Western Scrub Jay, (c) Photo by Steve Kaye

This Really Made the Birds Mad | Aug 2016

Mad Birds

California Scrub-Jay, (c) Photo by Steve Kaye, in Mad Birds

California Scrub-Jay

The birds are mad.

Here’s why.

Recently (as of 2016) the AOS (American Ornithological Society) announced new names for some birds.

For example, the bird in the above photo is now the California Scrub-Jay. I know this because I took the photo in California.

However, this bird spent its life thinking it was a Western Scrub-Jay.

Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay, (c) Photo by Steve Kaye, in Mad Birds

Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay

And the bird in the above photo is now the Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay.

I know this because I took the photo in Zion National Park, which is in Utah. And the Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay lives in Utah (not in California).

However, this bird spent its life thinking it was a Western Scrub-Jay.

Imagine how you would feel if a committee changed the names of your family members so that some of them were no longer relatives.

I expect you’d be mad.

When the birds met to discuss this, they were furious.

So they retaliated. First, they decided to rename the AOS. Now they refer to it as the American Obfuscation Society.

Then some birds proposed that they change the name of their class from Aves to Dinosaurs, which would make the AOS irrelevant. But that idea was voted down by a slim margin.

Finally, the wise ones prevailed.

They explained:

“Feathers do not define us. Names do not define us. Shape, size, and species do not define us. We are all part of a song that is larger than any word.”

A collective silence followed.

And the birds returned to work, being birds.

I do have a caution.

You may notice that some birds are now referring to people with names like squirrel, raccoon, and hamster.

They want to remind us that our fur (or skin) does not define us.

For the record, I want to state that the AOS (American Ornithological Society) works with the best of intentions. They provide an important, valuable service. And they strive to promote conservation of bird species and populations.

Update: December 2023

The AOU is planning to change the names of birds that were named after people.

I support this.

We need to put the focus on the birds where it belongs.

In addition, many of these people caused indescribable suffering.

We do not need to honor them by having their names appear in our common vocabulary.

Much success,

Steve Kaye

PS: Please share these blog posts. And I welcome your comments.

Here’s a related post: Conversation with a Song Sparrow

And another one: Equality Among Birds

Birding Resources

The American Ornithological Society’s web site contains a wealth of valuable info. See: American Ornithological Society.

Find current bird names in the Checklist of North and Middle American Birds.

Did You Know?

The most effective way to help birds is to buy land.

Here are three organizations that excel at doing this.

1) American Bird Conservancy

2) The Nature Conservancy

3) The Trust for Public Land

Please visit their web sites to learn about the work they do.

Here’s an excellent book: The American Bird Conservancy Guide to Bird Conservation

You can help – Please share this blog with others.
Inspiring Respect for Nature, one bird at a time.

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  • Hannah
    Posted at 10:16h, 16 August

    Great post! (And good info!)

  • jerry young
    Posted at 10:39h, 16 August

    The birds have a point. And you do too. Keep up the good comments and good humor.

  • Delta T
    Posted at 17:58h, 16 August

    So that crow was really calling me a “cow” after all?

  • Margaret Barth
    Posted at 11:39h, 17 August

    Steve great article ..love your sense of humor.

  • Bob Chianese
    Posted at 10:24h, 19 August

    What’s wrong with Blue Jay? a venerable east coast generic appellation. And who wants to be scrubby afterall?

  • Cody Sontag
    Posted at 10:28h, 19 August

    Keep up the great work!!

  • Penny Schafer
    Posted at 10:54h, 19 August

    Your lessons are always valuable. Thank you!

  • Bob Franz
    Posted at 12:03h, 19 August

    You made up the “Woodhouse” prefix, didn’t you? I couldn’t find it in Sibley or in the AOU website

  • Steve Kaye
    Posted at 15:25h, 19 August

    Hi Everyone, Use the link for the AOU Check List at the bottom of this post. Then perform a find in your browser for Woodhouse or Scrub Jay. Since this is a new name, it won’t appear in any field guide. Thank for your comments.

  • Kathryn Grace
    Posted at 18:12h, 19 August

    Ah Steve, I’ve been away from blogging and reading blogs much of the summer. It’s so good to come back and find this post. Could you hear me laughing? I doubt I could tell the difference between one bird and the other. What, I wonder, was the committee’s reasoning? Some difference in the bird’s DNA? Take care, Sir! Looking forward to catching up a little with your avian friends.

  • Jo-Ann Coller
    Posted at 12:07h, 20 August

    Clever and funny. Great photos!

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