The American Ornithological Society announced this week that, next year, North American birds named for people will no longer be, as the society seeks to instead name the birds for themselves—and remove any negative human connotations from the domain of avifauna.
Rest easy if you’re a fan of boobies or titmice (as many Gizmodo commenters clearly are)—only one species across the groups is named for a person, Abbott’s booby, and it is not a North American bird.
As I wrote last week:
The American Ornithological Society opted to strip all names from these birds, rather than splitting hairs—or feathers—over which namesake did what and why, and whose actions are acceptable through a shifting window of morality and ethics over the intervening decades or centuries. The committee’s recommendations said as much, finding that (1) “We found a case-by-case approach to be intractable,” (2) “Eponymous names are poor descriptors”, (3) “The use of honorifics itself reflects exclusion in scientific participation.”
So let’s meet a few of the birds whose names are on the chopping block. An exhaustive list of species that may get re-dubbed was published by Bird Names for Birds, an organization seeking to change many English common bird names (i.e., not their scientific names). That list includes over 150 species, but the American Ornithological Society has only stated plans to rename 70 to 8o species. The society’s ad hoc committee report on the renaming states that 78 eponyms are the first priority for renaming, based on their breeding place (the U.S. or Canada) and their primary distributions being limited to the Americas. 62% of those 78 eponyms are of species in the West, and 77% were named between 1825 and 1875. “The eponyms from the American West largely honor and were conferred by ‘soldier scientists’ traveling with the U.S. Army during the Mexican-American War and various Indian wars,” the report notes.
Without further ado, here some of the species whose common names may go the way of the dodo.