TOPEKA (KSNT) – The American Ornithological Society (AOS) says it will be changing the names of numerous birds in the U.S. and Canada next year due to “exclusionary and harmful” connections to the past.
On Nov. 1, 2023 the AOS released an article detailing why these changes are being made. The AOS said it’s working to address past wrongs to engage more people in the appreciation and protection of birds. Part of this process involves renaming all birds under the AOS’s jurisdiction which are named after people.
This will impact around 70-80 birds in the U.S. and Canada, according to the AOS. More birds may have their names changed past this initial group with the renaming process kicking off in 2024.
“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 Colleen Handel, Ph.D., 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.”
This is not the first time the AOS has made a change to a bird’s English name. In 2020, the AOS renamed McCown’s Longspur, a bird found in western Kansas, to the Thick-billed Longspur. This was due to the bird being named after amateur naturalist John P. McCown’s military service associated with the Confederate Army during the U.S. Civil War, according to the AOS.
The AOS said it plans to establish a new committee dedicated to the assignment of all English common names for species that fall under the organization’s jurisdiction. Members of the public will be encouraged to participated in this process.
“As scientists, we work to eliminate bias in science,” Judith Scarl, Ph.D., AOS Executive Director and CEO said. “But there has been historic bias in how birds are named, and who might have a bird named in their honor. 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.”
The name changes are part of an extended effort by the AOS to get more people interested in the conservation of birds due to population declines in North America. The scientific names of the bird species will not be impacted by the changes being made to their English names.
Kansas is home to numerous bird species and a migratory hotspot at Cheyenne Bottoms. You can learn more about bird watching opportunities in the Sunflower State by visiting the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Park’s (KDWP) website by clicking here.