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Friday, February 04, 2005

Sexist Birding?

A couple years ago, Margaret van de Pitte wrote an essay entitled "The Female is Somewhat Duller" (Birding 31(4):367), in which she explored the inherent sexism in naming birds after characteristics that are only visible on male birds--such as Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Cinnamon Teal. While many readers of Birding Magazine excoriated her for intruding upon their hobby with Political Correctness, I still think about that essay sometimes.

This morning was one of them. After a few days absence, a female Purple Finch showed up at the office this morning. As you can see from a picture, there isn't anything purple about the female, only the male sports the rasberry-red color for which the species is named. Does this mean that female Purple Finches aren't as esteemed? While certainly not as colorful, I think they are handsome in their own right--and I'd be more than happy to see them renamed the Dark-cheeked Finch.

At any rate, this visit to our feeders this morning caused me to pause once again to consider the potential biases we may have in birding, as in other aspects of our daily life.

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