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Common Names in Different Families, Full List

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In the March/April 2014 issue of Birding is an article I wrote discussing the many common bird names like “flycatcher” and “shrike” that are used in multiple taxonomically distinct families. As I compiled the list, it became clear the entire list was way too long to publish in the magazine. At least 53 different common names are used in more than one distinct taxonomic family, an astonishing total. Below is the list in its entirety.

What do you make of it? Which names do you find the most absurdly or confusingly reapplied? Which common names appear in more families than you expected, and which appear in less? Can you find anything missing? I’m sure there are mistakes, so let’s work on it together.

Warblers

  1. Speckled Warbler, Rockwarbler, Mouse-Warblers—Acanthizidae
  2. Tit-Warblers—Aegithalidae
  3. Victorin’s Warbler, Moustached Grass-Warbler—Macrosphenidae
  4. Warblers, Bush-Warblers—Cettiidae
  5. Warblers, Wood-Warblers, Leaf-Warblers, Woodland-Warblers—Phylloscopidae
  6. Warblers, Brush-Warblers, Reed-Warblers, Yellow-Warblers—Acrocephalidae
  7. Warblers, Bush-Warblers, Swamp-Warblers, Little Rush-Warbler, Cinnamon Bracken-Warblers, Grasshopper-Warblers—Locustellidae
  8. Warblers—Bernieridae
  9. Warblers, Wren-Warblers, Rufous-Warblers—Cisticolidae
  10. Warblers—Sylviidae
  11. Olive Warbler—Peucedramidae
  12. Warblers—Parulidae
  13. Warbler-Finches—Thraupidae

Northern Parula with sig1

Wrens

  1. Bush Wren, South Island Wren—Acanthisittidae
  2. Antwrens—Thamnophilidae
  3. Spotted Bamboowren—Rhinocryptidae
  4. Bay-capped Wren-Spinetail—Furnariidae
  5. Fairywrens, Emuwrens, Grasswrens—Maluridae
  6. Fernwren, Scrubwrens, Fieldwrens, Heathwrens—Acanthizidae
  7. Wrens, Wood-Wrens—Troglodytidae
  8. Gnatwrens—Polioptilidae
  9. Wren-Warblers—Cisticolidae
  10. Wrentit—Sylviidae
  11. Wren-Babblers—Pellorneidae
  12. Wren-Babblers—Timaliidae
  13. Wrenthrush—Parulidae

House Wren with sig1

Tits

  1. Tit-Spinetails—Furnariidae
  2. Tit-Tyrants—Tyrannidae
  3. Scrubtit—Acanthizidae
  4. Tit Berrypecker—Paramythiidae
  5. Crested Shrike-tit—Pachycephalidae
  6. Tomtit—Petroicidae
  7. Tits, Titmice, White-winged Black-Tit—Paridae
  8. Penduline-Tits, Tit-hylia—Remizidae
  9. Tits, Tit-Warblers, Bushtit—Aegithalidae
  10. Wrentit—Sylviidae
  11. Tit-Babblers—Timaliidae
  12. Tit-Flycatchers—Muscicapidae

Flycatchers

  1. Tyrant Flycatchers—Tyrannidae
  2. Shrike-Flycatchers—Platysteiridae
  3. Ward’s Flycatcher—Vangidae
  4. Flycatcher-shrikes—Campephagidae
  5. Flycatchers, Paradise-Flycatchers, Crested-Flycatchers—Monarchidae
  6. Flycatchers—Petroicidae
  7. Fairy Flycatcher, Blue-Flycatchers, Crested-Flycatchers, Canary-Flycatchers—Stenostiridae
  8. Flycatchers—Cettiidae
  9. Flycatchers, Slaty-Flycatchers, Black-Flycatchers, Forest-Flycatchers, Tit-Flycatchers—Muscicapidae
  10. Flycatcher-Thrushes—Turdidae
  11. Silky-flycatchers—Ptilogonatidae

