English-language Names in the Birds Korea Checklists

Dr Nial Moores, August 10th 2022

Japanese Murrelet or Crested Murrelet: what is the more appropriate English-language name for this globally Vulnerable species? Birds Korea prefers Crested Murrelet Synthliboramphus wumizusume, here photographed in Jeju, Republic of Korea, February 2020 © Kim Yeiwon

The Republic of Korea (ROK) has no national rarities committee, and no transparent process to review major changes in status. Birds Korea has therefore maintained open-access bird checklists online in Korean and English since 2007, with major revisions every few years. The primary purpose of all of our checklists (and all of our work) is improving conservation opportunities for birds and their habitats. Based on the information available to us, with each checklist revision we provide an updated indication of abundance, and updated assessments of national and global conservation status in addition to incorporating newly-recorded species and taxonomic changes that for the most part closely follow the IOC World Bird Checklist (Gill et al. 2022). We also do what we can to help popularize birding and to encourage engagement in the work (by supporting programs like Merlin and eBird, by inviting comments, and through workshops, field events and media).

Below is an extended note on just one component part of our revision of the Birds Korea Checklist in 2022: our use of preferred English-language names for 18 bird taxa recorded in the ROK that differ from those recommended by Gill et al. (2022) (all of which are clearly indicated in the checklist itself). This is just one of a series of online articles we intend to post as part of a thorough revision of the 2018 Checklist, to help explain our decisions. Please let us know what you think. Thank you.

Please note: The 2022 Birds Korea Checklist (English language version: Moores & Ha 2022; Korean language version Ha & Moores 2022) should be available to our members and blog visitors within a few weeks.

Background to Birds Korea Preferred Names

All but 18 of the 607 English-language bird names used in the Birds Korea Checklist (2022) will follow Gill et al. (2022).  These 18 are Birds Korea’s “preferred names”.  We feel it helpful to provide a detailed explanation below of our reasoning for all 18, to encourage wider use of the checklist and to respond to potential criticism (as followed our use of Grey Thrush for Turdus cardis instead of Japanese Thrush in a blog post in April 2022).

What’s in a name? Japanese Thrush or Grey Thrush Turdus cardis, Busan, ROK, April 2022 © Nial Moores. Although there are thrush species which are endemic to Japan, this species breeds in China as well as in Japan and was known as Japanese Grey Thrush or Grey Thrush for decades.

Following feedback on our rationale, we will revise the Birds Korea Checklist as needed and also submit a final list of these preferences to the IOC World Bird List team – in the hope that some / many of these preferences might be adopted by them too.

Nothing is permanent but change itself

First, it is essential to put our decisions in a fuller context. As most birders know well already, few English-language bird names are absolutely fixed: many species have been known by more than one name, and the names used for them now have usually been adopted in response to new or better information. The same is also true, though to a lesser degree, for Korean-language names.  Importantly, this process continues even now, often at a rapid pace, as understanding of each taxon deepens and as national and global checklists work toward closing some of the gaps between them.  

By way of lengthy example:  what used to be known in Korean checklists as North Chinese Sand Lark by Austin (1948) and Nam (1950), was listed by Gore & Won (1971) as “Sand (or Lesser Short-toed) Lark”; and then by Won (1996) as Lesser Short-toed Lark; before Park (2002) listed the same species as Asian Short-toed Lark.

Until recently listed as Asian Short-toed Lark; now listed as (presumed) Turkestan Short-toed Lark Alaudala heinei, Socheong Island, October 27, 2009 © Nial Moores

Not all these changes in the English-language name of this irregularly-occurring lark were driven by taxonomic changes, but some were. The scientific name has also changed over the last 75 years, from Calandrella rufescens (as used by Austin in 1948, Nam in 1950 and Won in 1996) to Calandrella cheleensis as used by Park (2002) to Alaudala cheleensis as used by Park (2022).  Now, following thorough taxonomic review by Alstrom et al. (2021), the proposed split of this same species into several component parts has been accepted by Gill et al. (2022).  Based on the distribution maps in Alstrom et al. (2021) and on recent comments provided to us by Prof. Alstrom on images of birds taken in the ROK, the taxon recorded in Korea has both a new English-language and scientific name: Turkestan Short-toed Lark Alaudala heinei. There is apparently no confirmed record yet in the ROK of the “narrower” and less migratory species now known as Asian Short-toed Lark Alaudala cheleensis.

