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Petition to AOS Leadership on the Recent Decision to Change all Eponymous Bird Names (1 Viewer)

You are in favour of change to US bird names, yet in your own taxonomy you continue to use eponym's - e.g. Pinon Imperial Pigeon - according to Wikipedia "Rose de Freycinet, born Rose Pinon, (1794 – 7 May 1832) was a Frenchwoman who, in the company of her husband, Louis de Freycinet, sailed around the world between 1817 and 1820 on a French scientific expedition on a military ship, initially disguised as a man. While not the first woman to circumnavigate the world, she was the first to record her experiences, in a diary. Being not intended for publication and being both frank and personal musings about people, places and events, her writings represent an important anthropological resource."
Getting the nod in support of transgenderism no doubt ;)
I think that is mostly correct, except for: (1) some people on the left still use the term to favorably describe their worldview (as in the "9 rules for woke birders" article - you realize that is a "pro-woke" piece, right?) and (2) it isn't fair to associate it with liberalism. There are plenty of classical liberals that are highly critical of what is called woke, because they see it as an illiberal mindset.

Fair enough- on the side of what it means today, I was trying to describe the ways I perceive it being used. I have never seen the 9 rules for work birders article you mention, I actually don’t follow birding “press” / blogs / magazines / organizations much.

Your comment on “classical liberals” is another reason why I think it is so fraught to try to label people / mindsets. I understand it is going to happen and I do it too, but I couldn’t tell you if I am a classic liberal or just a liberal or neither, rather someone who just generally holds pretty liberal views about most things.
I think you should leave the use of the term "woke" to the people who self-identify as "woke".

I thought of an interesting case study in this. Do you know John McWhorter? He is a self-described "liberal Democrat" and a professor of Linguistics. He is also black. He is the author of a book called "Woke Racism" which is very critical of the entire woke (his word choice) worldview. Is his use of the term as problematic as when a Trump-supporter uses it? I'm not picking at you, BTW, these are honest, rhetorical questions that I think we need to grapple with if we are going to go down the road of "certain people can use certain words, others cannot" thinking. It gets blurry.

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You are in favour of change to US bird names, yet in your own taxonomy you continue to use eponym's - e.g. Pinon Imperial Pigeon - according to Wikipedia "Rose de Freycinet, born Rose Pinon, (1794 – 7 May 1832) was a Frenchwoman who, in the company of her husband, Louis de Freycinet, sailed around the world between 1817 and 1820 on a French scientific expedition on a military ship, initially disguised as a man. While not the first woman to circumnavigate the world, she was the first to record her experiences, in a diary. Being not intended for publication and being both frank and personal musings about people, places and events, her writings represent an important anthropological resource."
I mean...its kind of obvious isn't it? I am not a taxonomic authority. I can't expect folks who might be interested in my list to somehow know whether a name is real or something I made up. So I follow IOC (for now at least)...should IOC change the eponyms for a bird, I will do so in my lists. As is I feel deeply uncomfortable having to create new names for some taxonomic groups, since Clements doesn't always provide a usable common name.

I mean, I am honored that you think my little hobby project is on par with Clements, IOC, or even Taxonomy in flux, but I am pretty sure I don't even take my own taxonomic recommendations seriously, nevermind experts...:)
Bringing it back to the original point, do we even know if this petition has even been noticed by AOS or if anyone has left any relevant comments?
Bringing it back to the original point, do we even know if this petition has even been noticed by AOS or if anyone has left any relevant comments?
A lot of very excellent comments. Many people signing are members of the AOS, and yes, the AOS is well aware of this petition.
Can you describe it or post the text here for those of us that do not use FB or X?
OK, but it is long! He did suggest sharing this post...

"Gary Rosenberg

[VERY LONG POST] There has been a lot of spirited discussion on Facebook recently regarding the AOS decision to change the English bird names of 150+ species that are named after people (Eponyms). I find it astounding that there is so much misinformation, and so many misconceptions that are repeated over and over - like “Alternative Facts” - Here are a few in no particular order (I am sure I am missing some):

1) Most (or sometimes all) of the people who had birds named after them were slave owners, grave robbers, or otherwise horrible people. Not true. Very few out of the more than 100 fall into this category. Most were actually ornithologists, naturalists, explorers, soldiers, etc… and several were actually founders of the AOS, or received prestigious awards, or worked in museums, and were responsible for an incredible wealth of information furthering the understanding of birds in North America and around the world.

