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

The Project

The initial goal of the IOC World Bird List project was to compile a set of unique English-language names for the extant species of the birds of the world.

Launched initially in 1990 and restarted in 1994 after the loss of our colleague Burt L. Monroe Jr,  the project took 15 years to complete. All participants gave freely and generously of their valuable time and resources. This was a volunteer effort of the ornithological community on behalf of the International Ornithological Congress (IOC).

The first product – a list of  English names  in Birds of the World, Recommended English Names (Princeton University Press, 2006) – was based on a consensus of leading ornithologists worldwide and conformed to standard rules of construction, namely

  • based on explicit guidelines and spelling rules
  • selected to involve minimal use of hyphens for group names
  • anglicized without glottal stops, accents, and the like
  • based on interregional agreement and global consensus, with compromises
  • selected with deference to long-established names
  • aligned with current species taxonomy
  • available for general adoption
  • sponsored and endorsed by the IOC and by committee members

The project continues as a work in progress that compiles the taxonomy of world birds as well as their English names

Frank Gill, David Donsker &  Minturn Wright, April 2007, 2012

Co-chairs, IOC Standing Committee on English Names