Turkestan Short-toed Lark is therefore added to Category 1 in the 2022 Checklist, while Asian Short-toed Lark is relegated to a Review Folder (at least until Prof. Alstrom can make the time to review images and sound recordings we sent him, so that he can confirm or refute suspicions that both species likely occur here!).

Name changes such as these are genuinely confusing and require time to research and incorporate into checklist revisions. Unfortunately, this means that even the best field guides can soon become out-of-date, potentially causing confusion and misunderstanding for years to come. To return to the example above, birders using the latest leading field-guide by Dr Park Jong-Gil (published in April 2022) will find images of birds photographed in Korea with the name 북방쇠종다리 which are labelled in English as both Asian Short-toed Lark A. cheleensis and Lesser Short-toed Lark A. rufescens heinei. They will find no mention at all of Turkestan Short-toed Lark.  

Because of this ever-evolving background, national checklists and field-guides need constant revision, with revisions in taxonomy and nomenclature based firmly on an accessible and regularly updated global checklist if they are to have any meaningful point of reference: an anchor in a very unsettled sea. 

To Birds Korea as an organisation, and to an increasing number of people and organisations around the world, the IOC World Bird List on worldbirdnames.org provides the global gold standard.  Based on the recommendations of Gill, Donsker and Rasmussen and their expert advisors reporting through regional committees, the resulting checklist is a massive and brilliant collaborative work, which covers all of the world’s birds, invites input (to which the Checklist managers are genuinely responsive and open), and aims to build consensus between checklists, including on English-language names. This must be far from easy work.  English spelling and preferences vary by continent, and many birders are keen to protect their personal lists and can become very attached to the species’ names they use.  Deciding too when to accept a taxon as a full species and then agreeing on the best English-language name for it must also be time-consuming and often a thankless task – especially when you have to maintain the same high standard for almost 11,000 species around the world, including in nations where English is a minor language (if spoken at all). Hence the IOC World Bird List’s strong dependence on scientific publications written in some of the more accessible languages of the world to support their decisions.

Birds Korea checklists have long followed Gill et al. (2022) and their earlier editions because we wholeheartedly agree with their aims and processes, as well as their 10 principles on English-language names, including Principle One. Principle One calls for the use of only one recommended name for each species, instead of the endless provision of alternatives (for an example of a leading ornithological work from this region predating this process please refer to the Birds of Japan by Dr Mark Brazil published in 1991: it lists dozens of alternative names, including British English and American English preferred alternatives, and many names like Short-tailed or Steller’s Albatross – a choice between one that is descriptive and the other based on the name of an ornithologist). 

In choosing the “best” English-language name to use in Birds Korea checklists it would simply be easiest for us to follow every one of the recommendations in Gill et al. (2022).  Unfortunately, however, we consider that some of the names are misleading and unhelpful to bird conservation in this region, including some which are also an unnecessary reminder of Japanese military occupation last century, causing offence to some, and potentially cutting short their interest in birds.

As compilers of one of the few English-language checklists in Far East Asia, we feel some responsibility, however modest, to help suggest better options to the IOC World Bird List – just like every other user – and to see if they agree with us.

