(The Hill) — The American Ornithological Society (AOS) plans to change the names of all the bird species named after people, prioritizing those named after enslavers and prominent racists.
In a news release on Wednesday, the organization said it will remove the names given to North American birds such as Lewis’s Woodpecker, Townsend’s Warbler and Anna’s Hummingbird, adding the monikers will be replaced with ones that honor the species’ geographic jurisdiction.
“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 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.”
The AOS, which was established 1883, said the initiative will begin in 2024 and focus on creating new names for up to 80 bird species in the U.S. and Canada. It wasn’t immediately clear wich species that includes.
The announcement comes in the aftermath of a racial awakening in the U.S. sparked by the police-involved death of George Floyd in May 2020, among others. Several states across the country removed confederate statues and place names in response to national unrest and the social justice movement stemming from the incidents.
In response to the nationwide protests, AOS renamed a small prairie songbird named after John P. McCown, a naturalist who later became a general for the Confederate Army during the Civil War, to a “Thick-billed Longspur,” the organization said in its news release.