Birds With Racist, Sexist Names Will Be Renamed

( — The American Ornithological Society (AOS) has decided the time has come to start renaming birds to reflect modern preferences and erase past associations with “problematic” ornithologists of the past. Judith Scarl, AOS Executive Director and CEO, says that as scientists, they need to eliminate bias in science and focus on inclusivity.

In the past, as today, ornithology, or the study of birds, was a niche occupation or hobby. Ornithologists, sometimes just referred to by the more general term naturalists, were usually scientists or dedicated hobbyists who devoted much of their time to the study of birds. They shared their knowledge of birds through detailed descriptions of the birds, their habitats, and the way they lived, often with detailed drawings or watercolors in journals and sometimes in limited print books. Bird names were eclectic because the individual observer named previously unknown birds to their own preference. Sometimes the names are descriptive of the bird or habitat, and sometimes people named them after themselves or someone they admired.

On November 1st, the AOS announced that they would be renaming between 70 and 80 birds because they believe their names are racist, sexist, or otherwise exclusionary. Many of these birds are named for specific people. It is important to note that these birds were chosen for renaming due to their names being considered particularly offensive, but that the AOS has also indicated that going forward, their intent is that no birds be named after any human being.

Presumably, this would mean that there will be new renaming lists at regular intervals until all the birds’ names derived from people are gone. The AOS says that they will be establishing a committee to oversee the renaming process, but they also intend to involve the public in the process. Hopefully, this does not end in a similar situation that the Natural Environment Research Council experienced when they asked for public input on naming a research vessel, where people voted overwhelmingly in favor of RRS Boaty McBoatface.

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