Our Eighteen Preferred English-language Names…

Of the 18 taxa we list as species that have English-language names which do not follow Gill et al. (2022), 16 have their centre of distribution in Far East Asia / Northeast Asia: our region of primary concern. The remaining two are recently split with their East Asian subspecies now elevated to full species rank.  For all but two or three of the 18, the names we use have already been used widely in the region: i.e., they are “Established Names” (Principle 4).  For each of the 18, the names we use aim to highlight their actual distribution and / or highlight features useful in their identification; or aim to draw attention to their closeness to species which they have been split from.

  • Four of the 18 highlight the close relationship between recently-split species; with an additional one included to highlight a historical split.
  • Five of the 18 are included because of taxonomic considerations (published in peer-reviewed literature or in grey literature) and not (yet) formally assessed by Gill et al. (2022).
  • Eight of the 18 are names in which the prefix “Japanese” is replaced with what we consider to be a more useful descriptor.

“Japanese” as a prefix

As the largest and hardest to understand category for people outside of this region, the over-use of “Japanese” as a prefix for bird species which are not endemic to Japan requires fuller explanation. In our opinion, in addition to regional sensitivities, the use of the prefix is often rather misleading and can contribute to biased perceptions on distribution and the need for conservation action.  

For example, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s online Birds of the World states of Japanese Wagtail Motacilla grandis that,“Status in Korea uncertain; pair bred in 1966, and thought by some to be a rare resident; possibly local and uncommon breeder in extreme S and on E coast, but more study needed” (Tyler 2020). This is even though the species is a locally common resident in the ROK, as shown clearly in eBird records. 

Distribution of Japanese Wagtail Motacilla grandis: screenshot of eBird entries for the ROK as of August 2022 © Cornell lab of Ornithology / eBird. The very small gap in records in late June / early July coincides with a combination of hot, wet weather and a resultant sharp dip in most birding activity.

In the case of Japanese Wood Pigeon Columba janthina (a species we prefer to list as Black Wood Pigeon) Baptista et al. (2020) give the distribution of the nominate subspecies in Birds of the World as “Small islands sw of South Korea to Ryukyu Islands”. However, they do not include any information at all on the species from Korea – only from Japan. In a similar vein, the species’ description on eBird as of August 2022 states, “Generally uncommon endemic of offshore Japanese and to a lesser extent Chinese and Korean islands.”

To the best of our knowledge, the globally Near Threatened Black Wood Pigeon is found on at least 15 (Birds Korea 2010) and probably dozens of islands in Korea from Gageo in the southwest north to Eocheong (at least irregularly), south to islands off Jeju, all along the south coast (with several records also on the mainland in Busan), as well as on Ulleung Island in the East Sea (known as the Sea of Japan in Japan). Although more research is needed, my own experiences with the species and the literature that I have seen suggest that birds on Gageo in the southern Yellow Sea (where there were between 25 and 30 territories back in 2009) are resident or local migrants; they are shy; and they often show an obvious pink-purple gloss on the crown. Birds on Ulleung (in forest, where I estimated between 200 and 500 individuals were present in late 2014) and the adjacent Dokdo (where small numbers were watched feeding on low windswept bushes on cliff-sides) appear to be much more strongly migratory; are rather less shy; and seem to show more obvious green on the crown.

Clearly, at the very least, Korea forms an important and under-researched part of the range of this species, which might become even more important in the future with climate warming facilitating a substantial northward spread of broad-leaved evergreen forest along the island-studded west coast (Birds Korea 2010; Moores 2012).

Black Wood Pigeon Columba janthina, June 2009, Gageo Island © Nial Moores. Note the purplish-pink head gloss, much more obvious at some angles than others
Black Wood Pigeon , November 2014, Ulleung Island, East Sea © Nial Moores. At least some Black Wood Pigeon are assumed to migrate between breeding habitat on Ulleung to southwestern Japan for winter. Birds on Ulleung appear to show more obvious green up on to the crown than birds on Gageo, and many are obviously less shy and more tolerant of disturbance.