Babblers

  1. Babblers—Pomatostomidae
  2. Jewel-babblers—Cinclosomatidae
  3. Crossley’s Babbler—Vangidae
  4. Shrike-Babblers—Vireonidae
  5. Malaysian Rail-babbler—Eupetidae
  6. Babblers—Sylviidae
  7. Babblers, Striped-Babblers—Zosteropidae
  8. Babblers, Wren-Babblers, Scimitar-Babblers—Pellorneidae
  9. Babblers—Leiothrichidae
  10. Babblers, Tit-Babblers—Timaliidae

Shrikes

  1. Antshrikes—Thamnophilidae
  2. Shrike-Tyrants—Tyrannidae
  3. White-tailed Shrike, Shrike-Flycatchers—Platysteiridae
  4. Helmetshrikes, Woodshrikes—Prionopidae
  5. Bushshrikes—Malaconotidae
  6. Cuckoo-Shrikes, Flycatcher-Shrikes—Campephagidae
  7. Shrike-Thrushes, Crested Shrike-tit—Pachycephalidae
  8. Shrikes, Magpie Shrike—Laniidae
  9. Shrike-Vireos, Peppershrikes, Shrike-Babblers—Vireonidae
  10. Shrike-Tanagers—Thraupidae

Thrushes

  1. Antthrushes—Formicariidae
  2. Quail-Thrushes—Cinclosomatidae
  3. Shrike-Thrushes—Pachycephalidae
  4. Dohrn’s Thrush-Babbler—Sylviidae
  5. Thrush Babbler—Pellorneidae
  6. Laughingthrushes—Leiothrichidae
  7. Thrush Nightingale, Palm-Thrushes, Spotted Morning-Thrush, Whistling-Thrush, Rock-Thrush—Muscicapidae
  8. Thrushes, Ground-Thrushes, Ant-Thrushes, Flycatcher-Thrushes, Nightingale-Thrushes—Turdidae
  9. Waterthrushes, Wrenthrush—Parulidae
  10. Rosy Thrush-Tanager—Thraupidae

Magpies

  1. Magpie Goose—Anatidae
  2. Australasian Magpie—Cracticidae
  3. Magpie Shrike—Laniidae
  4. Magpie-lark—Monarchidae
  5. Magpies, Magpie-Jays—Corvidae
  6. Magpie-Robins—Muscicapidae
  7. Magpie Starling—Sturnidae
  8. Magpie Tanager—Thraupidae
  9. Magpie Mannikin—Estrildidae

Chats

  1. Chat-Tyrants—Tyrannidae
  2. Chats—Meliphagidae
  3. Woodchat Shrike—Laniidae
  4. Chats, Chat Flycatcher, Robin-Chats, Angola Cave-Chat, Anteater-Chats, Bushchats, Whinchat, Stonechats—Muscicapidae
  5. Palmchat—Dulidae
  6. Yellow-breasted Chat—Parulidae
  7. Chat-Tanagers—Thraupidae
  8. Chats—Cardinalidae

Finches

  1. Przevalski’s Rosefinch—Urocynchramidae
  2. Finches, Sierra-Finches, Warbling-Finches, Yellow-Finches, Seed-Finches, Bullfinches, Warbler-Finches, Tree-Finches, Ground-Finches, Cactus-Finches—Thraupidae
  3. Finches, Brush-Finches, Tanager Finch—Emberizidae
  4. Finches, Chaffinch, Mountain-finches, Rosy-finches, Greenfinches, Rosefinches, Goldfinches—Fringillidae
  5. Snowfinches, Pale Rockfinch—Passeridae
  6. Finches, Negrofinches (now Nigritas), Firefinches, Locustfinch, Quailfinches, Parrotfinches—Estrildidae
  7. Quailfinch Indigobird—Viduidae

Quails

  1. Quails, Wood-Quails—Odontophoridae
  2. Quails, Bush-Quails—Phasianidae
  3. Buttonquails, Quail-plover—Turnicidae
  4. Quail-Doves—Columbidae
  5. Quail-thrushes—Cinclosomatidae
  6. Quailfinch—Estrildidae
  7. Quailfinch Indigobird—Viduidae

