Australian Bird Names


Paperback - May 2013 - AU $49.95

eBook - May 2013 - eRetailers Google Books Kobo

An up-to-date, readily digestible check-list of Australian birds and the meanings behind their common and scientific names.

Australian Bird Names is aimed at anyone with an interest in birds, words, or the history of Australian biology and bird-watching. It discusses common and scientific names of every Australian bird, to tease out the meanings, which may be useful, useless or downright misleading! + Full description

The authors examine every species: its often many-and-varied common names, its full scientific name, with derivation, translation and a guide to pronunciation. Stories behind the name are included, as well as relevant aspects of biology, conservation and history. Original descriptions, translated by the authors, have been sourced for many species.

As well as being a book about names this is a book about the history of ever-developing understandings of birds, about the people who contributed and, most of all, about the birds themselves.

2013 Whitley Award Commendation for Zoological Resource.

- Short description


2013 Whitley Award Commendation for Zoological Resource.

Australian Bird Names is aimed at anyone with an interest in birds, words, or the history of Australian biology and bird-watching. It discusses common and scientific names of every Australian bird, to tease out the meanings, which may be useful, useless or downright misleading!

Listen to an interview with Ian Fraser about the book on ABC The Science Show.
Listen to Ian Fraser interviewed by Fran Kelly on Radio National.


"A rare example of a very learned reference book that's full of fun. Essential for anyone keen on birds or words."
Nick Goldie, Summit Sun, p. 9, June 2013

"An immensely impressive work of scholarship in itself, Australian Bird Names really stands out for its ability to turn what could be a rather dry exercise into something eminently readable. ...this book will provide endless hours of fascinating and enlightening reading."
Sean Dooley, Australian Birdlife, p. 74, 2013

"For birdwatchers, biologists and etymologists this is a bible, but it's also a lighthearted glossary of weird and wonderful naming stories for those of us who want to top up our trivia night armoury. Scientific notations are combined with easy-to-understand but often eye-opening historical explanations of common names and their foreign language equivalents (the Greek tragedy behind the river kingfisher is a personal favourite, and I think we should all use 'afternoon-tea bird' instead of pied currawong and 'miss piggy' instead of spotted pardalote."
Wild, p. 73, July-August 2013

"... a veritable treasure trove of Australian bird names, how they came about and their variations."
Talking Birds, p. 12, July 2013

"This guide clearly fills a large and important gap... I believe this well-produced, 352-page book could become a useful addition on avian bookshelves, both in Australia and other countries."
Graham Hyde, Cage & Aviary Birds, p. 19, August 14 2013

"...a reference book that is easy to read or consult, although likely to be used for dipping-into, rather than reading all at once. What might otherwise be occasionally dull fare is leavened by Ian Fraser’s lively and conversational style. Ian does not hold back on the adjectives - or exclamation marks! ...this is an impressive book. I do not know of anything quite so comprehensive for the birds of any other region, and indeed its practical layout could serve as a model for future books on bird names for other regions."
Canberra Bird Notes, pp. 182-183, Vol 38(2), June 2013

"It is both informative and interesting... Glancing through the pages conveys that the authors achieved their stated aim; from Mallee stick-tail to wee juggler and many more!"
Graeme Hyde, Finch News, pp. 203-205, 2013

"The style of this book is beguilingly light-hearted and delightfully sprinkled with almost conversational touches of humour, but it quickly becomes apparent that the level of detail and depth of research behind the work are almost forensic. What is offered here is the best that is known to date!
"This essential reference now has pride of place beside my field guides... and dictionary."
Lou Citroen, Australian Field Ornithology, 33, 2016, p. 32


Paperback | May 2013 | $ 49.95
ISBN: 9780643104693 | 352 pages | 245 x 170 mm
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing

ePDF | May 2013
ISBN: 9780643104709
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Available from eRetailers


  • A greater understanding of the origins and bases for the names and relationships of Australian birds, which will in turn assist with greater appreciation of and familiarity with the birds themselves
  • An up-to-date, totally comprehensible and readily digestible check-list of Australian birds, with the added advantage of much extra information
  • Presented in an entertaining and discursive manner, so that it can be read for enjoyment, as well as a reference


How common names of Australian birds have been derived
How scientific names of birds are derived
Procedures and pronunciations

View the full table of contents.


Ian Fraser is a naturalist, conservationist, author, ABC broadcaster, natural history tour guide, environmental consultant and adult educator who has lived and worked in Canberra since 1980. He was awarded the Australian Natural History Medallion in 2006, for services to conservation and education, and is the author of A Bush Capital Year.

Jeannie Gray is a retired teacher and counsellor with a lifelong passion for the study of languages and natural history.