2020 Chronology

The following events in 2020 transpired regarding Bird Names for Birds: 

On June 22 a letter with 182 co-signers was sent to leadership at AOS and the NACC, the entity controlling North American bird taxonomy and nomenclature. We requested that they acknowledge the role that eponymous common bird names play in perpetuating the effects of colonialism, and asked that they indicate first steps to address this issue by close of business on August 15 (the last day of NAOC 2020—a date chosen since AOS council meetings will take place that week and there will be a large focused audience). 

You can read the letter and who it was addressed to here: http://bit.ly/RequestAOSChangeBirdNames 

AOS released a statement on June 30, a week after receiving our letter. It did not directly address #BirdNamesForBirds, but instead focused on re-reviewing one species (McCown’s Longspur) and leaned into their current process and guidelines—particularly on determining how offensive or harmful a name is. However, the subjectiveness inherent in this approach, particularly when adjudicated by a group of white people, is problematic. 

You can read the June 30 statement here: https://americanornithology.org/statement-on-mccowns-longspur-naming-issue/ 

Instead, the ornithological and birding communities should simply say no to all eponymous common names. It’s more than just McCown’s Longspur—it’s Townsend’s Warbler, and Audubon’s Oriole, and even Wilson’s Plover, since Alexander Wilson exploited Indigenous people’s help and knowledge. There are ~150 eponymous English common bird names in North America, and there is not one good reason to keep them. There are folks behind the initiative who are doing incredible research on each and every one of these people, and the findings are shocking.

You can see the collated list of North American eponymous species names here: https://bit.ly/CurrentBirdNames 

Our original letter to the AOS became a petition, because this is a bird community issue. Birds are everywhere. Their names impact anyone and everyone—ornithologists, birders, ecologists, even people who hear birds referenced on TV or in movies. 

Our focus is strictly on English common names. We are not changing scientific names, we are not replacing English names with Indigenous names (except for some Hawaiian language cases), and we are not offering any name alternatives at this time (although proposals for the NACC are being written that offer previously published alternate names). 

You can read the petition here: http://bit.ly/BirdNamesForBirdsPetition

AOS put out another statement on July 8 that directly referred to the petition. The statement’s synopsis is that the issue of eponymous common bird names has been publicly acknowledged and that they have committed to releasing another statement at the end of NAOC 2020, as we had requested. 

You can read that statement here: https://americanornithology.org/whats-in-a-name-more-than-you-might-think/ 

AOS emailed it’s members on August 7 announcing that the NACC had decided to accept a new proposal and change the name of a bird – McCown’s Longspur has been renamed Thick-billed Longspur.

Bird Names for Birds published an official response to the longspur change that shows appreciation for this decision but acknowledges the issues that still need to be addressed. 

You can read that statement here:

The Bird Names petition officially timed out at the end of NAOC 2020 – August 15. 

You can read the Bird Names statement regarding that close out of the petition here: https://birdnamesforbirds.wordpress.com/2020/08/17/the-close-of-the-bird-names-for-birds-petition-and-end-of-naoc-2020/

On August 20, AOS put out a statement indicating future plans to engage with different stakeholders: https://americanornithology.org/aos-council-actions-on-english-bird-names/
This statement also included a newly passed AOS council resolution regarding English common bird names: https://americanornithology.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Council-Resolution-on-English-Bird-Names-Final-20200810.pdf