Key to Scientific Names in Ornithology

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KEY entries, showing all names in alphabetical order, conform to a general plan.  In the interests of uniformity and clarity, and despite the convention on scientific names, note that neither generic nor specific headers are given in italics, the type-face (font) properly used elsewhere in the texts and generally in the literature.  

Classification, nomenclature, and substantive names follow the HBW and BLI Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo & N. J. Collar), vols. (Non-passerines) (2014) - 2 (Passerines) (2016).  More recent taxa and the generic and specific synonyms not indexed there have been gleaned from numerous sources.  

Specific headers (in lowercase letters) are followed by the etymology of the name and, many being self-evident (e.g. albirostris, erythropus), require little further explanation (● being used to show early names based on non-Linnaean authors, variant etymologies, misspellings (► = see), taxonyms, formerly scorned tautonyms, and other items of interest).  Note that the gender terminations -us, -a, and -um may be separated alphabetically by other entries.  The opening texts "Etymology undiscovered", "Perhaps" and "Probably" signify that the original description did not include details of the etymology of the name nor provide any clue nor reasoning behind it, and that it has yet to be fully resolved.  Where seen, the text of the original description is provided (e.g. gulgulamouki) (Gr. = ancient Greek; L. = Latin; < = derived from).

Eponyms, with brief details of those honoured, are followed, in parentheses, by the genus, or genera in alphabetical order, in which the name is found (e.g. aagaardi, berlepschi) (subsp. = subspecies of; syn. = synonym of).  Note that the possessive terminations -i and -ii, frequently confused and interchanged, may be separated alphabetically by other entries.  Eponyms honouring two or more different persons are distinguished with the symbol ● (e.g. smithi, wilsoni).  The text "dedicatee not yet identified" indicates that the author did not identify nor give any reference to the person honoured, and that the dedicatee has yet to be found.  A citation to the original description, with appropriate text, is provided (e.g. disneyienidae).

Toponyms, often identifiable by the locative suffix -ensis, again require little explanation.  Historical names and their modern equivalents are separated by the solidus or forward slash  /.  Only those based on different geographic places, erroneous type localities (TL.), or early names, and identified by the symbol ●, are followed by the relevant genera or species alphabetically in parentheses (e.g. abyssinica, cordobae).  Alas, I cannot keep up with those countries who change their name every time a new kleptocrat comes to power, or whimsically indigenise the names of towns, provinces and regions in order to flaunt their anti-historical credentials.

Generic headers may be resolved by the examples of COLUMBA and Lithoenas;

COLUMBA (Columbidae; Ϯ Stock Dove C. oenas) CAPITAL LETTERS =  Columba, a currently recognised genus, of the family Columbidae in the HBW and BLI Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World, vol. 1, and that the type species (symbol Ϯ ) of Columba is the Stock Dove Columba oenas.  An extinct symbol in the header (e.g. ECTOPISTES ‡ ) indicates that all the members of that genus are extinct.
After the header, the preferred or correct etymology is shown, often supported by a modern popular source.  Other suggested etymologies, of variable veracity, are included for the benefit of record.
Next, a quotation from the original diagnosis (OD) which often reinforces the etymology or furnishes an explanation of the name, and, where appropriate, further relevant references and fuller diagnoses.  Quotations from the ODs of current and more recently recognised genera are complete or extensive.  Excluding fossil genera (see ARCHAEOPTERYX ‡), to date extremely few ODs remain unseen. 
If not originally designated or currently recognisable, a citation to the type species follows (primarily from J. L. Peters Check-list of Birds of the World, vols. I-XV, 1931-1986).  Subject to amendment or welcomed correction, I have taken the liberty of creating type citations (mihi) where I have been unable to speedily locate earlier ones.  The taxa included in Linnaeus's (1758) original genera are listed in numerical order.
Penultimately (Var.), a list of variant spellings of the genus name (whether current or synonymised).  Most of these are misspellings or purist amendments, e.g.  the use of different connectant vowels in compound words, the insertion of the correct genitive form, or the replacement of 'barbarisms' with classical equivalents.  The list is not exhaustive, as I have not deliberately sought errors, naming only those encountered during reading or which have been brought to my attention.  Easily comprehended transposition or omission of letters have often been excluded, as have variant transcriptions of the Greek rough breathing (e.g. e for instead of he, r for instead of rh), and some of the older orthographies  (e.g. oe instead of ae (and vice versa), J instead of I).
Finally (Synon.), under current genera only, an alphabetical list of relevant synonyms (all of which are separately listed in the Key, and the study of which may provide further information).  After the full valid header entry the symbols ● and ●► identify generic homonyms (e.g. CINCLUS) and generic variants (e.g. PINGUINUS ‡)  respectively.

Lithoenas (syn. Columba Ϯ Rock Dove C. livia) Lowercase lettersLithoenas, a synonym (syn.) of the currently recognised genus Columba, and that the type species (symbol Ϯ) of Lithoenas is the Rock Dove Columba livia.  An extinct symbol in the header (e.g.Trygon ‡ ) indicates that all the members of that genus are extinct. 
After the header follow the etymology, quotation from the OD (or a reference to where that may be found elsewhere in the text (e.g. Maracanus)), type citation (subject to work in progress), and variations (if any), as above.  The symbols ● and ●► identify generic homonyms (e.g. Ichthyaetus) and generic variants (e.g. Haematornis) respectively.

