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    HomeGardenIn North America, birds are no longer supposed to have people's names

    In North America, birds are no longer supposed to have people’s names

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    In the USA and Canada, a number of bird species are to be renamed – and thus break unpleasant connections to controversial historical figures.

    Mountains, chemical elements, roads, animals, insects – there are many things in the world that are named after their discoverers or other historical figures. But over time, society’s view of the namesake often changes – for example because their work is controversial today.

    That’s one of the reasons why the US Ornithological Society now wants to rename a number of bird species – all that bear the name of a person. In addition, those birds whose names have a problematic meaning should also be renamed.

    A total of around 70 to 80 species in the USA and Canada will initially be given a new name – that’s six to seven percent of the total occurrence in the two countries. The project is expected to get underway next year. The public should be involved in choosing the name.

    An example of the renaming of a bird species is the “thick-billed longspur” (German name: Black-breasted Spur Bunting), which was previously called “McCown’s longspur”. It was named after General John P. McCown, who fought in the American Civil War on the side of the Confederates who were against the abolition of slavery.

    New names should reflect characteristics of the birds

    Society of Ornithology President Coleen Handel told NPR that names have power that can be both positive and negative. The aim of renaming the birds is to give the names a “positive power”.

    The Society for Ornithology has been keeping lists of the English names of birds in North America since 1886. In the past, species were occasionally renamed – also because they bore the names of people who were associated with racism or slavery.

    As part of the renaming, the birds will be given names that reflect their unique characteristics – such as colorful plumage. The society plans to hold discussions with ornithologists and associations in Latin America in the future in order to initiate the renaming of bird names there too.

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