Bird names

Chris J. Durden drdn at
Tue Jun 8 11:44:05 EDT 1999

At 06:24  8/06/99 -0400, you wrote:
>Bird names are in the same or worse disarray. 
>Every systematic whim (or even systematic sense) gets reflected in the 
>latest bird book.  I would guess that probably half of the bird books 
>published in the last 10-15 years adopted the Sibley classification 
>which shuffled orders and families of birds with abandon. 
>Half of the remaining adhere to the "Wetmore" sequence of families 
>(Sparrows last) and half have adopted the "Crows" last sequence---on the 
>notion that since crows are so smart they represent the highest form of 
>bird life.  I'll match our parrot against any crow, but no one thinks of 
>a Parrot-last sequence. 
>Common names remain fairly stable until some group comes along and tries 
>to standardize them.  Then an old generation of birders struggles to 
>learn Yellow-rumped Warbler and Green-backed Heron, while their younger 
>field companions have to guess what is meant by an occasional lapse into 
>Myrtle Warbler or Green Heron.  During the 1970's there was a profound 
>move to lump at the species level based on evidence of interbreeding (or 
>introgression), while the biodiversity movement of the 1990's has 
>emphasized splitting again. 
>Now the latest nonsense is the generic renaming of familiar birds such 
>as Chickadees which are now no longer Parus. 
>It's a good thing there aren't as many butterfly systematists. 
>I think that the lesson (which I learned from the book SWISS FAMILY 
>ROBINSON) is that names are supposed to be convenient contrivances for 
>communication.  There is NO reason that names have to reflect every 
>taxonomic change----there are numbers and diagrams which can do that 
>much better than names.  
>Mike Gochfeld
  Well put!
........Chris Durden

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