Cardinals

  1. Cardinal Woodpecker—Picidae
  2. Cardinal Lory—Psittacidae
  3. Cardinal Myzomela—Meliphagidae
  4. Cardinals—Thraupidae
  5. Cardinals—Cardinalidae
  6. Cardinal Quelea—Ploceidae

Creepers

  1. Earthcreepers, Woodcreepers, Groundcreepers, Point-tailed Palmcreeper, Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper—Furnariidae
  2. Treecreepers—Climacteridae
  3. Wallcreeper—Tichodromidae
  4. Treecreepers, Creepers—Certhiidae
  5. Honeycreepers—Thraupidae
  6. Hawaii Creeper—Fringillidae

Orioles

  1. Oriole Cuckooshrike—Campephagidae
  2. Oriole Whistler—Pachycephalidae
  3. Orioles—Oriolidae
  4. Oriole Warbler—Cisticolidae
  5. Orioles, Oriole Blackbird—Icteridae
  6. Oriole Finch—Fringillidae

Cuckoos

  1. Cuckoo-Hawks—Accipitridae
  2. Cuckoo-Doves—Columbidae
  3. Cuckoos, Hawk-Cuckoos, Bronze-Cuckoos, Ground-Cuckoos, Drongo-Cuckoos, Bronze-Cuckoos, Lizard-Cuckoos—Cuculidae
  4. Cuckoo-Roller—Leptosomidae
  5. Cuckooshrikes—Campephagida

Larks

  1. Magpie-lark, Torrent-lark—Monarchidae
  2. Larks, Bushlarks, Hoopoe-Larks, Skylarks—Alaudidae
  3. Songlarks—Locustellidae
  4. Lark Sparrow, Lark Bunting—Emberizidae
  5. Meadowlarks—Icteridae

Nightingales

  1. Nightingale Wren—Troglodytidae
  2. Nightingale Reed-Warbler—Acrocephalidae
  3. Thrush Nightingale, Common Nightingale—Muscicapidae
  4. Nightingale-Thrushes—Turdidae
  5. Nightingale Finch—Thraupidae

Plovers

  1. Plovers, Golden-Plovers, Sandplovers, Diademed Sandpiper-Plover—Charadriidae
  2. Magellanic Plover—Pluvianellidae
  3. Crab Plover—Dromadidae
  4. Quail-plover—Turnicidae
  5. Egyptian Plover—Glareolidae

Sparrows

  1. Sparrow-Lark—Alaudidae
  2. Sparrows—Emberizidae
  3. Sparrows—Passeridae
  4. Sparrow-Weavers—Ploceidae
  5. Sparrows—Estrildidae

Grosbeaks

  1. Grosbeaks—Thraupidae
  2. Grosbeaks—Cardinalidae
  3. Grosbeaks, Grosbeak-Canaries—Fringillidae
  4. Grosbeak Weaver—Ploceidae

Hawks

  1. Hawks, Goshawks, Hawk-Eagles, Chanting-Goshawks, Harrier-Hawks, Sparrowhawks, Cuckoo-Hawks—Accipitridae
  2. Hawk-Cuckoos—Cuculidae
  3. Hawk-Owls, Northern Hawk Owl—Strigidae
  4. Nighthawks—Caprimulgidae

Note: A colloquial name for the American Kestrel is the Sparrowhawk, which would add Falconidae to the hawk total.

Parrots

  1. New Zealand Parrots (no species names)—Strigopidae
  2. Parrots, Parakeets, Parrotlets—Psittacidae
  3. Parrot Crossbill—Fringillidae
  4. Parrotfinch—Estrildidae

Pittas

  1. Pittas—Pittidae
  2. Antpittas—Conopophagidae
  3. Antpittas—Grallariidae
  4. Melampittas—Paradisaeidae

Robins

  1. Ground-Robin, Flyrobins, Robins, Scrub-Robins—Petroicidae
  2. Robins, Scrub-Robins, Magpie-Robins, Robin-chats, Bush-Robin—Muscicapidae
  3. Robins—Turdidae
  4. Robin Accentor—Prunellidae

