These Pennsylvania Birds Will Be Renamed as Watchers Reckon With Racism, Inclusion


In a significant move towards fostering inclusivity and distancing avian species from problematic historical figures, the American Ornithological Society (AOS) has announced its intention to rename several North American birds. This initiative, set to impact numerous avian species in Pennsylvania, aims to dissociate these magnificent creatures from namesakes associated with racism.

Pennsylvania Birds to be renamed

By undertaking this comprehensive renaming project, the AOS seeks to create a more inclusive bird-watching community that focuses on appreciating these remarkable animals rather than the individuals observing them.

The AOS's decision to rename certain birds stems from the realization that several species, such as the Townsend's warbler and solitaire, bear names that honor individuals with racist backgrounds. Peter Saenger, an ornithologist from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, has highlighted that this project could potentially affect over a dozen birds that breed, migrate to, or visit Pennsylvania.

To ensure a thorough and unbiased approach, the AOS plans to review approximately 80 bird names next year. Rather than assessing each case individually, the organization will convene a committee comprising experts from diverse scientific fields. This committee will actively seek input from both the public and specialists, ensuring a comprehensive and inclusive decision-making process.

The AOS has been responsible for maintaining a list of common English bird names since 1886, playing a pivotal role in standardizing and registering these names across the Americas. As the scientific authority in this domain, the AOS aims to lead the way in promoting a more inclusive and respectful bird-watching community.

The following list, compiled by Saenger, highlights several bird species that breed in, migrate to, or visit Pennsylvania, all of which may potentially be influenced by this renaming endeavor: 

  1. Baird's sandpiper (named after Spencer F. Baird)
  2. Baltimore oriole (named after Lord Baltimore)
  3. Barrow's goldeneye (named after Sir John Barrow)
  4. Blackburnian warbler (named after Anna Blackburne)
  5. Bonaparte's gull (named after Charles Lucien Bonaparte)
  6. Brewer's blackbird (named after William Brewer)
  7. Cooper's hawk (named after William Cooper)
  8. Forster's tern (named after Johann Reinhold Forster)
  9. Henslow's sparrow (named by John James Audubon in honor of his friend, John Stevens Henslow)
  10. Lincoln's sparrow (named after Thomas Lincoln)
  11. Ross's goose (named after Bernard Rogan Ross)
  12. Swainson's thrush (named after William Swainson)
  13. Wilson's phalarope (named after Alexander Wilson)
  14. Wilson's snipe (named after Alexander Wilson)
  15. Wilson's warbler (named after Alexander Wilson)


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