If only a few species like these had the prefix “Japanese” then this might perhaps be only a minor issue. However, currently, no fewer than 19 species are listed on the online Birds of the World with English-language names starting with the prefix “Japanese”, and almost all of these are found in Korea. The IOC World Bird List presumably has a similar number.

Why so many? 

Evidence suggests clearly to us that use of “Japanese” as a prefix for these 19 species is:

  1. Not because of the unquestionably high number of species endemic to Japan.  While all 19 species are found in Japan, only four of them are actually endemic as breeding species, and at least one (Japanese Waxwing Bombycilla japonica) does not even breed there at all.  Genuinely Japan-endemic bird species are instead more likely to have the name of an island chain than “Japanese” as a prefix (Birds of the World lists six extant or extinct species with the prefix “Ryukyu”, and five with the prefix “Bonin” for example). 
  2. Not because of the size of Japan relative to neighboring nations. Twenty-eight species in total are currently listed with the prefix “Chinese” on the online Birds of the World (many of which are effectively endemic to China) but there are no species listed with “Korean” or “Russian” as a prefix at all. Of course, the area of territory of both China and Russia is many times that of Japan. Size does matter, but not that much!
  3. Not because of the nationality of the person who collected or described the type specimen.  Japan does have a long and distinguished history of ornithological expertise and the names of ornithologists are contained in a substantial percentage of the English-language names of species first described in Japan, China and Korea.  The online Birds of the World lists seven Pallas’s and six Swinhoe’s as prefixes for example. However, following the replacement of the English-language name Kuroda’s Sheldrake as used by Austin (1948) by the current English-language name Crested Shelduck Tadorna cristata, it seems that only Matsudaira’s Storm Petrel and Ijima’s Leaf Warbler still honour Japanese contributions to ornithology in English-language names of birds found in Far East Asia.

The most plausible explanation for the over-use of “Japanese” as a prefix is instead the result of two main factors: military occupation by Japan of the Korean Peninsula and of parts of China for several decades in the first half of the Twentieth Century, which was then followed by a paucity of English-language ornithological literature on birds produced within North-east Asia for much of the second half of the same century. 

During the decades-long occupation, Japanese ornithologists collected and named new taxa throughout the occupied territories of what was known as the Japanese Empire, in addition to within modern-day Japan itself.  The geographical reach of their research was then inadvertently fixed in the English-language bird names used by Austin (1948), who wrote the first major ornithological review of Korean birds in English in the brief period between the end of Japanese occupation (at the end of World War Two) and the Korean War which broke out in 1950.  Out of the 355 taxa in total which Austin was able to track down in literature and in collections, he listed no less than 29 with the prefix “Japanese”.

Importantly, as noted by Duckworth & Moores (2008), “Because Austin’s was the only English-language summation of Korean birds up to 1971, it has exerted the cultural equivalent of a genetic founder effect on thinking about Korean bird status”.  Austin’s work, both in Korea and then shortly after in Japan (e.g., Austin & Kuroda 1953) has evidently exerted much influence on English-language bird names throughout North-East Asia too, most likely because since his time most ornithological literature in Northeast Asia was and (still is) being written in the national languages of Korean, Russian, Chinese and Japanese – and not in English.

As noted by Brazil (1991), “while innumerable interesting books were appearing in Japanese during the late 1970s and 1980s, none was in English”. The same perhaps remains true for Far Eastern Russia even today, though the Far Eastern Journal of Ornithology at least published some English-language annotation in their 2010 Checklist covering the Primorsky Krai (Gluschenko et al. 2010).

To repeat, the high number of bird names with “Japanese” as a prefix appears largely to be a hangover from decades of harsh occupation (relevant to Principle 6: Offensive Names) followed by decades with little ornithological literature written in-region in English.

