Key to Scientific Names in Ornithology

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Key entries conform to a general plan, showing all names in alphabetical order.

Specific headers (in lowercase letters) are followed by the etymology of the name and, many being self-evident (e.g. albirostris, nigricapilla), require little further explanation (● being used to show individual early names, differences in etymologies, some misspellings (● ►), or other items of interest) (Gr. = ancient Greek; L. = Latin; < = derived from).
Eponyms, with brief details of those honoured, are followed, in parentheses, by the genus/genera in which the name is found (e.g. aagaardi, abadiei) (subsp. = subspecies of; syn. = synonym of). Eponyms honouring two or more different persons are identified by the symbol ● (e.g. abbotti, mariae).
Toponyms again require little explanation. Only those based on different geographic places, erroneous type localities (TL), or early names, and identified by the symbol ●, are followed by the relevant genus/species/subspecies in parentheses (e.g. abyssinica, insularis, sanctaemartae).

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

COLUMBA (Columbidae; Ϯ Stock Dove C. oenas) CAPITAL LETTERS =  a currently recognised genus, of the family Columbidae in the HBW and BLI Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World (del Hoyo & Collar), 1-2, 2014-2016, and that the type species (symbol Ϯ ) of Columba is the Stock Dove Columba oenas (substantive names follow the Illustrated Checklist.)  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 secondary source. Other suggested etymologies (reasoned, mistaken, or false), are included for the sake of interest.
Next, a quotation from the original diagnosis (OD) which often reinforces the etymology or furnishes an explanation of the name, sometimes with supporting literature (excluding fossil genera, to date only a dozen ODs have yet to be seen). Quotations from the ODs of current and more recently recognised genera are complete or extensive. If not originally designated, a citation to the type species follows (usually from J. L. Peters Check-list of Birds of the World, I-XV, 1931-1986, but also including other historic and modern treatments).
Penultimately (Var.), a list of variant spellings of the genus name (whether current or synonymised). Most of these are misspellings or purist amendments.
Finally (Synon.), under current genera only, an alphabetical list of relevant synonyms.  The symbols ● and ●► identify generic homonyms (e.g. CINCLUS) and generic variants respectively.

Lithoenas (syn. Columba Ϯ Rock Dove C. livia) Lowercase letters =  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, type citation (here still a 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.

(See also The parts of scientific names, and Symbols, standard abbreviations and short glossary)



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 I., Bahama Is.


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); "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).


(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).