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Exploring Nature

If ever there is a bird named in Mr. Hall’s honor, perhaps the Hall hummingbird would look like this one.
Photo from Metro Creative

Exploring Nature

Exploring Nature: Bird Names

Sunday, February 4, 2024

What’s in a name?

Well, when it comes to birds, lots of changes are on the way. On Nov. 1 of this year, all the English names of birds which are named after persons will begin to change. For example, on that date, about 80 species in the U.S. and Canada will begin to get new names.

The American Ornithological Society is charged with maintaining the correct list of bird names and they have decided certain bird names may be offensive because of the activities of the people they are named after.

For example, John James Audubon was at one time a slave owner. Slavery was a despicable institution and Audubon can be fairly faulted for enslaving people. However, he was also a very talented bird artist and birds have been named in his honor. The Audubon oriole is one example. This bird was once called the black-headed oriole, and it’s possible it will revert to that name in the future.

Of course, many names have no darker history attached but the rationale is that all names based on actual people will be subject to change.

One bird cited as being ideally named is the shining sunbeam, a colorful hummingbird of the Andes. Certainly that name is more pleasing than the John Smith hummingbird.

If certain bird names have caused pain to some people, I can see the rationale for change. Birding should be a welcoming activity and it should never denigrate a person or group of people with a worrisome name.

On the other hand, it would have been nice to one day have a bird named in my honor — the Hall hummingbird sounds like a winner to me.

San Marcos Record

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