We therefore see it as a positive that, as Austin’s influence fades ever dimmer and more literature is produced within the region, there has been a gradual movement to reduce the prevalence of “Japanese” as a prefix in English-language names for non-Japan endemic species. Examples include Red-crowned Crane Grus japonensis (replacing the longstanding names of Japanese Crane and Manchurian Crane) and Warbling White-eye Zosterops japonicus (an out-of-the-blue name for a bird known for decades as Japanese White-eye). This is an ongoing process that we hope our recommendations can also contribute to.

Formerly known as Japanese White-eye, this species, photographed here in Busan in December (© Nial Moores) was suddenly re-named as Warbling White-eye Zosterops japonicus in 2018 – a name which was probably new to almost every birder and ornithologist on the planet!

Out of respect for Principle 4 (Established Names), in the 2022 Checklist we only replace the prefix “Japanese” for eight species because we do not know of widely-used alternatives for the remaining non-endemics. The eight we selected do have widely-used alternative names and inclusion of “Japanese” in their names seems especially confusing because, e.g., the species has a much wider range than Japan and / or a different species from the same family is in fact endemic to Japan when the species with the preface “Japanese” is not.  

Based on all of the above, our recommendations at this time are:

  1. Northern Hawk-cuckoo for Hierococcyx hyperythrus rather than Rufous Hawk-cuckoo. Formerly known more widely as Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo (e.g., Chalmers 1986; Brazil 1991) before being split. Several similar Hawk-cuckoos exist with reddish (“rufous”) underparts (e.g., Common Hawk-cuckoo and Philippine Hawk-cuckoo); and this is the most northerly distributed of all the Hawk-cuckoo species. The name was used by Won (1996), so presumably was in widespread usage at that time, as well as by Brazil (2009) and more recently by Round & Dymond (2022).
  2. Black Wood Pigeon for Columba janthina rather than Japanese Wood Pigeon.  Brazil (2009) lists this globally Near Threatened species as Black Woodpigeon; Korea holds a substantial proportion of the global population of this species; the species appears black in the field; and the prefix “Japanese” is less than ideal for this taxon as there are two extinct dark Wood Pigeons (Bonin Wood Pigeon and Ryukyu Wood Pigeon) which, unlike Black Wood Pigeon, were actually endemic to Japan.
  3. Eastern Water Rail for Rallus indicus instead of Brown-cheeked Rail. The taxon indicus was known as Eastern Water Rail by early authors, including Austin (1948) and the same name was also used by Brazil (2009). The name seems to be in fairly wide usage among birdwatchers in East Asia. The more patterned “brown cheeks” of Eastern when compared with Western Water Rail is a rather poor field-mark, and somewhat age dependent (much more obvious are the undertail coverts).
  4. Western Water Rail for Rallus aquaticus instead of Water Rail. Due to the similarity of the two species and their different centres of distribution, Western Water Rail is an efficient and logical prefix for aquaticus, once Eastern Water Rail is accepted for indicus.
  5. Far Eastern Oystercatcher (or better, if the longer length and new coined names are acceptable, Far East Asian Oystercatcher) for Haematopus osculans instead of Eurasian Oystercatcher for Haematopus ostralegus osculans.  Listed as a separate species by Livezey (2010) in Appendix as “Haematopus osculans Swinhoe, 1871. – Korean Oystercatcher”. Senfeld et al. (2020) provide additional genetic support for this split, concluding that among “several unresolved contentious taxa of oystercatchers is the ‘Far Eastern’ Oystercatcher H. ostralegus osculans. While currently not recognised as a species, several studies have pointed out that its status should be reevaluated. A conservation assessment of H. ostralegus osculans notes that its longer bill, distinct juvenile and non-breeding plumage, and geographic isolation suggest that it should be considered an independent evolutionary unit (Melville et al. 2014). Previously, a morphological study of shorebirds classed osculans as a separate species (Livezey 2010) which would be consistent with our mitochondrial molecular phylogeny.”.  As osculans has a wide distribution in Far East Asia, and as the English name principles call for brevity, the name Far Eastern Oystercatcher was proposed by Melville et al. (2014).
