Welcome the bird name changes from American Ornithological Union

To the Editor; 

Since reading V. Paul Reynolds’ column about the plan to rename numerous North American bird species, several things have stuck in my craw that deserve equal air time. I am a lifelong avid birder and have spent more than 50 years learning birds’ names the hard way, just like Reynolds. I welcome the coming changes.

Reynolds believes that ornithological institutions in America will be passing every North American bird’s name through a subjective, woke, moral filter and changing every name that doesn’t pass muster. He characterizes this decision as “historical revisionism in the name of political correctness” that “is taking our confused culture into uncharted territory that is as absurd as it is dishonest to history itself.”

I think historical revisionism as Reynolds uses the phrase is misleading and untrue. Bird names that include famous folks like Lincoln, Lewis and Audubon are almost universally white and men; sometimes to commemorate someone famous; other times to name the guy who shot one and stuffed it for a museum. Where, besides Hawaii, have we awarded equal consideration to bird names we first learned from our Indigenous predecessors? Where in our field guides are the names of female naturalists and artists who were contemporaries of those white men? The names we have assigned to birds over the years were chosen selectively and with great prejudice, which I submit is about as revisionist as you can get.

The American Ornithological Union website states, “We need a much more inclusive and engaging scientific process that focuses attention on the unique features and beauty of the birds themselves.” Bird names in the future will be more interesting, inclusively chosen, educational and inviting to new enthusiasts than our present roster.

Reynolds wants the world to be populated by nature lovers just as much as I do, I presume, which is where I hope he and I can find common ground.

Craig Kesselheim
Southwest Harbor

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