vernacular names

Kevin Winker ffksw at UAF.EDU
Fri Mar 4 15:54:30 CST 2005

Interesting thread. English names for birds have been standardized by
widespread agreement across North America (the AOU "Check-list"
Committee is the recognized authority or keeper of the flame). There is
only one Three-toed Woodpecker just as there is only one Fairbanks,
Alaska, one International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, and one Mick
Jagger (thank goodness in each case?). We treat them as proper nouns,
and to my knowledge such standardization has not occurred yet in other
taxa. I agree that they are often exasperating, and that they cannot be
interpreted to provide taxonomic information in many cases. But they are
here to stay once the specific diversity of a group has been mostly
worked out and there is enough of an impetus from the nonscientists to
standardize on a name that has little or no Latin in it. Journal editos
often do not understand this, and too often proper noun bird names are
given in lower case, leading to possibly different interpretations. Many
warblers are yellow, so a "yellow warbler" can be a very different
species than a "Yellow Warbler."

Kevin Winker
University of Alaska Museum
907 Yukon Drive
Fairbanks, Alaska 99775
ffksw at

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