  6. Tibetan Sand Plover for Charadrius atrifrons instead of Lesser Sand Plover for Charadrius mongolus atrifrons group. Taxonomic and nomenclature changes follow Wei et al. (2022).
  7. Siberian Sand Plover for Charadrius mongolus instead of Lesser Sand Plover for Charadrius mongolus mongolus group Taxonomic and nomenclature changes follow Wei et al. (2022).
  8. Mongolian Gull for Larus mongolicus instead of Vega Gull for Larus mongolicus vegae.  Differences in plumage, moult, vocalisations, behaviour and habitat preferences have been described by a number of authors, including at length on the Birds Korea websites. Brazil (2009) was among the first English-language field guides to include this as a full species, Mongolian Gull. This English-language nomenclature and taxonomy is followed by multiple regional authors, including Park (2022).
  9. Crested Murrelet for Synthliboramphus wumizusume instead of Japanese Murrelet. This globally Vulnerable species breeds in substantial numbers (probably several hundred pairs) at a handful of sites in the ROK and has been known to be present in Korean waters since 1835, when Temminck gave the type locality as Korea (as stated by Austin 1948), based on the type specimen which was probably collected in the Korean Strait.  This presumably led Nam (1950) to list this species as “Korean Auk”.  In spite of this history, “Japanese” was instead used as a prefix by Austin (1948), and decades later Nettleship and Kirwan (2020) in the online Birds of the World omit the importance of Korea for the species by stating erroneously that the species is “restricted to five small areas off SE Japan…Minute population of perhaps <10 pairs reported in South Korea (on Daegugul I, Dong I and Jeju I)”.  There are several identification features used to separate this species from the rather similar Ancient Murrelet Synthliboramphus antiquus, including a hard to see but unique black crest in breeding plumage, which gives the species its Korean and Japanese name, which translate into English as “Crested Little Duck” and “Crested Sea Sparrow” respectively. Birds Korea has been using the name Crested Murrelet since our first online checklist in 2007; Brazil (2009) provides Crested Murrelet as an Alternative Name for this species; scientific papers on the species published in Korea have used Crested Murrelet as the English name (e.g., Park et al. 2013); and Park (2022) lists this species only as Crested Murrelet.
  10. Temminck’s Cormorant for Phalacrocorax capillatus instead of Japanese Cormorant. This species is not endemic to Japan; rather it occupies extensive stretches of coastline in the Russian Far East (where Temminck’s Cormorant was apparently used to differentiate Asian continental breeding birds from those nesting in Japan: Kondratyev et al. 2000) and along the Korean coast. Historically, the name Japanese Cormorant was instead used for the Japanese-endemic breeding subspecies of Great Cormorant P. carbo hanedae including by Austin (1948), who also used Temminck’s for P. capillatus, as did Nam (1950). It is perhaps also worthwhile to consider that Atlantic-coastline breeding P. carbo carbo in western Europe is separated from Pacific-coastline breeding P. carbo hanedae by inland-nesting sinensis from eastern Europe all the way east to inland sites in Korea. If Atlantic or Pacific-coastline breeding carbo and hanedae are at some time to be considered distinctive at the species level from continental sinensis, then the name Japanese Cormorant would only become available for hanedae (again) if P. capillatus were called Temminck’s Cormorant.
  11. Pacific Reef Egret for Egretta sacra instead of Pacific Reef Heron. This species was initially considered to be conspecific with Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes, and the main identification challenge remains that species.  The species was formerly widely known within the region of occurrence as Reef Egret (e.g., Chalmers 1986) or Eastern Reef Egret (Brazil 1991), before becoming more widely known as Pacific Reef Egret (Brazil 2009).
