Proposal (258) to South American Classification Committee


Add hyphen to English name "Flowerpiercer" (Diglossa)


Proposal: This proposal was overlooked from the recent raft of hyphenation proposals and is raised for completeness. The hyphenated name "Flower-piercer" has been used in many publications, whilst SACC uses "Flowerpiercer". Parkes (1978)'s rules on hyphenation are not definitive in their application here.



To recap, Parkes (1978) established the following rules that are relevant here:


RULE 1: Compound bird names should be spelled as a single word, unhyphenated, if:


C. The name describes an activity of the bird (whether or not accurately!).


Examples on SACC list: Shearwater, Sandpiper, Turnstone, Kingfisher, Woodpecker, Earthcreeper, Reedhaunter, Canebrake, Brushrunner, Treerunner, Woodhaunter, Treehunter, Leaftosser, Woodcreeper, Gnateater, Flycatcher, Plantcutter, Berryeater, Fruiteater, Gnatcatcher, Mockingbird, Seedeater. 




II. An unhyphenated word would be excessively long (usually four syllables or more), or clumsy or imply an incorrect pronunciation.


Examples on SACC list: Chuck-will's-widow, Foliage-gleaner, Huet-huet, Firewood-gatherer, Cock-of-the-rock.


"Flowerpiercer" is a rather long word (13 letters). However, it causes no problems to pronunciation, like some of the examples in II would do when not hyphenated.


Among non-hyphenated SACC bird names, "Flowerpiercer" is equaled only by "Crescentchest" (also 13 letters). None that I spotted have 14 letters or more. "Flowerpiercer", however, has 4 or 5 syllables/diphthongs ("ier"?), cf. 3 in "Crescentchest". "Berryeater" has four syllables but is much shorter. "Violetear" has something between 3 and 5 syllables/diphthongs but is also shorter. "Flowerpiercer" could possibly be regarded as different from the others in its combination of length and number of syllables, but it is a weak argument.




Various recent leading texts use "Flower-piercer": Hilty & Brown (1986) Birds of Colombia; Rodner et al. (2000) Checklist of Birds of Northern South America. Salaman et al. (2001) Checklist of Birds of Colombia and Fjeldså & Krabbe (1990) Birds of the High Andes.


Others use "Flowerpiercer": AOU checklists, Dickinson (2003) Howard & Moore Checklist, Hilty (2003) Birds of Venezuela (Note: a change from Birds of Colombia), Ridgley & Greenfield (2001) Birds of Ecuador.


Recommendation: This usage is a matter of taste, rather like "Crescentchest". Many of the field guides and textbooks that I most frequently use hyphenate this bird name. However, there is nothing wrong or unpronounceable with the non-hyphenated version "Flowerpiercer" and nothing strongly to distinguish this from "Crescentchest", so a tentative "NO".



Parkes K.C. 1978. A guide to forming and capitalizing compound names of birds in English. Auk 95: 324-326. Available at:


Thomas Donegan, January 2007





Comments from Remsen: NO. One less hyphen to clog up lists.


Comments from Stiles: "NO. "Flowerpiercer" is certainly no jawbreaker, as at least "Firewood-gatherer" could be accused of being, it is a syllable shorter than "Foliage-gleaner", and it is totally appropriate so I see no reason to make it an exception to Rule 1! Huet-huet and Chuck-wills-widow are both onomatopoeic, so don´t seem to be especially suited to this rule, and Cock-of-the-rock is both firmly entrenched and cute."


Comments from Zimmer: "NO. I don't think the hyphen adds anything but clutter in this case."


Comments from Nores [not an official vote on English names]: "NO. Pienso que este cambio no implica mejora ni para la pronunciación ni para uniformar criterios."


Comments from Robbins: "NO, I see no compelling reason to add a hyphen to flowerpiercer."


Comments from Jaramillo: "NO - Hyphens just confuse me, they likely do so for others. Retaining as it is seems simpler."