As a child of the 21st century the Key benefits from the facility to immediately update entries based on timely correspondence, regular housekeeping and editing, and scouring of the literature.  Before quoting from the Key it is essential to check the current entry, since this could change within the twinkling of an eye.  New and relevant information and constructive comment are ever welcomed and will be properly attributed.  

(See also:  ii. The parts of scientific namesviii. Greek alphabet and Latin or modern equivalentsix. Conventions, and  x. Symbols, standard abbreviations and short glossary (in Search the dictionary box opposite ))



Karl Johan Ove Mønster Aagaard (1882-1950) Danish hydro-engineer, naturalist, resident in Thailand 1910-1932, collector (Björn Bergenholtz in litt.) (subsp. Ketupa ketupu).


Danish name Aalge for an auk  < Old Norse Alka  auk (Uria).


(syn. Gnorimopsar Ϯ Chopi Blackbird G. chopi) Gr. ααπτος aaptos  invincible, not to be touched  < negative prefix α- a- ; απτω aptō  to seize; "Aphobus Cabanis (1851), for a South American icterine bird is preoccupied by Aphobus Gistel (Naturgesch, XI, 1848 ["A remarkable dull and confused publication" (Jordan 1963)]), and may be renamed Aaptus (type, Agelaius chopi Vieillot)." (Richmond 1902).   Var. Aaptos, Aptus.


Abaco Is., The Bahamas.


Marie Eugène Anne René Marquis d’Abadie (1895-1971) French ornithologist, collector, zoologist (subsp. Cettia castaneocoronata, subsp. Lophophanes cristatus).


(syn. Thamnophilus Ϯ Black-hooded Antshrike T. bridgesi) Gr. negative prefix α- a- ; βαλιος balios  dappled, spotted; "Thamnophilus punctatus n. sp.  ...  Diese Abweichungen charakterisiren den Vogel als Typus einer eigenen Gruppe: Abalios (von α privativum und βαλιος, schekig, bunt,)" (Cabanis 1861); "Abalius Cabanis, Journ. f. Orn., 9, 1861, p. 242. Type, by subsequent designation, Thamnophilus punctatus Cabanis 1861 [not Lanius punctatus Shaw 1809 which = Thamnophilus punctatus (Shaw)] = Thamnophilus bridgesi Sclater." (Peters 1951, VII, 163).


Abary River, British Guiana / Guyana.

abaya / abayensis

Lake Abaya, southern Abyssinia / Ethiopia.


Late L. abbas, abbatis  abbot  < L. abba  father.
● "70. [Tanagra] Abbas Lichtenst.  Körper gelbgrün, Kopf blau, Flügel schwarz mit gelbem Spiegel." (Deppe 1830 per Cabanis 1863); probably complimenting Tanagra episcopus Linnaeus, 1766 (Tangara).


Dr Charles Greeley Abbot (1872-1973) US astrophysicist, Assistant Secretary/ Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution 1918-1944 (syn. Erythropygia coryphaeus).


● Dr William Louis Abbott (1860-1936) US surgeon, explorer, ethnologist, naturalist who collected widely around the world 1883-1923 (syn. Brachypodius atriceps baweanus, syn. Butorides striata javanica, subsp. Cacatua sulphurea, subsp. Calyptophilus frugivorusCelebesica, syn. Chlorophoneus multicolor, subsp. Cinnyris souimanga, syn. Coccyzus minor, subsp. Cyanecula svecica, subsp. Dryolimnas cuvieri, syn. Hirundo tahitica javanica, subsp. Hypothymis azurea, syn. Kittacincla malabarica tricolor, syn. Lybius leucocephalus albicauda, subsp. Megapodius nicobariensis, subsp. Nesoctites micromegas, subsp. Nyctibius jamaicensis, Papasula, syn. Phodilus badius, subsp. Pitta sordida, subsp. Psittacula alexandri, Psittinus, subsp. Spilornis cheela, syn. Streptopelia picturata rostrata, subsp. Threskiornis bernieri, syn. Treron vernans).
● Lt.-Col. John Richard Abbott (1811-1888) British Army, Assistant-Commissioner of the Arakan, Burma 1837-1845 (Malacocincla).
● Dr Charles Greeley Abbott (1872-1973) US astrophysicist, solar researcher, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution 1928-1944, Secretary Emeritus 1944-1973 (syn. Tychaedon coryphoeus). 


(syn. Leptopterus Ϯ Chabert Vanga L. chabert) Dr William Louis Abbott (1860-1936) US surgeon, explorer, ethnologist, naturalist, collector; Gr. ορνις ornis, ορνιθος ornithos  bird; "ABBOTTORNIS1 CHA-BERT (Müller).   Lanius cha-bert, MÜLLER, Syst. Nat., Suppl., 1776, p. 72.  (Madagascar.)   ...  1Abbottornis, new generic name for Leptopterus, BONAPARTE, 1850 (nec Leptoptera, BOISDUVAL, 1842)." (Richmond 1897).