THE HELM DICTIONARY OF SCIENTIFIC BIRD NAMES
by James A. Jobling
Pages: 433 pages
Publisher: A&C Black Publishers Ltd
Edition: 1st edition (2010)
This new Dictionary owes much to R. D. Macleod’s Key to the Names of British Birds (1954) and to my well-received A Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names (1991). After the latter was published I began work on an encyclopaedia of English and scientific bird names (in effect, an annotated sequence and etymology of the birds of the world). From that labour of love, encouraged by family and friends, the current Dictionary has been developed as a new and comprehensive work of reference. Thanks to the generous input of correspondents worldwide, I have been able to enlarge on many of the scientific entries and correct any errors contained in my first book. New genera and species described or separated between June 1990 and October 2009 are included, together with those specific and subspecific names indexed in Paynter (1987) and
Latin had been the language of scientific publications and correspondence for hundreds of years. Birds were named in lengthy diagnoses, often including foreign names, to ensure that the reader knew what species was being dealt with. Ray (1678), in describing the Common Pochard, wrote, “Poker, or Pochard, or Great Red-headed Wigeon: Anas fera fusca of Gesner and Aldrovandus; Penelops veterum & Rothalss of Gesner and Aldrovandus; Cane a la teste rouge of Belon.” Linnaeus’s aims were to describe relationships and systematise the natural world, by providing simple two-part names for each species, using words taken directly from classical Latin or transliterated from Greek or other, mainly European, languages. For the Common Pochard he coined Anas ferina.
The importance of a system which identifies a species in any tongue is apparent when one considers the various species worldwide sharing the substantive names robin, blackbird, warbler, sparrow and finch, the confusing variety and limitations of vernacular names, and the debates of English-speakers over the preferred names of even common birds.When the BOURC (1988) suggested replacing Dunnock and Bearded Tit with Hedge Accentor and Bearded Parrotbill there was uproar, and in more than fifty years of birdwatching I have yet to hear a British birdwatcher call Gavia arctica the Arctic Loon. Although Gill & Wright (2006) are to be congratulated on taking the first tentative steps in the right direction, in this book I have tried to follow Dickinson (2003) where English names are given in the text. The object of this Dictionary is to explain the meaning of the zoological esperanto created by Linnaeus and his successors, in so far as it applies to the genera and species of birds of the world.