The International Ornithological Congress (IOC) established its world bird list to resolve a widespread problem amongst ornithologists worldwide: there were many examples of different bird species having the same English name. Now in its ninth year, the birdlist, which is hosted on the IOC’s World Bird Names website, is currently at Version 9.2.

Since its inception, the birdlist has gradually expanded its role to become a database of consensus about bird species taxonomy. However, I thought it would be appropriate to write a series of blog posts about the English names in the database, to recognise the IOC’s contribution to this particular aspect of ornithology.

The posts will be light-hearted and casual, appearing from time-to-time amid my more regular news items. This is the second such post (the first was published on 31st May this year).



In v9.2 of the IOC bird list there are 10758 extant bird species.

150 species have an English name that consists of just one word. The shortest names are just 3 letters in length:

005/0076  Emu  Dromaius novaehollandiae of Australia

454/3691  Kea  Nestor notabilis, a New Zealand Parrot of southern New Zealand

and two Honeyeaters:

548/5327  Tui  Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae of New Zealand mainland, Kermadec, Chatham, Auckland islands

548/543Y  Mao   Gymnomyza aubryana of the Samoan islands


There are eight species with a single word name of 4 letters:

042/0119    Nene    Branta sandvicensis    (Hawaii)

042/0224    Smew    Mergellus albellus    (Western Palearctic, Asia)

201/127F    Sora    Porzana carolina    (Americas)

274/1571    Ruff    Calidris pugnax    (worldwide)

185/1180    Kagu    Rhynochetos jubatus    (New Caledonia)

684/6262    Rook    Corvus frugilegus    (Western Palearctic, Asia)

900/8012    Omao    Myadestes obscurus    (Hawaii)

900/903F    Iiwi    Drepanis coccinea    (Hawaii)


The bird species with the longest single-word English name is:

339/2466    Chuck-will’s-widow   Antrostomus carolinensis, a Nightjar of the Americas.


8822 species have an English name consisting of two words, and there are 1729 species with three words in their English name.

This leaves just 57 species having a four-word English name (none has more than four words).


The bird species with the longest English name (35 characters, including spaces) is:

925/8520    Prigogine’s Double-collared Sunbird   Cinnyris prigoginei,

a local endemic found only in south-east Democratic Republic of the Congo. Note that this name has three words (one of which is hyphenated).


The longest two-word English name comes in at 33 characters (including the blank space):

616/5571    Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher    Bias musicus,

which is a member of the Vangas & Allies family resident in western, central and eastern Africa.


There are 7 species with three-word English names of 33 characters (none has 34 characters).

27 species have English names of 32 characters.

32 species have English names of 31 characters. The longest four-word names appear in this list:

379/3078    North Solomons Dwarf Kingfisher   Ceyx meeki

700/631F    King of Saxony Bird-of-paradise   Pteridophora alberti

804/6979    Northern Marquesan Reed Warbler   Acrocephalus percernis

804/697Y    Southern Marquesan Reed Warbler   Acrocephalus mendanae



Some details …


Each of the ATWB 2020 Companion Guides has a number of important features, including:

– A complete taxonomic listing of bird species

– An indication of where each bird family and species can be found in its native state

– Spotlighted species that have a restricted regional or worldwide range


However, perhaps the key feature of all eBooks in the Companion Guide series is the way you can quickly and simply access relevant, up to date online information about every featured bird species. If your reading device is connected to the internet, a single click will take you to a search results page for a species, from where you can continue to search for additional information to whatever level of detail you desire.


The ‘All the World’s Birds’ series of Companion Guides derives its taxonomy, English names and scientific names from The IOC World Bird List, an open access resource maintained by the International Ornithological Congress (IOC). The IOC bird list is hosted on a dedicated World Bird Names website, which provides access to the list in various different formats. The version of the IOC bird list used in the ‘All the World’s Birds 2020’ series of Companion Guides is Version 9.2, published June 22 2019.




Sign up to this blog to be informed about releases of new titles in the All the World’s Birds Companion Guide series, and of developments in the IOC bird list.


About Charles R Stubbs

Charles has earned his living by writing for more than 15 years. His first two mystery thriller novels, 'Web of Deceit' and 'Retribution', have been published as Kindle eBooks on Amazon. In addition, Charles has published more than 50 eBook birding companion guides, released under the "All the World's Birds" title - search ATWB in Amazon Books. Previously a senior executive in the UK telecommunications industry, since 2001 Charles has crafted sales and marketing literature for major organisations – some of them household names – enabling them to improve their business performance.

Posted on October 8, 2019, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: