Community Congress Recording Available

The American Ornithological Society’s (AOS) Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Committee hosted a virtual AOS Community Congress on English Bird Names on 16 April 2021 to open a discussion on the complex issues around eponymous English bird names to the wider ornithological and birding communities to promote an even greater awareness of the complexities of name changes for constructive dialogue moving forward.

In this Community Congress, participants learned about the views of various stakeholders regarding name changes, the challenges for specific organizations in implementing change, and the opportunities these stakeholders identify at this moment for our community. The discussion was facilitated by José González of The Avarna Group.

Use the form to the right to stay up-to-date on the Society’s efforts on English bird names by signing up to receive updates from this blog.

View the webinar recording.


  1. Who do you contact to be involved in this project? Or have members already been chosen? From everything I’ve read so far on the AOS website, there is a group of people serving as a committee led by three co-chairs, but there is no way to contact anyone involved in this project. I sent a more detailed email from the general “contact” page, but got a reply saying I probably won’t get a response????? Hoping someone will reach out from this blog.

  2. The webinar raises some insightful points about eponymous bird names. I think it would be helpful to change eponymous bird names to names that describe something about the bird (plumage, geographic range, behavior, etc) because it would give people new to bird identification something more concrete to hold onto rather than a person’s name. It would also be a gesture of respect towards people of marginalized communities to replace names linked to people with harmful legacies.

  3. I think changing the eponyms in the common names of all bird species is a great idea. Eponyms in common names do not describe the bird species and their identifiable characteristics or behaviors. Common names should invoke wonder when a bird species is observed and identified in the wild by novice birders like me. I do not think eponyms should imply individual ownership of any species when it is supposed to be shared by all.

  4. The use of eponymic bird names is an issue because it assigns notability to potentially problematic figures. Additionally, many of these names are racially homogenous which perpetuates a lack of diversity in the ornithological community. These species should be renamed to promote inclusivity and open the Ornithological community to contributions from a wider audience. While the public should be involved in some capacity for transparency, the main arbitration of what the new names will be should be undertaken by experts. The American Ornithological Society should address this issue gradually, considering one subset of species at a time to minimize disruptions to research and conservation efforts.

  5. It is wonderful to see people from many walks of life agree on the fact that birding is meant to be enjoyed by all and should have no barriers to inclusivity. Jordan Rutter said well that bird names don’t need to be an eternal memorial to the moment they were first collected. Bird names should be descriptive, inclusive and invite anyone to want to learn more.

  6. Although I think this is a step in the right direction, I hope there are other ways yours and similar organizations are planning to aid in diversifying birding and ornithology.

    1. Brooke, Thank you for your comment. We are committed to DEIBJ and have been developing resources and initiatives to support these efforts toward diversifying ornithology. You can read more about our work at the links below:

  7. . One thing that really stuck out to me was that ‘we shouldn’t cringe at the names’. I know I’ve heard bird names that I thought were a joke or inappropriate and had nothing to do with the bird’s physical or behavioral nature at all. Some names when I heard them for the first time, to me it was very obvious what demographic named them. It was mentioned that in the past there were already around 100 bird names changed and we had to keep up with that before we had eBird. Another great thing I heard was about the field of science in general. There are tests, hypotheses, experiments, theories that change or give a new insight in the world of science all the time. With these events it may completely stump the scientific community or be the complete opposite of what we had previously believed. At the end of the day we are to continue to face change and persevere. Changing the names of these birds will not cease birding or create such a disruption that we won’t study birds anymore, this change will just be something new to adapt to.

  8. I admire the work being done by the society to change these common names to be more apt descriptors for the species they are describing. I do think that once this has been done, that the scientific names with eponyms should be reassessed as well. They should be just as apt at describing the species as the common names, and by taking out the names of potentially awful human beings, the likelihood of cementing someone’s name in history who lived an awful life is greatly reduced.

  9. I think it would be a good idea to change all the eponymous names at once in order to limit having to update field guides every couple months. Also, names should be more descriptive so those new to studying birds will be able to easily identify them instead of having to memorize the eponymous names.

  10. I think it’s important to focus on the outreach aspects of the name changes, especially as it relates to groups that have been historically left out of naturalism in the US. Leaving the name suggestions open to the public, focusing on improving the experiences of birders and citizen scientists, and ensuring that diverse groups of people have a say in common name changes were good subjects to focus on in this seminar.

  11. Changing the eponymic names of the birds allows for more descriptive and accurate names for the birds which will be friendlier to newcomers to ornithology and those new to English. Keep up the good work.

  12. If the mission is to make this process global and come to a global consensus, what are the actions that AOS will take to make this happen? I wonder if this process will birth many different grassroots operations around the world that supports changing eponymous bird names and the naming system in general.

  13. The webinar provided many good ideas about how to handle eponym names for birds. I think that the most important part about changing the names is making sure they are an accurate indicator of the bird in question, whether it be its taxonomy or life history. Bird names in general should be something that can be clearly associated with the bird in question, and attributing a persons name to the bird does not help with that.

