More than a hundred bird species are about to be renamed because their monikers have been deemed “offensive” and “exclusionary” by some due to their connection to the “racist” pasts of the people who the birds were named after.
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.
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 move to change the birds’ names comes from birders who were upset about the connection to historical figures. In 2020, following the death of George Floyd, the organization received a petition from the Bird Names For Bird’s group, which pointed out that the names were “isolating and demeaning reminders of oppression, slavery and genocide.”
“We’re really doing this to address some historic wrongs,” Judith Scarl, the executive director of the American Ornithological Society, said, adding that the change “will engage even more people in enjoying and protecting and studying birds.”
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.