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A dustup over McCown’s Longspur

July 22, 2020

This article is on a currently controversial topic. Some may find it offensive, but different people may have widely varying reasons for that opinion. SMBAS doesn’t often link to stories like this. Nevertheless, I felt it was worthy of consideration as it definitely pertains to birds and what we name them. If you object to or approve of the content, I suggest you contact the writer, Hannah Tomasy. Look for the “Comments” tab on the right side of this page.  Thanks(?) to Ellen for sending me the link. [Chuck Almdale]

A Bird Named for a Confederate General Sparks Calls for Change
McCown’s longspur has launched a renewed reckoning over the troubling histories reflected in taxonomy

Smithsonian Magazine | By Hannah Thomasy, Undark | | July 21, 2020

Across the United States, people are pushing for the removal of Confederate officers’ names from buildings, schools, and army bases, as protests against racial injustice continue in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police in May.

Something much smaller has also elicited debate over its Confederate name: McCown’s longspur, a bird that lives in the Great Plains and looks a bit like a sparrow. It was named after John Porter McCown, who was involved in forcible relocations of Native Americans during the 1840s, and who left the United States Army to serve as a Confederate general during the Civil War.

One Comment
  1. Edna permalink
    July 22, 2020 5:53 pm

    I wonder about the biographical stories of all those 19th c British naturalist after whom so many birds are named. Were they a part of the trade triangle?

    Stay well ~




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