American birds will no longer be named after people | ET REALITY


The American Ornithological Society, the organization responsible for standardizing English bird names across the Americas, announced Wednesday that it would rename all species after people. Bird names are derived from people, the society said in a statementit can be harmful, exclusionary and detract from “the attention, appreciation or consideration of the birds themselves.”

That means Cory’s Shearwatera bird found off the coast of the southeastern United States will no longer have a name that recognizes John James Audubon, a famous illustrator of birds and slave owner who strongly opposed abolition. He Scott’s oriolea black and yellow bird that lives in the Southwest and Mexico, will also get a new nickname, cutting ties with American Civil War general Winfield Scott, who oversaw the forced relocation of indigenous people in 1838 that eventually became the Trail of Tears.

The organization’s decision is a response to pressure from bird watchers to regain recognition of historical figures with a racist or colonial past. The renaming process will aim for names that are more descriptive of the birds’ habitats or physical characteristics and is part of a broader scientific push for more welcoming and inclusive environments.

“We’re really doing this to address some historical mistakes,” said Judith Scarl, executive director of the American Ornithological Society. Dr Scarl added that the change would help “involve more people in the enjoyment, protection and study of birds”.

Proponents of this change believe that many common English names for birds are “isolating and degrading reminders of oppression, slavery and genocide,” according to one study. petition in 2020 that was addressed to the American Ornithological Society. The petition was written by Bird names for birdsan initiative founded by two ornithologists to address the issue of the names of these birds, which they describe as “verbal statues” that reflect the values ​​of their eponyms.

But some birdwatchers, while expressing sympathy for the cause, said they were not sure this was the right way forward. “I’m not very excited about this, but I’m not very disappointed either,” said Jeff Marks, an ornithologist with Montana Bird Advocacy.

“We will lose a little bit of knowledge about some key people in the history of ornithology, and that makes me sad,” Dr. Marks said. “But maybe in the scheme of things that’s not so important.”

Jordan Rutter, founder of Bird Names For Birds, said the petition was inspired by what became a momentous encounter in Central Park in 2020, when a white woman falsely reported to police that Christian Cooper, a Black birdwatcher, he was threatening her.

“It wasn’t a wake-up call,” Ms. Rutter said, but it brought “long-known but not prominent issues” to the forefront of the bird community.

The meeting in Central Park inspired the creation of Blackbirders Weekan annual campaign to celebrate the lives and careers of black birders, which he later promoted an avalanche of similar initiatives in the sciences in the context of a national racial reckoning. In 2021, the Entomological Society of America began the Best Common Names Project change the names of insects considered inappropriate or derogatory. Astronomers have also advocated changing the name of main telescopes which, they say, drive people away from marginalized backgrounds.

In birding communities, attempts to move away from problematic bird names have produced mixed results. He Bird Union and the Chicago Bird Alliance They recently changed their names to avoid an association with Audubon. But the National Audubon Society’s board of directors voted to keep its name this year, saying the organization’s mission transcended one person’s story.

In 2022, the American Ornithological Society Announced forming an ad hoc committee to determine how to address controversial bird names. Committee members met every two weeks for months, discussing topics such as the importance of name stability and how to determine the criteria for changing a bird’s name.

Wednesday’s announcement is the culmination of that effort. In its statement, the American Ornithological Society pledged to change all bird names derived from people and to assemble a diverse group to oversee the renaming process, which it said would include input from the general public. More than 100 species of birds in America will receive new names.

“The idea of ​​changing a bunch of names is, for a lot of people, including me originally, throwing away a lot of history,” said John Fitzpatrick, an ornithologist at Cornell University. He said he initially felt that bird names should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, but that subsequent discussions convinced him that “there is no formula by which we can determine which names are good enough.”

In particular, only the common English names of birds will change, since scientific names, which are traditionally in Latin, are governed by a rigid and universal code. set of rules that take into account the evolutionary relationships between different species. (There are also Latin designations taken from personal names, such as Capito fitzpatricki for Sira’s spaniela Peruvian bird named after Dr. Fitzpatrick.)

The decision to change the birds’ common names “makes a lot of sense” to Cooper, whose fame has led him to host a National Geographic birding show. “There’s no reason to put a person’s name attached to a bird, because it doesn’t say anything about the bird,” he said.

Mr. Cooper mentioned the Wilson’s Warbler, a singing songbird with a distinctive black cap. Changing the name to something “like black-capped warbler,” he said, would give birders a better idea of ​​what to look for.

The American Ornithological Society plans to pilot a renaming program next year, starting with about 10 birds. Over time, the program will expand to address all namesake birds in the United States and Canada, and then move to bird species in Central and South America, which is the extent of the society’s naming jurisdiction.

Carlos Daniel Cadena, an ornithologist at the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia and leader of the English Bird Names Committee, hopes the changes will involve a slight learning curve, but also present a new opportunity for the public to make connections with birds.

“It will be a level playing field where we will all need to learn together,” Dr. Cadena said.

He noted that the process could be adapted to birds in Latin American countries, where people commonly refer to them by their scientific names.

With thousands of species throughout the American continent, birds are as diverse as the communities that appreciate them. “Birds are by far the most accessible and appreciated element of biodiversity around the world,” Dr Fitzpatrick said. He added that more colorful names for these creatures would increase “the ease with which new birders of all kinds” can enjoy them.

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