• New insights from old eggs – the shape and thickness of Great Auk Pinguinus impennis eggs

      Birkhead, T; Russell, D; Garbout, A; Attard, M; Thompson, J; Jackson, D (Wiley, 2020-02-09)
      We compared the shape and eggshell thickness of Great Auk Pinguinus impennis eggs with those of its closest relatives, the Razorbill Alca torda, Common Guillemot Uria aalge and Brünnich's Guillemot Uria lomvia, in order to gain additional insights into the breeding biology of the extinct Great Auk. The egg of the Great Auk was most similar in shape to that of Brünnich's Guillemot. The absolute thickness of the Great Auk eggshell was greater than that of the Common Guillemot and Razorbill egg, which is as expected given its greater size, but the relative shell thickness at the equator and pointed end (compared with the blunt end) was more similar to that of the Common Guillemot. On the basis of these and other results we suggest that Great Auk incubated in an upright posture in open habitat with little or no nest, where its pyriform egg shape provided stability and allowed safe manoeuvrability during incubation. On the basis of a recent phylogeny of the Alcidae, we speculate that a single brood patch, a pyriform egg and upright incubation posture, as in the Great Auk and the two Uria guillemots, is the ancestral state, and that the Razorbill – the Great Auk's closest relative – secondarily evolved two brood patches and an elliptical egg as adaptations for horizontal incubation, which provides flexibility in incubation site selection, allowing breeding in enclosed spaces such as crevices, burrows or under boulders, as well as on open ledges.
    • Towards redressing inaccurate, offensive and inappropriate common bird names

      Driver, Robert J; Bond, AL (Wiley, 2021-06-07)
      English common names are widely used in ornithological research, birding, media and by the general public and, unlike other taxa, often receive considerably greater use than scientific names. Across the world, many of these names were coined from 18th and 19th century European perspectives and are symbolic of a time when this was the only worldview considered in science. Here, we highlight formal efforts by ornithological societies around the world to change common names of birds to better reflect the diverse perspectives of scientists in the 21st century. We focus on particular case studies from regions with a history of colonialism, including South Africa and North America, as well as the successful implementation of Indigenous bird names in New Zealand. In addition to detailing independent and repeated efforts by different ornithological communities to address culturally inappropriate English common names, we discuss dissention and debate in North America regarding these changes. The continued use of problematic common names must change if we wish to create a more diverse and inclusive discipline.