Sunday, March 16, 2008

What's in the Name?

Something has been bothering me for the past few days. I was talking with Mike H. the other day and we were discussing the name Prairie Chicken, and whether or not it deserves a name change. This was something that the AOU had considered at some point, but never agreed upon it (i'm still looking for the paper). So here is something to consider. Does the name Prairie Chicken give these birds the full respect that they deserve amongst the wild species of the world? I say no! I need to research it a bit more, but I imagine that this was a name that people used to call them and it just stuck.

The reason I am bringing this up is the fact that I have experienced the confusing nature of this name first hand. My first week working on the Sutton Center's LPCH project I was dirving back and forth from Woodward to the Laverne area in NW Oklahoma. I was staying at a hotel until my wife and I could find a place closer to the research site. A particuliar evening I was enjoying a beer and a game of pool at the hotel bar, when someone asked me what I did. I explained that I was working with Prairie Chickens, and there response was, "well what is that?" So I told the guy, and he still replied, "so you mean that you are studying chickens that got loose and have become a wild population?". I attempted to explain one more time, still he failed to grasp the concept.

So let me ask a few simple questions. Would people think more of these species if there particuliar name was "Prairie Grouse"? I mean that's what they are. Would it be less confusing for people if they name where changed? Why are we calling something a chicken, when it is a grouse and doesn't live on a farm? I honestly think that a name change for these birds would be beneficial for there future.

Well, stay tuned I'll be tackling these questions in future posts. Later for now....

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