Birds named after people will be renamed in an effort to be more inclusive and avoid honoring controversial and racist figures from the past, the American Ornithological Society announced Wednesday.

Starting in 2024, the birding organization, which maintains a list of official English-language names for birds, will rename around 80 bird species in the U.S. and Canada.

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

The organization has previously changed the names of some birds named after controversial people. In 2020, the society renamed the McCown’s Longspur — named after Confederate Army General John P. McCown — to the “Thick-billed Longspur.”

What birds are being renamed?

Rather than renaming individual birds named after controversial figures as it has done in the past, the American Ornithological Society decided to get rid of the process of naming birds after humans altogether.

The birding society will change 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,” a statement from the society reads.

The renaming process will begin in 2024 with around 70-80 birds in the U.S. and Canada.

The scientific names of the species will remain unchanged.

How will new bird names be chosen?

The American Ornithological Society announced the establishment of a new committee to oversee the process of changing the English common names of the some 80 bird species.

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The society also says it will involve the public in the process of selecting new English bird names.

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Erica Nol, co-chair of the new Committee on English Bird Names, told The Washington Post that eponymous names “imply possession of a species.”  

“They are overwhelmingly from a particular time and social fabric, they are almost all white men, few women, and women were almost all first names.”

Instead, “the name should be descriptive of the bird,” Nol said.

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