The Working Group on Avian Nomenclature – Report of Activities for 2010 - 2014

The ensuing extract of recent activities, prepared by Dr. Frank Steinheimer with assistance from Dr. Richard Schodde, comes from the formal IOU Congress reports before the former Research Coordination Committee on Avian Nomenclature had been reorganized into the Working Group on Avian Nomenclature:

The goals and functions of the Research Coordination Committee on Avian Nomenclature (formerly Standing Committee on Ornithological Nomenclature of the International Ornithological Committee) – and now Working Group on Avian Nomenclature .

The Research Coordination Committee on Avian Nomenclature (RCCAN) was first convened as a Standing Committee on Ornithological Nomenclature (SCON) of the International Ornithological Committee at the 10th International Ornithological Congress (IOC) in Uppsala in 1950, after intense preparation of this step in the 1930s by Erwin Stresemann of Zoological Museum Berlin. It has met at every IOCongress since, and is the oldest standing committee of the International Ornithological Committee. Its core function is to consider, advise and offer guidance exclusively on matters of scientific avian nomenclature referred to it by the global ornithological community in general and by delegates to International Ornithological Congresses / International Ornithological Union in particular. It also generates its own projects (see below for details) and applications to the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature towards stabilizing avian names, including recommendations to improve the functioning of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature.

In this work, our committee is guided by the principles established in the Preamble of the International Code on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN 1999), in which stability and universality in scientific names is the central concern. Matters of taxonomy, phylogenetics and the nomenclature of English or other language names do not fall within the ambit of RCCAN. Thus, taxonomy affects our nomenclatural work, but our work does not affect taxonomies. Many of the issues on the correct scientific name are submitted or arise in the course of new taxonomic and systematic arrangements, but also due to consequent scientific name application. Most of them are raised by RCCAN committee members themselves; but issues can also be submitted to the RCCAN at any time via its Chair and committee members. Routinely, the RCCAN also reviews nomenclatural papers for different ornithological journals such as the Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club.

The RCCAN has no authority to decide nomenclatural issues themselves, nor to interpret or modify the provisions of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature; such powers are vested only with the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN). Where requested and if appropriate, however, the RCCAN does forward issues that it has considered, with its recommendations, to the ICZN for decision. On matters referred to it by the RCCAN, the Commission has usually, but not always, adopted the recommendations of the RCCAN.

The RCCAN is a voluntary body that carries out its business by correspondence between congresses (entirely by e-mail) and meets formally once every four years at International Ornithological Congresses. These meetings are open to all delegates of the congress. Although most issues canvassed concern issues of priority, name-spelling, name-fixing through typification and stability in nomenclature, including the availability and dates of publication of ornithological works, the RCCAN also addresses general nomenclatural matters at its meetings.

Current projects of the RCCAN are the preparation of a number of prospective modifications to the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature for consideration by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. These include a one-language Code, limitation of lectotypification, elimination of gender agreement in species-group names, improved specification of “prevailing usage” for maintaining long-accustomed names and their spellings. RCCAN is also working towards the development of a List of Available Names for avian family groups, based on a compendium of family-group names compiled by Walter Bock as a SCON project and published in 1994. We are seeking a formal review process for Zootaxa papers on avian nomenclature as well.

Members of the committee and its chairperson are chosen every four years for each Congress by the President of the International Ornithological Committee. For the 10th?12th Congresses, the then SCON comprised four members, chaired by Richard Meinertzhagen, Erwin Stresemann and Finn Salomonsen, respectively. Thereafter, membership increased to 5 at the 14th–16th Congresses and 10 by the 23rd Congress in Beijing. Subsequent Congress chairs have been Fin Salomonsen (13th), Charles Vaurie (14th and 15th), Eugene Eisenmann (16th, 17th), Walter Bock (18th, 19th, 20th, 21st), Richard Schodde (22nd, 23rd, 24th, 25th pars, 26th pars) and Frank Steinheimer (25th pars, 26th pars). All members chosen have demonstrated experience and expertise in handling nomenclatural problems.

The nature of the subject and work covered by the RCCAN is such that the issues which it addresses will continue, even more likely, arise for the foreseeable future due to many new taxonomies, molecular-genetic phylogenies and vanishing language skills. Its ongoing functioning is both topical and necessary, because it gives the International Ornithological Union both an inlet and outlet on matters of zoological nomenclature as they affect birds, both in ornithology and the wider world of zoology. For ornithology itself, it provides an important ‘book-keeping’ service for stability in avian scientific names.

Recent examples of successful applications by the RCCAN to conserve names are (selection):

Case 3415 (2008) Bull Zool Nomencl 65(1) 31–34: Pedionomus, Leipoa

Case 3415 Opinion 2231 (2009) Bull Zool Nomencl 66(3) 293–294: Pedionomus, Leipoa

Case 3418 (2008) Bull Zool Nomencl 65(1) 35–41: Australian birds

Case 3418 Opinion 2240 (2008) Bull Zool Nomencl 66(4) 375–378: Australian birds

Case 3440 (2008) Bull Zool Nomencl 65(1) 42–45: Atrichornis

Case 3440 Opinion 2270 (2011) Bull Zool Nomencl 68(1) 91–92: Atrichornis

Case 3442 (2008) Bull Zool Nomencl 65(2) 124–128: Columba norfolciensis

Case 3442 Opinion 2251 (2010) Bull Zool Noemncl 67(2) 192–193: Columba norfolciensis

Case 3474 (2009) Bull Zool Nomencl 66(1) 56–63: Aplonis

Case 3474 Opinion 2285 (2011) Bull Zool Nomencl 68(3): 236–237: Aplonis

Case 3482 (2010) Bull Zool Nomencl 67(2) 151–157: Psittacus tenuirostris

Case 3482 Opinion 2293 (2012) Bull Zool Nomencl 69(1) 75–76: Psittacus tenuirostris

Case 3499 (2009) Bull Zool Nomencl 66(4) 332–339: Creadion

Case 3499 Opinion (2011) Bull Zool Nomencl 68(3) 234–235: Creadion

Case 3500 (2010) Bull Zool Nomencl 67(1) 57–63: Paradisaea

Case 3500 Opinion 2294 (2012) Bull Zool Nomencl 69(1) 77–78: Paradisaea

Case 3572 (2012) Bull Zool Nomencl 69(1) 51–55: Psittaculinae

Case 3572 Opinion 2332 (2014) Bull Zool Nomencl 71(1) 51–52: Psittaculinae

Case 3630 (2013) Bull Zool Nomencl 70(4) 238–244: Corcoracidae

Case 3640 (2013) Bull Zool Nomencl 70(4) 245–248: Touit & Prosopeia