Working for birds in Africa

African Bird Names Committee

Date posted: 
Wednesday, March 3, 2021

We would like to make you aware of a new initiative called the African Bird Names Committee

African Green Broadbill

Dear member of the African birding community

We would like to make you aware of a new, region-wide initiative called the African Bird Names Committee. As African birders we feel that we have lost control over the selection of English names of our birds. Influential world lists are recommending and promoting the use of a significant number of English names that we don’t use for our own birds. Due to their sway, world lists have been driving changes in the English names being used in field guides and bird books, away from the names we actually use for our birds (a key example being African Mourning Dove vs the world list name Mourning Collared Dove). It is primarily to reverse this situation and take back control of the naming of our own birds that we have formed this committee, which we invite anyone with a regular participation in the African birding community (either as someone living in Africa interested in birds or someone regularly visiting Africa) to join. Please email [email protected] if you are interested.

Another important aim of the committee is to enable cross-regional dialogue on English bird names, because we feel there are many misunderstandings about why certain names have been changed and that this is a result of, at least in part, a lack of communication among the African birding community as a whole. Different names for the same birds are used in different parts of the continent, and to draw up a unified list we feel it is important to talk about these differences. We recognise that there are cases where two names for widespread species are used very widely for those species, and in these cases we will encourage and promote the use of both names (such as Ring-necked Dove and Cape Turtle Dove, and Long-tailed Cormorant and Reed Cormorant). In cases where regional names are not the majority names we encourage those names to be listed in parentheses. We feel that this is the least confusing and most inclusive way to operate.

The most fundamental way that we differ from world lists and any other lists, is that we explicitly aim to recommend the use of the English names used by the majority of the African birding community. Thus, our aim is not to debate which names are better or to try to improve names, but to establish and promote a stable list of names in majority common use.

As a member of the African birding community, please join us to have your voice heard!

Kind regards

The African Bird Names Committee

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