Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Synonymy of North American Birds

I’m greatly impressed by Bob Patterson’s compilation of information on the History of North American Bird Names. After first reviewing his introduction, go to the index and scroll to a group of species of interest to see how bird names have changed over time. You will find, for example, that the bird now known to ornithologists as the Great Egret has been known by no fewer than five “official” English names and four scientific names:

English Names
American Egret (1886-1910)
Egret (1910-1931)
American Egret (1931-1957)
Common Egret (1957-1998)
Great Egret (1998-present)

Scientific Names
Ardea egretta (1886-1910)
Herodias egretta (1910-1931)
Casmerodius albus (1931-1998)
Egretta alba (1998-present)

Patterson’s source was the Check-list of North American birds published by the American Ornithologists’ Union in 1886, 1895, 1910, 1931, 1957, 1983, and 1998. My only complaints are that he (1) arranged the species in 1886 Check-list order and (2) did not include birds of the Hawaiian Islands, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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