Six years ago, I wondered if “if birds named after people will be the apostrophe’s last bastion.” <blog.kootenay-lake.ca/?p=20350>
I noted that we had lost the apostrophe in geographic names: “Around Kootenay Lake, Johnson’s Landing is officially Johnsons Landing and Queen’s Bay has become Queens Bay — despite no compelling evidence for multiple eponymous Johnsons or Queens.” However: “In ornithology, the possessive still rules when it comes to birds which have been named to commemorate the work of naturalists from earlier times.” The literature was replete with the Say’s Phoebe and the Barrow’s Goldeneye.
But now, ornithology is about to completely drop the use human names for the common names of birds. They will all be renamed. OK, ornithology in this case is the American Ornithological Society which sets the standard for common bird names in Canada and the U.S. This is described in a number of news stories. Consider: “These American birds and dozens more will be renamed, to remove human monikers.” It is available from npr.org/2023/11/01/1209660753.
Now, I wish to sidestep the reason for this change (which is the removal of “bird names deemed offensive or exclusionary”) and deal with the collateral damage of the elimination of the apostrophe. Alas, it will go.
The NPR story gives three examples, out about 80, that will change over the next few years: Wilson’s Warbler, Cooper’s Hawk, and the Steller’s Jay, all of which we have here.
The still Wilson’s Warbler will become what?
Cooper’s Hawk will change.
The Steller’s Jay is not only exceedingly common here, but it is the provincial bird of British Columbia. Will its renaming require legislation to continue its presence?
It will be interesting, but I will be sorry to see the continued loss of the apostrophe.