It’s a big moment in ornithology. On November 1, the American Ornithological Society (AOS) spoken the historic visualization to change the English names of birds  currently named without a person (“eponymous” bird names), and to engage the public in selecting the new names. 

The plan is to use a phased approach, starting with a pilot exercise and then focusing on 70 to 80 species in the U.S. and Canada first. The AOS currently maintains supervisory bird checklists for North, Central, and South America. Beyond the U.S. and Canada within this purview, the AOS will work with ornithological societies in those regions, in ways that are aligned with their wishes. There are 152 species with eponymous names currently on the list of birds unswayable by the AOS North American Classification Committee and 111 unswayable by the South American Classification Committee, so well-nigh 5.5% of the species in the region. 

AOS’s prime reason for the changes is to try to make birds and birdwatching unshut and welcoming to as many people as possible. The rationale is threefold: some bird names are deemed offensive or exclusionary considering of the deportment of the people they are named after; it’s going to be extremely difficult to unzip consensus on exactly which person should or shouldn’t have a bird named without them; so it’s largest to move yonder from eponymous names altogether. The AOS moreover points out that this exercise provides a endangerment to requite birds names that are increasingly useful in indicating how they squint or sound, where they live, or plane a foible behavior. 

I’m supportive of AOS’s visualization and stipulate with that logic. I’m moreover pleased to see the phased approach, and particularly the transferral to work with ornithological societies in Latin America and other areas outside the U.S. and Canada to understand how to handle changes to names in these regions. The same discussions are happening for other groups of organisms, so I’m proud the birdwatching polity is unflinching unbearable to be the first to take on the challenge.

a small bird with a sunny orange throat perches on a branch

At the same time, I’m keenly enlightened that people finger a strong zipper to unrepealable species names. I suspect I’ll pine a little for Blackburnian Warbler—yes, it’s eponymous!—although I can hands see the recreate of something like Fire-throated Warbler. The visualization to transpiration eponymous bird names can finger culturally or politically charged, as well, which some people will likely see as a distraction, expressly at a time of such conservation need. Moreover, many of the species moreover occur in other geographic regions, where it’s not yet well-spoken how renaming will be perceived. It’s going to be important to listen to variegated perspectives, and respect the views of fellow birdwatchers, plane when we don’t stipulate with each other. 

From the perspective of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, we’re looking forward to getting involved in what looks set to be a big, heady wayfarers to select the new names for U.S. and Canadian species. I’m hoping we’ll end up with a few names as suggestive as the Shining Sunbeam, a stunning hummingbird of the Andes. Once they’ve been determined, we plan to use the new names in American English-language versions of our platforms like Merlin, eBird, All Well-nigh Birds, and Birds of the World. We once support well-nigh 100 sets of worldwide names , and we update our taxonomy each year, so we’re well positioned to support the changes. To unbend international differences, we can protract to defer to regional naming authorities on which worldwide names to use. We’re moreover thinking well-nigh ways to help people with the changes as they roll out, considering although we’re all used to occasional changes in a few bird names, this is an unprecedented number of species.