The American Ornithological Society, an organization responsible for standardizing English bird names across the Americas, announced on Wednesday that dozens of birds in U.S. and Canada will be renamed because birds who were named in honor of people can be upsetting to some, The New York Times reported.
“There is power in a name, and some English bird names have associations with the past that continue to be exclusionary and harmful today,” Colleen Handel, the society’s president and a research wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Alaska, said.
“We need a much more inclusive and engaging scientific process that focuses attention on the unique features and beauty of the birds themselves,” she added. “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.”
“We’ve come to understand that there are certain names that have offensive or derogatory connotations that cause pain to people, and that it is important to change those, to remove those as barriers to their participation in the world of birds,” she continued, NPR noted.
“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.” AOS Executive Director and CEO Judith Scarl, Ph.D., said in a statement.
Some of the birds who will be affected include such fine-feathered creatures as Gambel’s Quail, Lewis’ Woodpecker, Anna’s Hummingbird, Bullock’s Oriole, Bewick’s Wren, and many more, NPR noted.
The Audubon’s shearwater, who was named after the famous bird illustrator James John Audubon, will be among those renamed because Audobon was a slave owner who adamantly opposed abolition, the Times noted.
The Scott’s oriole will also get a new name because it was named after U.S. Civil War General Winfield Scott. Scott led a force of thousands who removed the Cherokee Indians from their land, as part of the Trail of Tears, PBS noted.
The renaming of the birds is expected to begin next year, starting with 10 birds and eventually working to 70 to 80 bird species. The new birds’ names will based on their habitats or distinct features, NPR noted.
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