Removing eponymous and honorific common species names

Darius Couch, a U.S. Army officer and amateur naturalist, named the oriole in 1854 after his commander, General Winfield Scott. Sixteen years earlier, Scott dutifully began a government campaign of ethnic cleansing to remove the Cherokee people from their homelands in the Southeastern United States. His soldiers rounded up Cherokee, separated their families, looted their homes, and crammed them into stockades and barges, where many of them died. Thousands of Cherokee, including Hampton’s great-great-grandfather and dozens more of his ancestors, were forced to move west along the Trail of Tears. Scott’s oriole is a monument to a man who oversaw the dispossession of Hampton’s family, and saying its name now “hits me in the gut, takes my breath away,” Hampton, who is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, wrote in 2021.

The concern about eponymous and honorific common bird names is not new. But the movement to see these names changed is.

Eponyms (a person after whom a discovery, invention, place, etc., is named or thought to be named) and honorific common bird names (a name given to something in honor of a person) are problematic because they perpetuate colonialism and the racism associated with it. The names that these birds currently have—for example, Bachman’s Sparrow—represent and remember people (mainly white men) who often have objectively horrible pasts and do not uphold the morals and standards the bird community should memorialize.

Removing eponymous and honorific common species names

Reflections of a Native birder: The one Indian killer bird name I really have trouble with

Bird Names For Birds

Overdue for animals and plants, landforms, etc. Natural things that last 1000’s or millions of years shouldn’t be named after people. Mt McKinley vs Denali, for example. The more poetic the name the better.

Everything is named for old settlers around here no one remembers.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *