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02nd Nov 2023

Dozens of birds to be renamed after finding they’re ‘offensive’ and ’cause pain’

Nina McLaughlin

A whole bunch of birds are set to be renamed as a result of their’offensive’ names.

Some of the names that are on the chopping board include Anna’s Hummingbird, Gambel’s Quail, Lewis’s Woodpecker, Bewick’s Wren, and Bullock’s Oriole.

Although most of these names may seem fairly inconspicuous at a glance, the American Ornithological Society has announced that they are going to change the names of birds who share their names with people, as well as any other species names that they deem to be offensive.

The concerns about birds being named after people stems from the people whom they were named after. Many of the animals share names with slave traders, white supremacists, as well as those who were known to rob the graves of Indigenous people.

Examples of such birds include Bachman’s warbler, which is named after John Bachman, a slave-owning priest, as well as Hodgson’s Frogmouth, which takes its name from the colonialist and naturalist  Brian Houghton Hodgson.

The American Ornithological Society has shared its concerns that names such as these are alienating to people of colour, and hence are hoping that the name changes will encourage wider participation in birds.

“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,” they said in a statement.

The renaming project will begin with 70 to 80 bird species in Canada and the US, which is roughly six to seven percent of the total species.

Kenn Kaufmann, who is a leading member of the bird watching community, spoke about the changes with NPR.

“I’ve been seeing some of these birds and using these names every year for the last 60 years,” he said.

“It’s going to feel like a bother to some people, but I think it’s actually an exciting opportunity,” he continued.

“It’s an exciting opportunity to give these birds names that celebrate them — rather than some person in the past.”