Buntings

  1. Buntings—Calcariidae
  2. Buntings—Emberizidae
  3. Buntings—Cardinalidae

Canaries

  1. Canary Flycatcher—Petroicidae
  2. Canary-Flycatchers—Stenostiridae
  3. Canaries—Fringillidae

Catbirds

  1. Catbirds—Ptilonorhynchidae
  2. Abyssinian Catbird—Sylviidae
  3. Catbirds—Mimidae

Honeyeaters

  1. Honeyeaters—Meliphagidae
  2. Honeyeaters—Melanocharitidae
  3. Hawaiian Honeyeaters (no species names, all extinct)—Mohoidae

Hoopoes

  1. Hoopoes—Upupidae
  2. Woodhoopoes—Phoeniculidae
  3. Hoopoe-Larks—Alaudidae

Manakins/Mannikins

  1. Cinnamon Manakin-Tyrant—Tyrannidae
  2. Manakins, Tyrant-Manakins—Pipridae
  3. Mannikins—Estrildidae

Owls

  1. Owls, Sooty-Owls, Masked-Owls, Grass-Owls, Bay-Owls—Tytonidae
  2. Scops-Owls, Owls, Eagle-Owls, Screech-Owls, Wood-Owls, Pygmy-Owls, Hawk-Owls—Strigidae
  3. Owlet-Nightjars—Aegothelidae

Petrels

  1. Petrel, Giant-Petrels—Procellariidae
  2. Storm-Petrels—Hydrobatidae
  3. Diving-Petrels—Pelecanoididae

Rollers

  1. Rollers—Coraciidae
  2. Ground-Rollers—Brachypteraciidae
  3. Cuckoo-Roller—Leptosomatidae

Snipes

  1. Snipes—Scolopacidae
  2. Seedsnipes—Thinocoridae
  3. Painted-snipes—Rostratulidae

Swallows

  1. Woodswallows—Artamidae
  2. Swallows—Hirundinidae
  3. Swallow Tanager—Thraupidae

Barn Swallow Signature3

Swifts

  1. Swifts, Martins, Swiftlets—Apodidae
  2. Treeswifts—Hemiprocnidae
  3. Swift Parrot—Psittacidae

Tanagers

  1. Tanagers—Thraupidae
  2. Tanager Finch, Bush-Tanagers—Emberizidae
  3. Tanagers, Ant-Tanagers—Cardinalidae

Turkeys

  1. Brush-Turkeys—Megapodiidae
  2. Turkeys—Phasianidae
  3. Turkey Vulture—Cathartidae

Note: The Australian Bustard is sometimes known as the Australian Turkey, which would add Otididae.

Berrypeckers

  1. Berrypeckers—Melanocharitidae
  2. Berrypeckers—Paramythiidae

Blackbirds

  1. Blackbirds—Turdida
  2. Blackbirds—Icteridae

Bluebirds

  1. Fairy-bluebird—Irenidae
  2. Bluebirds—Turdidae

Eagles

  1. Eagles—Accipitridae
  2. Eagle-Owl—Strigidae

Emus

  1. Emus—Dromaiidae
  2. Emuwrens—Maluridae

Grouse

  1. Grouse—Phasianidae
  2. Sandgrouses—Pteroclidae

Kinglets

  1. Kinglet Calyptura—Cotingidae
  2. Kinglets—Regulidae

Nightjars

  1. Owlet-Nightjars—Aegothelidae
  2. Nightjars—Caprimulgidae

Ovenbirds

  1. Ovenbirds (no species names)—Furnariidae
  2. Ovenbird—Parulidae

Pipits

  1. Antpipits—Tyrannidae
  2. Pipits—Motacillidae

Redstarts

  1. Redstarts—Muscicapidae
  2. Redstarts—Parulidae

Sandpipers

  1. Diademed Sandpiper-Plover—Charadriidae
  2. Sandpipers—Scolopacidae

Vireos

  1. Antvireo—Thamnophilidae
  2. Vireo, Shrike-vireos—Vireonidae

Vultures

  1. Vultures—Cathartidae
  2. Vultures—Accipitridae

Weavers

  1. Weaver, Buffalo-Weavers, Sparrow-Weavers—Ploceidae
  2. Parasitic Weaver—Viduidae
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Frank Izaguirre

