Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Politically Incorrect Duck or Long-tailed Duck

This is a pair of Long-tailed ducks. That's what we call them these days. They used to be called 'Oldsquaws,' until someone made a stink that the name was insensitive to the history of Native Americans. Some biologists were worried that some angry Native Americans would not support conservation efforts if offended by the duck's name, though the duck is not endangered, nor threatened. In 2000, the American Ornithologist's Union changed the name simply to keep step with the English language as is used in other parts of the world. Squaw isn't a word that makes sense anywhere but in the Americas. That 'Oldsquaw' was offensive to some wasn't sufficient reason for the AOU to change the name. People still know them as Oldsquaws and do call them by that name. They don't think a thing of it when they make that reference and are often confused if one says "Long-tailed duck." There are too many kinds of ducks with long tails, like Northern Pin-tails. I was recently hiking with an older woman who is a competent birder. Pointing out to sea from where we were walking I said, "Oh look! There are a couple of Long-tailed ducks!" She asked me which long tailed ducks. I couldn't believe she didn't see them right there in front of us and said, pointing, "Those, right there!"  "Oh, those ducks! What did you call them?" She asked. She thought I had misidentified them, so I had to explain that we were talking about the same ducks; that formerly, Long-tailed ducks were called Oldsquaws. Which, of course brought us full circle; one of us would have had to say the politically incorrect thing in talking about the ducks. In addition to being a competent birder, I also know her to be a socially and politically sensitive person. Nonetheless, she responded vigorously that the name change was ridiculous and confusing. "Who thought that up?" she asked.  I told her someone high up in birding circles thought Oldsquaw was politically incorrect and changed the name. Whereupon, I realized that the smart thing would simply have been to have changed the name from Oldsquaw to Politically Incorrect Duck. Everyone would remember that and it wouldn't be confused with some other duck with a long tail. And, it would  be the only duck that raises consciousness. I wonder if I can get on the naming committee........  
We have Politically Incorrect Ducks in our cove only during the winter. They breed and nest on the arctic tundra. They prefer sandy bottoms which is what we have here. Politically Incorrect Ducks can dive 200 feet down for crustaceans and invertebrates. They are also the sea duck which spends more time under water than on the surface. Two thirds of their time is spent diving for food.


"Oh, Larry! You look like such an idiot when you show off like that!" 


Thanks to Wikipedia, allaboutbirds.com and David Allen Sibley - The Sibley Guide To Birds for the information.



Posted by Picasa

15 comments:

  1. Did anyone stop to think that possibly an original person from the Penobscot Nation may have named the bird, "Oldsquaw" and removing that name may dishonor the origin of it? I heard that when an old Native American woman dies it is believed her spirit goes into a bird...hence "Oldsquaw."
    HG

    ReplyDelete
  2. Another example of political correctness run amok! Archie Bunker, where are you when we need you???

    ReplyDelete
  3. It seems that Archie Bunker and HG have some things in common. I guess I have to agree with them both. HG's comment about political correctness actually dishonoring some was very interesting, indeed. 'Archie Bunker's' comment was so, well.....Archie, but en point.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Well, I live in Vermont near Burlington, one of the PC capitals of the world(depsite the PC, a terrific place to live), on the west coast of New England.
    My small Downeast cruiser is named "OldSquaw". No one has looked askance or taken me to task about it yet, but I won't be surprised if it does happen.
    I liked "Anonymous's comment of 1/19, that the name may have originated in the Penobscot Nation...


    John Hinckley

    ReplyDelete
  5. John, Thanks for that! Ha ha, "the West Coast of New England," now that was funny! I suggest not wearing a fur coat while driving your cruiser.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks Robin, for your recent, beautiful as always, posts.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Is it bird porn when you post picas of butt ducks on the internet?

    ReplyDelete
  8. You know, I think it MIGHT be! Is there a commission that decides these things? Let's get some federal money.

    ReplyDelete
  9. fortunately, I was able to resist making a comment on the Oldsquaw duck piece.....'cause I wudda hadda duck....

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oldsquaws, I mean LTDs, are very handsome ducks. Gotta love those tail feathers. Very nice work.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thanks, Ed. They also look pretty off when they fly as the tail gives a lot of drag.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Since the moniker 'Oldsquaw' was hung on the birds by Indians, it has never been clear to me why we think that name would be insensitive to Indians.
    Indidentally, they did so because the sound of a flock of these (at night esp.) reminded them of a bunch of squaws sitting around yakking.
    You will never hear me use the name 'Long-tailed duck'.

    mf

    ReplyDelete
  13. You could call them long-tailed ducks because you were trying to be politically correct or you could call them that out of courtesy. I prefer courtesy. It is a matter of what your father told you--when introduced to someone call them what they want to be called. If they introduce themselves as William you don't call them Billy. It is common courtesy. We inhabit land that was once occupied by indigenous people. I think it is a good thing to extend a little courtesy and use their language in the way they would like it to be used. It is not a hardship on me. I thank you on behalf of my ancestors both white and native. And I think "long-tailed duck" is a beautiful name for a beautiful duck.

    ReplyDelete
  14. So, this begs the question, "What do the duck want to be called?"

    ReplyDelete