FAQ: AOS Community Congress on English Bird Names

Why are you holding a Community Congress on eponymous English Bird Names?

This event brings together members of the birding and ornithological community, especially birders, scientists, and data managers, to discuss the issue of eponyms. Eponyms are names for birds that honor specific people, often for their contributions to generating knowledge about the particular species or for broader contributions to ornithology. The practice of naming bird species after people has long been debated in ornithology, with current discussions about eponyms sitting at the intersection of taxonomic stability and social justice concerns. Eponyms become problematic when they honor individuals who explicitly embraced racist or colonialist beliefs, or they honor individuals who either supported or were supported by policies oppressing other populations. Should these names be kept? What are possible impacts and opportunities for the birding and ornithological communities if names are changed?

The AOS Diversity and Inclusion Committee formed a subcommittee to work on the issue of eponyms in June 2020. Addressing this issue requires an initial awareness of the complexities of name changes and an inclusive approach to understanding diverse perspectives. We reached out to a diverse group of individuals and groups, or stakeholders, to listen to their perspectives about eponymous bird names. Many of these perspectives will be shared during this event. This Community Congress is intended to further our progress and conversation.

Who are the organizers?

The AOS Diversity and Inclusion Committee’s subcommittee on Bird Names is composed of nine professional ornithologists who span multiple backgrounds, career stages, and disciplines. Together, the subcommittee has been working for more than nine months to design an informed, open, and inclusive event to increase awareness about the complexities surrounding English bird names and their impact. 

What are the goals of this event?

The Community Congress opens the 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. The Society seeks to share the perspectives 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 specific aim of the Community Congress is to provide an opportunity for a broad range of stakeholders from the birding and ornithological community to share their viewpoints, including challenges and opportunities from their perspectives, to best inform future next steps to address the issue of naming birds after people.

How did you identify stakeholders for the discussion with the AOS Diversity and Inclusion subcommittee? 

Members of the AOS Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) subcommittee conducted 12 listening sessions from September to November 2020 with more than 35 stakeholders across the ornithological and birding communities to listen to and understand varying perspectives on English bird names. We reached out to stakeholders based on groups and individuals recommended to us during our listening sessions, as well as representatives from organizations with broad constituencies in the research, birding, and bird population management fields. We invited these stakeholders to participate in a broader public discussion with our membership and the greater ornithological and birding community. We refer to those stakeholders who are participating in the Community Congress as panelists for the event.

Who are the panelists for the event?

The panelists include: Jeff Gordon (American Birding Association), Jody Allair (Birds Canada), Yousif Attia (Birds Canada), Kathy Jones (Birds Canada), Denis Lepage (Birds Canada), Gabriel Foley (Bird Names for Birds), Alex Holt (Bird Names for Birds), Jordan Rutter (Bird Names for Birds), Marshall Iliff (eBird, Cornell Lab of Ornithology), Kenn Kaufman (Kaufman Field Guides), Gregoriah Hartman (National Audubon Society), Geoff LeBaron (National Audubon Society), David Sibley (Sibley Guides), Danny Bystrak (U.S. Geological Survey, Bird Banding Laboratory), and Dave Ziolkowski (U.S. Geological Survey, North American Breeding Bird Survey). We thank them for their time to participate in this event.

Will the Community Congress be recorded?

Yes! After the event, the recording will be posted on the AOS YouTube channel, where it will be publicly available. We’ll post a link to the recording on the AOS English Bird Names blog and AOS social media accounts as soon as it is available.

How can I participate?

There are many ways to contribute to the conversation about bird names! Please visit the new AOS English Bird Names Blog, where you can register for the Community Congress, submit questions for panelists, and sign up for blog alerts. Questions submitted before the Congress will be synthesized and prioritized in the panel discussion. In addition to the pre-submitted questions, the live audience will be able to post questions for the panelists during the Q&A portion of the webinar. Audience members will be able to “up-vote” questions with the goal that those questions of greatest interest to the audience will be answered during the webinar. We’ll try to answer all questions.

If you are unable to attend the live event, we encourage you to submit questions in advance so that the panelists have an opportunity to answer them. You can then view the recording on the AOS YouTube Channel at your convenience.

A conversation with the scope and impact of eponymous bird names is larger than a single event, which is why the AOS created a blog exclusively for ongoing discussions. Please feel free to send us a question anytime before, during, or after the event (using the question form on the registration page linked above), or engage with us and other members of the birding and ornithological community on our AOS English Bird Names Blog. We will continue to collate these questions and comments as a record of interests, concerns, and opinions as we move forward.

Will closed captioning be provided?

Yes! Instructions for how to ensure this feature is active will be announced at the beginning of the event.

What will happen during the event? (What is the agenda?)

The event begins at 2:00 p.m. EDT/11:00 a.m. PDT on Friday, 16 April. In general, the event is planned as follows:

  • Introduction to our moderator and an overview of the event including technical details for participation
  • Introductory remarks made by the organizers and moderator
  • Perspectives presented by the panelists
  • Q&A starting with the pre-submitted questions and incorporating live-submitted questions along the way
  • Closing remarks by the moderator and organizers

When does registration for the Community Congress close?

We plan to keep registration open until just before the event or until our capacity limit for the event is reached. The event’s capacity limit is 1,000 attendees.

Please note: We may update this post as needed; check back for updates.

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