Frank Izaguirre

Frank Izaguirre is a nature writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. Originally from Miami, FL, his interests include learning bird names in other languages, studying the life histories of extinct birds, and reading the memoirs and essays of early Neotropical ornithologists. He has a special passion for the relationship between nature writing and conservation, and will be co-leading an upcoming IFO Workshop on Birds and Nature Writing.
Frank Izaguirre

Latest posts by Frank Izaguirre (see all)

  • Paul Clapham

    Since the recent spitting of the “babblers” into several smaller families we (i.e. the Clements taxonomy) now have Fulvettas in Paradoxornithidae and Leiothrichidae.

    • Frank Izaguirre

      Great catch, Paul. It seems like the creation of Paradoxornithidae adds one more to the “babbler” total, tying them with the “flycatchers.” When I put the list together, Clements 6.7 was the most recent version, so that’s what I used. I elaborate on that a little in the article.

      As a sidenote, Paradoxornithidae is such a great name for a bird family.

  • Pingback: Phenotypic common names | health()

  • Nicholas Sly

    This list is AWESOME! Thanks for compiling it.

    • Frank Izaguirre

      Thanks, Nicholas! It was mostly super fun and sometimes excruciatingly tedious. :)

  • http://www.earlymorningnonsense.blogspot.ca/ Craig Whiteside

    Great work. This is the kind of thing the nerd in me always wants to see reconciled. I have to say though, I feel there is a big difference between a name being used across various families and a name being used as a descriptor, as in Turkey Vulture or many of the Magpie examples listed.

    • Frank Izaguirre

      Thanks, Craig! Yeah, I feel the same way about some of the bird names on the list. Turkey vulture is a good example. It was actually a bit of a challenge to come up with a strict rubric to use for the entire list, which I explain a little more in the article. In most cases, I tended toward including birds, because it’s still interesting to see how many bird names have the word “turkey” or “cardinal” in them.

  • Madeline

    Yes, this is great for us nerds! Having just discovered Costa Rica birds, now I wonder where do you put Tody-flycatcher?

    • Frank Izaguirre

      Thank you, Madeline! Tody-flycatchers are in the Tyrannidae family, which is counted toward the tally of the “flycatchers,” but I forgot to list it as one of the different “flycatcher” names within that family.

      PS – I absolutely love birding in Costa Rica. I lived there for a year, and it’s probably my favorite place to bird in the world.

    • stevebrauning

      Hi all. That brings to mind tody: found in the tody family as well as in Tody-flycatchers and Tody Motmot.

      I noticed another possible entry, under creepers: Woodcreepers.

      • Frank Izaguirre

        I knew someone would think of a totally new category. Yep, that’s three families with at least one bird called a “tody”: Todidae, Momotidae, and Tyrannidae.

  • Eric DeFonso

    A very fun list! Thanks for going to the trouble of compiling it, so we don’t have to! :)

    About “Cardinal” though – I don’t know about all the instances of its use, but I think it doesn’t quite belong here in this list since the term is also a color.

    • Frank Izaguirre

      Good point about cardinal being a color. I had not thought about that. Cardinal lory, cardinal myzomela, cardinal quelea, and possibly cardinal woodpecker seem to fall into that category. There are definitely “cardinals” in both thraupidae and cardinalidae, however.

    • http://www.earlymorningnonsense.blogspot.ca/ Craig Whiteside

      I suppose one would have to determine if the “Cardinal” in those cases is referring to the colour or the bird. Is the Canary Flycatcher so named because of its hue or because it resembles a Canary (which would likely be in its hue, if there is a distinction there…or if the distinction even matters)?

  • Claudius Feger

    How about the Mourners? There are Mourners in the Tityridae and the Tyrannidae, all called Mourners. Until recently the Elegant Mourner was considered a Cotinga … Living in Rio right now made me always wonder about these.

  • Dom Garcia-Hall

    nice list. Swallow tanager doesnt really fit the pattern. I guess it would if it wasn’t just a Thraupid and was called swallow-tanager

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