  12. The temporary place-holder name “Northern Scops Owl” for Otus semitorques and potentially other taxa, instead of the recently-coined Japanese Scops Owl, presumably because the original type location was in Japan (Temminck 1844). To the best of our knowledge, although some of the scops owls in the ROK are considered genetically close to O. semitorques in Japan, there appears to have been insufficient research on small owls to be able to determine how many scops owl taxa there are in the ROK, on the Korean Peninsula and in East Asia as a whole.  At least, it appears that there might be substantial variation across this region in vocalisations attributed to what used to be known as Feathered Toed Scops Owl (Nam 1950) before becoming Indian Scops Owl (Won 1996) then Collard Scops Owl (Ornithological Society of Korea 2009), before being split to produce O. semitorques. Either way, the coining of Japanese Scops Owl for O. semitorques seems especially retrogressive and unhelpful for several reasons. As currently mapped, O. semitorques has a much wider range than only Japan (being found also in China, Russia and on the Korean Peninsula); the species is not especially common in Japan; Japan already has an endemic scops owl, the Ryukyu Scops Owl; and pryeri, currently considered to be a subspecies of this newly-coined Japanese Scops Owl, is also endemic to Japan.
  13. Black Paradise Flycatcher for Terpsiphone atrocaudata instead of Japanese Paradise Flycatcher. This globally near-threatened species breeds in substantial numbers in the southern provinces of the Korean Peninsula, and at smaller densities at least north to Gyeonggi and Gangwon Provinces in the ROK (Birds Korea archive); and also in western Japan, the Nansei Shoto of Japan, and Taiwan (Moeliker 2022).  Males are obviously darker above than males of the recently split Amur Paradise Flycatcher T. incei, and can look almost black above in field conditions. In addition, according to Prof. Phil Round (in lit. May 2016), one of the most useful field characters to look for in female-type plumages is “the more or less uniform sooty blackish primary coverts. Primary coverts have contrasting bright rufous edges in all non-white plumages of T. incei.”  Black as a prefix therefore has real value when considering identification issues. In addition to the misrepresentation of range inherent in the Prefix “Japanese”, it should also be noted that there is a “fairly strong possibility” that subspecies T. atrocaudata illex of the Nansei Shoto “merits species rank” (Moeliker 2020). This would result in presumably two Paradise Flycatchers with prefixes related to presence in Japan.  Austin (1948) listed the species as Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, but Nam (1950) instead listed it as Korean Paradise Flycatcher. Japanese Paradise Flycatcher has wide usage, but Black Paradise Flycatcher is provided as an alternative name by Brazil (2009) and Gluschenko et al. (2010) use only Black Paradise Flycatcher.
  14. Northern Great Tit Parus major instead of Great Tit to improve consistency with Eastern Great Tit for Parus minor.
  15. Eastern Great Tit for Parus minor instead of Japanese Tit. The split of Great Tit Parus major into several similar-looking and quite similar-sounding species requires the coining of several distinctive names or the much simpler use of relative centre of distribution: e.g., Northern Great Tit P. major, Southern Great Tit P. cinereus and Eastern Great Tit P. minor, as used by Brazil (2009). The prefix “Japanese”, while retrogressive, also seems peculiar for a species with such a huge range, perhaps stretching “from eastern Tibet, south-western China, through south-eastern Russia, Korea to Japan” (Gosler et al. 2020, in Birds of the World, 2022). The name Eastern Great Tit also seems preferable to Japanese Tit, as (1) nigriloris Great Tit, perhaps part of Southern Great Tit or distinct in itself, also occurs in the Nansei Shoto of Japan (Brazil 2009); and (2) Owston’s Tit Sittiparus owstoni (split from Varied Tit Sittiparus varius) is also an endemic Japanese tit species.
