It’s an enormous second in ornithology. On November 1 the American Ornithological Society introduced the historic choice to change the English names of birds currently named after a person (“eponymous” hen names), and to interact the general public in choosing the brand new names.
The plan is to make use of a phased strategy, beginning with a pilot train after which specializing in 70 to 80 species within the U.S. and Canada first. The AOS presently maintains authoritative hen checklists for North, Central, and South America. Past the U.S. and Canada, the AOS will work with ornithological societies in these areas to know how you can deal with hen names. There are 152 species with eponymous names presently on the record of birds decided by the AOS North American Classification Committee and 111 decided by the South American Classification Committee, so about 5.5% of the hen species within the area.
AOS’s prime purpose for the modifications is to attempt to make birds and birdwatching open and welcoming to as many individuals as doable. The rationale is threefold: some hen names are deemed offensive or exclusionary due to the actions of the individuals they’re named after; it’s going to be extraordinarily troublesome to realize consensus on precisely which particular person ought to or shouldn’t have a hen named after them; so it’s higher to maneuver away from eponymous names altogether. The AOS additionally factors out that this train offers an opportunity to offer birds names which might be extra helpful in indicating how they give the impression of being or sound, the place they reside, or perhaps a attribute conduct.
I’m supportive of AOS’s choice and agree with that logic. I’m additionally happy to see the phased strategy, and significantly the dedication to work with regional ornithological societies to know how you can deal with any modifications to names exterior the U.S. and Canada. The identical discussions are occurring for different teams of organisms, so I’m proud the birding group is courageous sufficient to be the primary to tackle the problem.
On the similar time, I’m keenly conscious that folks really feel a robust attachment to sure species names. I think I’ll pine just a little for Blackburnian Warbler—sure, it’s eponymous!—though I can simply see the attraction of a brand new namev like Hearth-throated Warbler. The choice to vary eponymous hen names can really feel culturally or politically charged as effectively, which some individuals will seemingly see as a distraction, particularly at a time of such conservation want. Furthermore, most of the species additionally happen in different geographic areas, the place it’s not but clear how renaming can be perceived. It’s going to be vital to take heed to completely different views, and respect the views of fellow birdwatchers, even once we don’t agree with one another.
From the angle of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, we’re trying ahead to getting concerned in what seems to be set to be an enormous, thrilling marketing campaign to pick out the brand new names for U.S. and Canadian species. I’m hoping we’ll find yourself with just a few names as evocative because the Shining Sunbeam, a shocking hummingbird of the Andes. As soon as they’ve been decided, we plan to make use of the brand new names in American English-language variations of our platforms like Merlin, eBird, All About Birds, and Birds of the World. We already help about 100 units of widespread names, and we replace our taxonomy annually, so we’re effectively positioned to help the modifications. To accommodate worldwide variations, we will proceed to defer to regional naming authorities on which widespread names to make use of. We’re additionally fascinated with methods to assist individuals with the modifications as they roll out, as a result of though we’re all used to occasional modifications in just a few hen names, that is an unprecedented variety of species.
Birds are distinctive of their capability to convey individuals collectively. I strongly consider we should always use this as a possibility to get much more individuals excited by birds, and to show that birdwatchers are severe about breaking down limitations. In constructing a motion for nature, we want the largest doable tent when it comes to the individuals concerned. Let’s be daring and embrace this chance to make the tent even greater.