The American Ornithological Society said Wednesday that it would begin renaming birds in 2024 after years of consultation.
Up to eighty birds, mostly in the United States and Canada, will be renamed over their links to “exclusionary and harmful” figures from history, the American Ornithological Society announced Wednesday.
The organization said that scientists had “long grappled” with practices that have excluded Black, Indigenous and other people of color, including when it comes to naming birds.
Between 70 and 80 species will now get new identities to distance them from slave owners and racists. One example is the Bachman’s Sparrow, named after a minister who claimed all humans were a “unified species” and preached to enslaved populations, while also owning slaves himself.
Others include Nuttall’s Woodpecker - named after Thomas Nuttall whose writings on indigenous peoples appeared to encourage their displacement by colonizers, and Scott’s Oriole - after Scott Winfield, a soldier tasked with “ethnic cleansing” in the South in the early 1800s.
“There is power in a name, and some English bird names have associations with the past that continue to be exclusionary and harmful today. We need a much more inclusive and engaging scientific process that focuses attention on the unique features and beauty of the birds themselves,” AOS President Colleen Handel said in a press release.
“Everyone who loves and cares about birds should be able to enjoy and study them freely—and birds need our help now more than ever.”
For 98% of most normal people we know the birds as sparrows not Bachman Sparrow, Woodpeckers and if I see Woody. We have our priorities in the wrong place right now. We need to be solving a lot more important issues than if a birds name offends someone. These Birds are part of History and History is important to be told not forgotten. This is where we all come from and its important to show where we are going but if we start changing our names because it might offend someone than we could be forgotten.
Well I think all the changes in names of buildings, Military Bases birds, really people and tearing down of statues all a bunch of horse crap anyways, and I’m being nice enough said. It’s part of history all of our history
The AOU, which I have been a member of for the past 20 years has no control over solving the homeless problem in the US. It is an affiliation of ornithologists, biologists and naturalists, amateur and professional, from a broad range of backgrounds dedicated to funding research in Ornithology.
No one is suggesting that eponymous bird names are killing people. However, there have been questions raised about the wisdom of utilizing the names of racists and that this makes the growing number of birders who are not of European descent feel unwelcome. Some of the people for whom some birds are named were not entirely grand people, and maybe, just maybe, the AOU, in accordance with wishes of its members have decided to change the names back to what many of them were called before they were given the name of someone (who may or may not have even cared about birds at all).
I’m not sure this would have been my approach. It does seem that any look at figures in history will be found wanting by our enlightened age. I’ve always assumed that such figures are likely to have held awful beliefs about a great number of things. However, it isnt entirely unreasonable to suggest such a change is in order or to discuss the merits of such changes.
I don’t think it is unreasonable to have that discussion. I do personally fear that the current trend of judging and canceling people from the past based on modern moral standards will have long term negative impacts. I think the erasing of history because some in the present may find offense with it is a dangerous precedent.
Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. We can’t learn from it if all the uncomfortable facts are removed from public view.
I can’t speak to why others are interested but it actually does have a personal impact on me. Some of my work involves bird identification in work areas and now I’m going to have to learn a bunch of new four letter codes plus figure out if the people I am reporting to are using the new or old codes. It is going to lead to data issues and the risk of offending people if I use the wrong codes old or new. Some people are very sensitive to perceived offenses these days.
To turn the question around why is a member of the AOU interested in what a bunch of people in the self defense community are talking about?
I also have to wonder, outside of the likely incredibly small subset of birders who are interested in the history of birding and the backgrounds of the historical people involved, how many people actually had any idea of the dubious moral values of the people some of these species were named after? Was there a growing movement of birders saying the names were offensive? Was it some outside groups that look for offenses that started voicing a problem with the names? Or was it some uncomfortable insiders trying to avoid potential future cancelations?
I personally suspect changing the names will lead to far more people on both sides of the issue being offended then would have ever been if the names were left as is.
Second, why can’t people just live their short lives without having to be offended by everything they walk past. If they don’t like what is on tv, change the channel.
Instead of worrying who named a bird and why or take an Indian off the butter those people need a hobby that doesn’t involve being Karen’s.