Almost 80 Bird Species Names With ‘Racist Roots’ Will Be Changed, Re-Named

ROCHFORD, ENGLAND - JULY 13: A Reed Warbler sings in a reedbed on the RSPB's Wallasea Island Reserve on July 13, 2015 near Rochford, England. Wallasea Island Wild Coast project has been created using around three million tonnes of soil excavated from the Crossrail Tunnel project, which has helped create Europe's largest man-made nature reserve. The construction is transforming the levee-protected farmland into a thriving wetland reserve twice the size of the City of London, as part of a 20 year plan. The site is managed by the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) and hopes to attract an array of wildlife including Avocet, Redshank and lapwing, along with large flocks of Brent geese, Dunlin, Wigeon and Curlew. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
A Reed Warbler sings in a reedbed on the RSPB’s Wallasea Island Reserve on July 13, 2015 near Rochford, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

OAN’s Elizabeth Volberding
4:35 PM – Thursday, November 2, 2023

The American Ornithological Society (AOS) announced that they will be changing the names of certain bird species who are named after figures that were “enslavers” and “well-known racists.”


On Wednesday, AOS released a statement that stated it is eliminating almost 80 different names given to North American birds.

The organization declared that it will remove the names given to birds, such as Lewis’s Woodpecker, Townsend’s Warbler, and Anna’s Hummingbird, maintaining that the names will be replaced with ones that recognize the species’ geographic region.

“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,” AOS President Colleen Handel said in a statement.  “Everyone who loves and cares about birds should be able to enjoy and study them freely — and birds need our help now more than ever.”

AOS, which was founded in 1883, stated that the change will start in 2024. The organization said that it will concentrate on establishing new names for up to 80 bird species in North America and Canada.

The organization announced a number of commitments that it will be making to change the way that it operates, as well as how its predecessor organizations operate.

  • “The AOS commits to changing all English-language names of birds within its geographic jurisdiction that are named directly after people (eponyms), along with other names deemed offensive and exclusionary, focusing first on those species that occur primarily within the U.S. or Canada.
  • The AOS commits to establishing a new committee to oversee the assignment of all English common names for species within the AOS’s jurisdiction; this committee will broaden participation by including a diverse representation of individuals with expertise in the social sciences, communications, ornithology, and taxonomy.
  • The AOS commits to actively involving the public in the process of selecting new English bird names.”

The decision comes after growing pressure from the birding community to cancel the acknowledgment of “racist historical figures” whose names were given to the birds over the years.

The initiative is scheduled to continue for “months and years,” the AOS said, with a maximum of 260 birds to be examined throughout the Americas and related islands.

“As scientists, we work to eliminate bias in science. 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,” said Judith Scarl, Ph.D., AOS Executive Director and CEO. “I am proud to be part of this new vision and am excited to work in partnership with a broad array of experts and bird lovers in creating an inclusive naming structure.”

“To reverse these alarming bird population declines, we need as many people as possible to get excited about birds and unite to protect them,” Scarl added.

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