Q: Why is the AOS Council making these changes?
A: Council is making these commitments to do two equally important things: to address past wrongs and to engage far more people in the study, protection, conservation, and enjoyment of birds. The impact of bird names reaches well beyond our membership. Therefore, when it was brought to our attention that some English bird names were viewed as harmful or exclusionary, including some named after people who were perceived as symbols of racism and colonialism, the AOS worked hard to reconcile its commitment to uphold stability in taxonomy and names while also addressing concerns of historical biases and social injustices.
Q: How many bird names are changing?
A: The AOS is committed to changing all English bird names currently named after people within its geographic jurisdiction, focusing first on species primarily within the U.S. and Canada. That is a list of approximately 70–80 bird names.
Q: How long will the process take, and how will it work?
A: The AOS will conduct an open, inclusive, and scientifically rigorous pilot program in 2024 to develop its new approach to English bird names in the U.S. and Canada. Interested parties are invited to follow this initiative’s progress at www.americanornithology.org and @AmOrnith on major social media platforms over the coming months and years.
Q: What about Latin America?
A: The AOS has come to see its authority over the English names of Latin American birds in a new light and has committed to engaging in a broader set of conversations with ornithologists and organizations in Latin America before proceeding with any Latin American name changes.
Q: What is the basis of the AOS’s authority over bird names?
A: Since 1886, the AOS and its predecessor, the American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU), have maintained a list of official English-language names for birds in North America (and more recently, South America). These names are widely used by ornithologists, schools and universities, government agencies, conservation organizations, the news media, artists and writers, birders and photographers, and many other members of the English-speaking public worldwide. These English names are often updated as scientists discover new information about the ecology and evolution of these birds.
Q: Will eponymous scientific names also be changed?
A: Scientific names will not be changed as a part of the AOS English bird names initiative. Scientific names are regularly reviewed and updated by the AOS’s North American and South American classification committees in response to new scientific research and following the naming rules of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature.
Q:How can I learn more about the upcoming initiative?
Stay tuned, this page and others on our website will be updated with additional information over time.