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The forwarded post below casts interesting light on the question whether to capitalize. Evidently, most birding magazines do it, but Bird Watcher's Digest does not. 
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Bob Fisher
Independence, Missouri
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----- Original Message ----- 
From: Diane Porter 
To: IA-BIRD 
Cc: Diane Porter 
Sent: Thursday, February 15, 2007 9:19 AM
Subject: [ia-bird] capitalizing bird names


In scientific writing about birds, most publications capitalize first and last names of birds, as in "the secretive, tiny, Black Rail..." as Jim Scheib modeled. It prevents confusion with some other rail that just happened to look black at that moment in its life. It also makes the species names easy to spot by scanning rapidly through a block of text.


But in ordinary written English, common names of species are not capitalized unless a word would be capitalized anyway -- for example, northern cardinals, but American bitterns. 


The logic here is that in standard English we don't normally capitalize the common names of species. Wouldn't the following look strange?


My Horse shied at the sight of a Mountain Lion, and I fell off into a bed of Marigolds.


Most magazines follow the scientific style. Birding, Living Bird, Birder's World, and Wild Bird capitalize all bird species names. Bird Watcher's Digest, on the other hand, follows the standard English convention and capitalizes only proper names and adjectives. Perhaps they're just being stubborn, but some people find it makes for more graceful prose. That's the way you will find birds' names written whenever the intent is more literary than scientific, such as in novels and non-technical essays outside of birding magazines.


I think IA-BIRD falls more in the category of scientific writing, and that's probably why most of us capitalize bird's names. 


Diane Porter
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Birdwatching Dot Com
http://www.birdwatching.com
Birdwatching is your lifetime ticket to the theater of nature.





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