g., Smith’s, Ross’s). >>
  3. Names on this list do not include diacritical marks. >>
  4. There are compromises between British and American spellings in this list. >>
  5. Those who adopt the list should spell and add pronunciation marks as preferred. >>
  6. Geographical words in a name may be in noun or adjective form but must be consistent for that location (e.g., Canada , not Canadian). >>
  7. Compound words conform to a series of rules that consistently address relationships between the two words and readability. >>
  8. Use of hyphens in compound group names to indicate relationships among species is minimized, contrary to Parkes (1978). >>
  9. Hyphens are used in compound names only to connect two names that are birds or bird families (e.g., Eagle-Owl, Flycatcher-shrike) or when the name would be otherwise difficult to read (e.g., Silky-flycatcher, White-eye). >>