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The woke are coming for the birds!

Woke warriors are behind a drive to rename hundreds of bird species because their names are deemed to have links to slavery and colonialism.

Jameson's Firefinch, Blyth's Reed Warbler and MacQueen's Bustard are among those set to have their namesakes replaced by less 'offensive' monickers.

The group calling for the changes - US-based Bird Names for Birders - set up a petition insisting 'harmful colonial' names of species be banished, arguing that eponymous common names are 'essentially verbal statues' and thereby must fall.

Two birds have already had their monickers changed - one being the McCown's Longspur, named after John McCown, a Confederate general in the civil war who shot a group of larks he saw on a Texas prairie while stationed there.

Among the kills were a pair of pale grey longspurs with a spot of chestnut on their wings and white patches on their tails - markers he'd never seen before in the species, which prompted him to send their remains to an ornithologist friend. The species was then named for McCown, a not unusual practice at the time when it came to recognizing explorers who 'discovered' animals they'd never seen before. 

The other is Oldsquaw, deemed offensive to indigenous groups. The McCown's Longspur has been renamed the thick-billed longspur, while Oldsquaw will now be known as a long-tailed duck. 

It comes after bug experts are getting rid of the name 'gypsy moth' because some Roma people consider it to be an ethnic slur.

The Entomological Society of America, which oversees the common names of bugs, is banishing the common name of that critter and the lesser-known gypsy ant. The species will now be referred to as Lymantria dispar until a more common name is decided upon, a process which will take months, according to the society's president Michelle S. Smith.

The group announced this month that for the first time it changed a common name of an insect because it was offensive. In the past they've only reassigned names that weren't scientifically accurate.

The Oriental rat flea, Asian needle ant and the West Indian cane weevil are also now being scrutinised by the ESA's Better Common Names Project, which is canvassing public opinion regarding potentially offensive terms.

It's not just America where the debate surrounding bird names is raging. In November, the RSPB invited the Flock Together, a London-based birdwatching collective for people of colour, to take over its Instagram account to draw attention to 'problematic bird names'.

Species highlighted included the Blyth's reed warbler, which was named after the 19th century British zoologist Edward Blyth, who worked for most of his life in India as a curator of zoology at the museum of the Asiatic Society of India in Calcutta.

It also flagged the MacQueen's bustard, the name of which was inspired by the British army officer General Thomas MacQueen. He collected animals across India and shot one of the birds, later donating it the Natural History Museum.  

While Flock Together is not campaigning for the names of the birds to be changed, it would like the full history of their eponyms to be explained more thoroughly.

 

 

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