2) Similarly, the people who had birds named after them did not do anything to deserve this honor. I find this one particularly mis-informed and subjective. See above, but also consider ornithologists such as Wilson, Baird, Ridgway, Bendire, Cassin - all ornithological giants - and responsible for so many discoveries, as well as sorting out the mess that North American bird taxonomy was in at the time.

3) People have no right naming birds after themselves. This suggests that this is a thing - which it is NOT. None of the eponymous bird names were actually named by the person. This shows a misunderstanding of how birds got their English names. Most were created long after the birds were described to science - most given by ornithologists working in museums.The idea that the birds are “owned” by the people is incorrect - yes there is the use of an apostrophe, but in this case it just means that the person is honored.

4) Birds will appreciate the new names. David Sibley said this in his video supporting the AOS decision. Perhaps he didn’t REALLY mean this (giving him the benefit of the doubt) - but it is repeated. Needless to say, the birds do not know their names, and this is purely anthropomorphic.

5) Most people are in favor of this decision. Well, that is an opinion not really supported by fact. Thousands of birders and ornithologists have signed a counter petition, so I would say the jury is out on that one. Furthermore, Of those who signed our counter petition, they have produced (cumulatively) MORE THAN 20,000 SCIENTIFIC PUBLICATIONS!!!

6) Those of us who like eponyms are insensitive and/or racist. Not true. Everyone who has signed our petition is all for inclusiveness and in big favor of increasing diversity within birding and ornithology (or all sciences). Many many many of us have worked our entire careers promoting birding around the world, either through sponsoring students, or through ecotourism in developing countries, or any number of other endeavors. To be labeled a racist because we like ornithological history is sad indeed.

7) There are many eponyms. I think it is important to point out that only 150+ species on the North American list are eponymous. That is 5% - which means that 95% of the birds are NOT eponym, yet the proponents of changing all of them seem to be intolerant to the views of thousands - supposedly in the name of promoting inclusiveness. Seems pretty exclusionary to me.

😎 It is too difficult to evaluate the people on a case by case basis. This is what the North American Checklist Committee was doing - and wanted to continue - and all members voted to maintain this methodology. Their views were ignored or dismissed (semantics) - and the process of coming up with English names was totally taken away from the committee, and given to a newly formed committee - the English Bird Names Committee. This prompted the resignation of some members of the NACC.

9) Some people were upset at the renaming (both the process and the actual name) of McCown’s Longspur as Thick-billed Longspur. The entire process is available to read online - including the justification for naming it Thick-billed Longspur - which, ironically, is exactly the type of descriptive bird name that so many are desiring. The idea that the NACC was not anything but professional during the entire process is not true - and totally insulting to the members of the committee. That some don’t like the name is pure evidence that any new bird name is not going to have unanimous approval.

10) The International Ornithologists Union (the IOU, or IOC) who maintain a list of English bird names for all the birds in the world will follow the AOS decision. Not true. They are not in favor of removing eponyms, and this has prompted the South American Checklist Committee - who all but one member were against the AOS decision - to disassociate themselves from the AOS and move to be associated with the IOC. There are thousands of eponymous bird names - represented by English names, genera, species, or subspecies around the world - and no one has any intention of changing them.

11) The AOS is changing the names of our birds. Of the 150+ species slated to have their names changed, only about 89 actually breed in the United States or Canada - and many of those are neotropical migrants that spend 8-9 months of the year on wintering grounds in other countries. The remaining 60 or so are either birds that are mainly found in other countries and occur in the U.S. or Canada as rarities, or are actually species found exclusively in countries in Latin America or the Caribbean. The idea that the AOS can just change the English names of these species without consultation of ornithological bodies in the other countries is audacious.

12) Changing the English names will create more inclusiveness for birders and ornithologists from Latin America. Where is the proof of this? Many many Latin Americans have signed onto the counter petition and feel that “Americans” dictating this type of radical change is another form of Colonialism.

13 People don’t like the change in English Bird names because we don’t like “change”, or will find it too difficult to relearn new bird names. Please! I don’t think I really need to explain the absurdity of this notion.

14) Changing the English names is NOT cancelling anyone. Not true. I have seen the argument that the scientific names will not change, so the people are not really canceled. I believe the removal of all eponymous bird names will associate the good with the bad - even though a very small percentage of people will fall into the category of deserving to have their name removed, all of the others will be guilty by association. Once the English eponyms are removed, what is to stop the movement of continuing on to scientific names (other than the International rules that govern this process)?

15) Eponyms are exclusionary to minorities in birding. Some names may be offensive to some - and everyone is willing to compromise and change the truly offensive ones - yet show me proof that ANYONE refused to become a birder, or go into ornithology purely on the basis that there were some offensive bird names.

16) Choosing eponyms is common today. Not true. Virtually all of the species with eponyms were described in the 1700s and 1800s - but many of the English names were given much later by ornithologists in museums - often using the English name to correspond with the scientific name, Very few new species (relatively) are described today - yet there are lumps and splits where “new” English names are occasionally needed - sometimes a form already had a name (when originally described) - yet the general practice TODAY is to give birds descriptive names, relating to either plumage, habitat, range, vocalizations etc… So the practice of giving birds new eponyms is NOT widespread today - this was mostly a historical practice.

17) Descriptive names are better. English names are for communication purposes - solely! Whether one learns the name “Yellow-throated Warbler”, or Wilson’s Warbler, it is just memorization - and the use is purely communicative. No on seems to mind the more than 100 North American species that have non-eponymous names, yet are NOT at all descriptive - there are many many that fall into this category. A few examples are Palm Warbler (not found in palms), Prairie Warbler (not found in the prairies), Connecticut Warbler (very rare in Connecticut), and odd names like Verdin, Phainopepla, Pyrrhuloxia, or Sharp-shinned Hawk - and on and on. Humans can learn these names just as easily as more descriptive names - and eponyms are the same. When one learns Cooper’s Hawk - the name Cooper’s is easily distinguished from the name Sharp-shinned - neither of which is descriptive - of course actually identifying the birds correctly is a different matter 🙂

18) Bird names change all the time. This is a very common argument in favor of changing English names - as if it just isn’t a big deal. Yes, taxonomy is always changing - this is the nature of the science (also poorly understood by the lay person) - new genetic techniques are always leading to lumps and splits - and new names. Most of these changes involve reassignment to a different genus - or elevation to a new genus or species - YET the English name is the stable name - and often used by scientists in publications - so over the years, everyone will KNOW what form is being referred to - even if the scientific name changes. Bird name stability is one of the objectives mentioned by the AOS - especially when it comes to the NACC. At not time in history has such a large number of names been changed at the same time - with will be very destabilizing to say the least.

19) Cost of the change is not appreciated. No one even mentions what the monetary cost of such a wholesale change in bird names will be. Government agencies will need to reproduce all their materials, and places like national parks and wildlife refuges will need to change all their interpretive signage - or just keep “outdated” names (which many people say they will do anyway). I suspect there will be a very large unintended and unrealized monetary cost - not to mention perhaps the need to purchase new field guides. Plus think of the shear number of existing books - and all the ornithological literature - that will become outdated or obsolete. Yes - some will actually profit from this endeavor - such as those who produce the new field guides.

20) Birds should not be named after people. Eponyms are part of our everyday life and lexicon. Everywhere we look they are used. Obvious ones are in names of cities and states - are we going to really change the name of Washington D.C. because Washington had slaves. A very large African American population lives in D.C. - are they advocating for the change of the name? Is this preventing anyone from moving there? Eponyms are everywhere in our language - in temperature, weights and measure, electricity, roads, buildings, monuments, airports, EVERYWHERE. If there is a very offensive name, we change it, but we don’t remove ALL of them because we say it is too hard to figure out the bad ones.

21) Finally, just a word about inclusiveness. The AOS decisions is the opposite of inclusiveness. I realize that their intent may have been noble, and by removing eponyms, they thought they were moving in the direction of inclusiveness and increased diversity, but they misjudged how important eponyms and ornithological history is to so many. This decision has truly divided the birding community - and now it is almost impossible to have a rational discussion, as everyone seems dug into their positions. This was so unnecessary, and although the “Ad Hoc” committee claims to have thought all this through, I really don’t think they anticipated such a backlash. People like me like eponyms. They remind me of ornithological history - and the giants in ornithology who built what birding is today. This is important, and can’t just be swept under the rug or canceled. That is how we view this decision - and it is unfair to the thousands (countless) of us who view this as important

In conclusion, passions run deep in this discussion. It is my opinion that the AOS could please almost everyone (NOTHING pleases everyone) by sticking to their case by case methodology that had already been established, and remove the truly offensive eponyms if necessary. In this way, ornithological giants - many of whom were founders of the AOS - will not be dishonored by “guilt by association” - and the public could have an input on any new bird name that needs to be devised.
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