  16. Far Eastern Lark Alauda japonica, listed still as a full species on the basis of a long history of sympatric breeding of different skylark taxa both in Korea (as earlier noted e.g., by Austin 1948 and additional authors) and regionally (far northern Japan and Far Eastern Russia), combined with apparently consistent differences in size, breast pattern, plumage saturation, song flight descent, extent of tail held open during song flights and some differences in vocalisations between Far Eastern Lark and pekinensis and lonnbergi, currently ascribed to Eurasian Skylark A. arvensis. This split, originally adopted by BirdLife International as “Japanese Lark”, has been retained by Birds Korea for the past 15 years because of the lack of evidence to “undo” it. Of note, according to Magnus Robb (in lit. 2018), based on initial analysis of a limited number of recordings, there appeared to be more difference between Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis in western Europe and skylarks sensu lato in East Asia than between Far Eastern Lark and Eurasian Skylark in Korea. It is clear that a comprehensive review of Skylarks across Eurasia is needed before any further decisions can be taken. This review needs to be conducted with a similar level of expertise and regional collaboration as demonstrated by Alstrom et al. (2021).
  17. Grey Thrush for Turdus cardis, instead of Japanese Thrush. Although Grey Thrush seems a rather poor descriptor for this striking species, it is preferable to Japanese. The species breeds in China as well as in Japan, and there at least two other genuinely endemic Japanese thrushes (Izu Islands Thrush Turdus celaenops and Amami Thrush Zoothera major) as well as one additional species with the centre of its breeding distribution in Japan: Brown-headed Thrush Turdus chrysolaus.  The English-language name Grey Thrush has a long history of use throughout its range. It was formerly known as Japanese Grey Thrush by Austin (1948); subsequently, multiple authors then listed the species as Grey Thrush, including Nam (1950) and Gore & Won (1971) in the ROK, Chalmers in Hong Kong (1986) and even Brazil (1991) in Japan.   
  18. Ochre-rumped Bunting for Emberiza yessoensis instead of Japanese Reed Bunting.  Although the nominate subspecies is likely to be endemic as a breeding taxon to Japan, the bulk of the species’ population (subspecies continentalis) breeds outside of Japan in China and Russia, with a very small number also known to breed in the DPRK and the ROK. In addition, in large parts of the range, this globally Near Threatened species is not a reedbed-nesting specialist, instead preferring wet sedge and wet grasslands, with migrants and wintering birds in a rather wider range of habitats, including reed-beds. Although often considered to be similar looking to Common and Pallas’s Reed Buntings, this species has a distinctively warm plumage, including uniquely on the rump (Pallas’s Reed Bunting shares some of the warmth on the nape, but typically has a brown-grey rump band which fades much paler through the winter). Both Austin (1948) and Nam (1950) knew the species as Chinese Reed Bunting, though noted that the Japanese name for the species translated to “Korean Little Reed Bunting”, with this name also used by Gore & Won (1971). Ochre-rumped Bunting was adopted as the preferred name by the Oriental Bird Club in the 2000s; was suggested as an alternative name by Brazil (2009) and by eBird (2022); and was used as the English name by Park (2014), though not by the same author in 2022, presumably to be consistent with Gill et al. (2022).  
Ochre-rumped Bunting Emberiza yessoensis © Nial Moores. Above, in breeding habitat in Rason, DPRK (June 2018) and during migration, Baekryeong Island, ROK, October 2021

Even after the adoption of these preferences, ten species with the prefix “Japanese” still reman on the 2022 Birds Korea Checklist, with five or six of these Korean-breeding species: Japanese Quail Coturnix japonica (NT), Japanese Night Heron Gorsachius goisagi (VU), Japanese Sparrowhawk Accipiter gularis (LC), Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker Yungipicus kizuki (LC), Japanese Waxwing Bombycilla japonica (NT), Japanese Bush Warbler Horornis diphone (LC), Japanese Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus xanthodryas (LC), Japanese Accentor Prunella rubida (LC), Japanese Wagtail Motacilla grandis (LC) and Japanese Grosbeak Eophona personata (LC). This compares with zero species and only one subspecies with the prefix “Korean”.

We welcome hearing from members and the regional birding community!


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