In 2023, some things no longer fly.
According to the American Ornithological Society, bird species named after people will all be changed.
“We’ve got some pretty shady guys who our birds are named after,” says Ann Nightingale of the Rocky Point Bird Observatory.
Names are being changed from human monikers to more descriptive names of the birds themselves, due to ties to racism and slavery, among others.
Nightingale says around 80 species will be renamed over the next ten years or so, and cites the Townsend Warbler as an example. The small yellow warbler is named after John Kirk Townsend, a 19th-century ornithologist and naturalist who desecrated the graves of native Americans for research purposes.
Not all names are connected to checkered pasts and practices. Anna’s hummingbird is named for an Italian duchess and can be found all over Vancouver Island. The Steller’s Jay is named after Georg Steller, a German Naturalist from the 18th century.
Despite Steller’s contributions to science, Nightingale applauds the sweeping reclassifications. “One of the names that’s been proposed for it is the black-crested blue jay. Wouldn’t that be a more logical name?”
Jannaca Chick, also with Rocky Point Bird Observatory, says birders have always dealt with changing terminology. “They’re even dividing species,” she says. “Where they thought there was one there was two, and they have two different names, so you have to be able to adapt as a birder.”
While the conversation surrounds birds named after people, Nightingale and Chick are people named after birds. Both say it comes up. A lot.
“I think if you have a bird name, sooner or later you’re going to be attracted to birds,” laughs Chick. Nightingale says they’re not the only ones.
“We have volunteers in our organization named Terry Bird and Iris Swan and several Robins.”