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US group will change list of bird names to correct offensive history

The American Ornithological Society said after controversy that persisted for years, it will remove human names for bird species.
US group will change list of bird names to correct offensive history
Posted at 8:26 PM, Nov 02, 2023

The American Ornithological Society said it is trying to address years of controversy over a list of bird names that include human names deemed offensive. 

Around 70 to 80 bird species will be renamed by the group, including birds in the United States and Canada. The group said it will remove the human names included in some of the bird nomenclature that have links to people with racist histories. 

AOS President Colleen Handel said, "There is power in a name, and some English bird names have associations with the past that continue to be exclusionary and harmful today. We need a much more inclusive and engaging scientific process that focuses attention on the unique features and beauty of the birds themselves."

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The group said it plans to create a committee to oversee the renaming project. 

Handel said, "This committee will broaden participation by including a diverse representation of individuals with expertise in the social sciences, communications, ornithology, and taxonomy."

The National Audubon Society made the choice this year to retain names it had assigned amid a push to change the names. 

The famous American naturalist James John Audubon, for whom the group is named after, had harmful attitudes toward Black and Indigenous people, the society has said. 

"Even though Audubon found Black and Indigenous people scientifically useful, he never accepted them as socially or racially equal. He took pains to distinguish himself from them," Greg Nobles wrote, for Audubon's website. 

The AOS said ornithologists have "grappled" with "historical and contemporary practices that contribute to the exclusion of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, including how birds are named."

The group said it is committed to changing the names of birds to try and correct this within its geographic jurisdiction. 

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