Racism, misogyny prompt American Ornithological Society renaming of birds

UPI
The American Ornithological Society said Wednesday it will change the English names of all birds within its jurisdiction due to exclusionary naming conventions developed in the 1800s, clouded by racism and misogyny. Photo courtesy of AOS

Nov. 1 (UPI) -- The American Ornithological Society said Wednesday it will change the all English bird names currently named after people in its jurisdiction. The renaming begins in 2024 and AOS said it's being done to change naming conventions clouded by racism and misogyny.

The renaming will focus on 70-80 bird species in the United States and Canada.

"There is power in a name, and some English bird names have associations with the past that continue to be exclusionary and harmful today," AOS President Dr. Colleen Handel said in a statement. "We need a much more inclusive and engaging scientific process that focuses attention on the unique features and beauty of the birds themselves."

AOS said in its statement that ornithologists have grappled for years with "historical and contemporary practices that contribute to the exclusion of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, including how birds are named."

AOS Executive Director Dr. Judith Scarl said in a statement, "Exclusionary naming conventions developed in the 1800s, clouded by racism and misogyny, don't work for us today, and the time has come for us to transform this process and redirect the focus to the birds, where it belongs."

There will be three specific changes in bird-naming:

  • Changing all English-language names of birds within its geographic jurisdiction that are named directly after people (eponyms), along with other names deemed offensive and exclusionary.

  • Establishing a new committee to oversee the assignment of all English common names for species within the AOS's jurisdiction. This committee will broaden participation by including a diverse representation of individuals with expertise in the social sciences, communications, ornithology, and taxonomy.

  • Actively involving the public in the process of selecting new English bird names.