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 tenth year, the birdlist, which is hosted on the IOC’s World Bird Names website, is currently at Version 10.1.

Since its inception, the birdlist has gradually expanded its role to become a database of consensus about bird species taxonomy. After having posted three times on different aspects of English names in the IOC database, I have decided to turn my attention now to scientific names.

All the posts in this series will be light-hearted and casual, appearing from time-to-time amid my more regular news items. This is the fourth such post (the first three were published in January this year, and in May and October 2019).



In v10.1 of the IOC birdlist there are 10770 extant bird species grouped into 249 families. Within a family there may be one or more further levels of grouped species, the lowest of which is genus (plural genera). The scientific name for a bird species is in two parts: the genus name (e.g. Halcyon) and the species epithet (e.g. senegaloides). Thus bird species 379/3030 Mangrove Kingfisher has the scientific name Halcyon senegaloides.


The distinction of having the longest scientific name goes to 511/5014 Crowned Slaty Flycatcher, which has the scientific name Griseotyrannus aurantioatrocristatus (36 characters, including the space). At the other extreme, there are 12 species with a scientific name only 9 characters long. These include 323/2371 Cinnabar Boobook Ninox ios and 463/3846 Scarlet Macaw Ara macao. The other 10 have a genus name and epithet that are both 4 characters in length, including 319/219F Western Barn Owl Tyto alba and 323/2386 Long-eared Owl Asio otus. The remaining 8 have the following scientific names: Mitu mitu, Apus apus, Crex crex, Grus grus, Alle alle, Sula sula, Bubo bubo and Pica pica. These are, respectively: 052/0298 Alagoas Curassow, 351/260Y Common Swift, 201/1255 Corn Crake, 209/1339 Common Crane, 295/168F Little Auk, 142/0844 Red-footed Booby, 323/227F Eurasian Eagle-Owl and 684/6238 Eurasian Magpie. It is interesting to note how many of these are regularly present in Western Europe.


In v10.1 of the IOC birdlist there are 2283 genera, of which 4 have a three-letter name: Aix, Ara, Eos and Nok, comprising respectively 2 species of Duck, 8 species of Macaw, 6 species of Lory and 1 species of Bulbul: 764/6640 Bare-faced Bulbul Nok hualon, which is found in n, c Laos. The longest genus name at 18 characters is Sylviorthorhynchus. This is a genus with only one species: 483/4119 Des Murs’s Wiretail Sylviorthorhynchus desmurii, a member of Family: Furnariidae – Ovenbirds resident in c, s Chile and sw Argentina.


The species with the longest scientific name compared to its English name is 548/5327 Tui Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae, a species of Honeyeater endemic to New Zealand and nearby islands. This species’ scientific name at 29 characters is 9-and-two-thirds as long as its English name!


Looked at the other way round, 379/3078 North Solomons Dwarf Kingfisher Ceyx meeki, endemic to n, ec Solomon Islands (including North Solomons), has an English name at 31 characters which is more than three times as long as its scientific name.


More information about these and other bird species can be found in the All the World’s Birds (ATWB) series of Kindle eBooks.


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 April 26, 2020, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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