  14. I enjoyed listening to this panel discussion and I appreciate the views brought by everyone. I think it’s a wise decision to make the name change all at once and to engage with the community on renaming. I agree that changing these names offers opportunities of connection between seasoned and novice birders alike as they relearn names.

  15. I think changing eponyms is a must to make sure birding can be enjoyed by everyone. Making these common names more descriptive will allow new birders to learn names more efficiently. Common name changes can also benefit ornithologists as some may not be familiar with a specific species, but with a more descriptive common name it could help them understand what another ornithologist is referring to. I hope the public will have the opportunity to suggest new common names for each bird. And maybe if the AOS decides on a few potential names a vote can be taken by the public to determine the most fitting descriptive common name. Thank you for the insightful webinar!

  16. I was pleasantly surprised to see that so many influential birders held the same belief that changing all eponymous bird names is beneficial to ornithology. The names should be changed to allow birding to become more accessible to minorities and beginners. However, this is just the first step in making ecological hobbies and careers welcoming to all.

  17. Changing eponymous bird names to those that allow for more descriptive and useful common names is a great start in inclusivity and creating a more open community for birding and ornithology. In my experience, the views expressed in the webinar that eponyms are an impediment to the community aspect of birding and provide no details about the bird in question are incredibly accurate and changing these names will be a huge step in the right direction to improve birding and ornithology as a whole.

  18. 7) I think changing eponyms is a must to make sure birding can be enjoyed by everyone. Making these common names more descriptive will allow new birders to learn names more efficiently. Common name changes can also benefit ornithologists as some may not be familiar with a specific species, but with a more descriptive common name it could help them understand what another ornithologist is referring to. I hope the public will have the opportunity to suggest new common names for each bird. And maybe if the AOS decides on a few potential names a vote can be taken by the public to determine the most fitting descriptive common name. Thank you for the insightful webinar!

  19. The desire to critically analyze somewhat ossified scientific traditions is healthy. Science itself is a process, a tool, an activity that is performed to better ascertain the descriptive fundamental components to our reality. Keeping any “traditions” alive, be they sentimental as in they case of the deployment of eponyms or dogmatic as can be the case in some academic institutions (often it has been said “don’t rock the boat” by those in positions of power), is counterintuitive to both the colloquial spirit of science and the very notion of seeking best practices and efficiency. It is going to be a challenge to complete the re-naming of many of these species, both since they lack easy descriptive features and that their eponyms carry immense national and cultural value, but it is a worthwhile endeavor. From a purely pragmatic standpoint, this aids novice ornithologists and enthusiasts and sets a precedent for managing future concerns regarding how a scientific body should approach cultural and historical biases in its practices. From a moral standpoint, it is tempting to entertain feelings of loss for the contribution some of these naturalists to human scientific history, however this should be tempered by the understanding that framing many of these naturalist’s lives in this way inevitably overshadows other more sinister aspects which deserve as much recognition if not more than their ornithological studies.

  20. Considering the societal push to revise the sins of colonial past, as well as honoring indigenous culture, the decision to make this reclassification process public is incredibly crucial. Birds affect us all in many instances: pop culture, music, art, technology, and more. By including the millions (if not billions) of those who interact with birds regularly, the conversation becomes more meaningful and personable. I support the decision to carry through the process of changing every eponym all at once and the decision to make this publicly available. Let us undo the “baggage” (as described by David Sibley, well-known Field Guide Author and Illustrator) associated with these names and move toward a more inclusive future.

  21. Changing the English bird name eponyms is a step in the right direction; these modifications will allow for more appropriate names that are relevant to the birding community and that are telling of the actual species (geographical, morphological, ecological, behavioral characteristics). Including the public in these name changes will prove to be a diversifying aspect that i feel is the entire message of these efforts.

  22. Although it is a tricky process, I think changing eponymous bird names is a step in the right direction that would alleviate the barriers that have been created that have potentially excluded and marginalized groups of people. Instead, replacing eponymous bird names with names based on physical characteristics, life histories, or any other notable traits would be more beneficial in the identification of birds, and to help others easily learn bird species to expand ornithology as a whole.

  23. I greatly appreciate the inclusivity introduced by this community as the public is capable of bringing viewpoints and opinions that may be overlooked by such high-level scholars in the field of ornithology. There is always the possibility that this may slow down the process of renaming as the sheer number of opinions would be difficult to sift through, but the payoff of a diverse community could be well worth the wait. I hope that experts in this field will consider the public’s opinions when they make the ultimate decision regarding the revitalization of these previously boringly named birds

  24. Any effort to bring more minds and eyes to the birding community should be championed and supported. I appreciate all the efforts already put forth. In my opinion, the AOS panel is on point. Naming birds more descriptively and removing offensive nomenclature seems like a win/win scenario.

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