Bias in American Ornithologists' Union Bird Names

Paul F. J. Eagles, Hector Ceballos-Lascurain


Ornithology has developed bodies to make collective decisions on the taxonomy, scientific names, and common names of birds. This tradition within ornithology assists with communication and reduces confusion. For North and Central America, a committee of the American Ornithologists' Union standardizes the taxonomy and nomenclature of all the birds that naturally occur within that area. This paper makes the point that this activity has been dominated by members from the United States, with insufficient attention paid to the appropriate use of the term "American" or to the concerns of citizens of countries other than the USA. As a result, the term "American" is used inappropriately as a synonym for North American in a geographic distribution sense. In addition, the terms "Canadian" and "Mexican" are used very sparingly or not at all in the English common name for species that occur in those countries. Suggestions are made with regards to the membership of the nomenclature committee and for remedying this problem with English common names.


ornithology; taxonomy; birds; nomenclature; Canada; Mexico; United States of America; American Ornithologists' Union; Committee on Classification and Nomenclature of North and Middle American Birds; North American Classification Committee; AOU Check-list

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