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‘Racist’ birdies ruffling feathers? Sweden renames ‘neger’ species

The names of some birds in Swedish have been changed by the Swedish Ornithological Society over concerns that they could sound racist.

The society has just compiled a complete list of bird names. Its employees have been receiving numerous questions from translators and bird watchers, who want to know the exact names of birds.

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"We haven't had an official list of what all the birds in the world are called in Swedish until now, we just had an unofficial list put together about 10 years ago," Anders Wirdheim from the Swedish Ornithological Society told the Local. “We decided to compile a list and while we were doing that we decided to change the names of any birds that could have stirred up a debate,” he added.

Among the rechristened birds are all which include the word ‘’neger’’ (negro), for instance negerfinken. They changed it to the Swedish “svart,” meaning “black.”

Names denoting different nations were also changed, such as the gypsy bird.

Zigenarfågeln, negerfinken, kafferseglaren och hottentottkrickan får nya namn http://t.co/NQK2d0iM50#svpolpic.twitter.com/2CfsNeMj6d

— Fria Tider (@friatider) 19 февраля 2015

Kaffer-sailor, deemed the most offensive, also got the chop because the word “kaffer” is a racist term used by white South Africans referring to black people.

“It's a very racist, especially in Africa,” Erling Jirle of Lund University said on Swedish television, as cited by the Speisa. “It’s incitement to hatred in South Africa to use that word, so we really needed to remove that name.”

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The ornithologists also updated bird names directly translated from English. However, the name changing hasn’t led to much debate in Sweden.

"I thought it would be [sic] a few reactions, but there have not been so many," Erling Jirle said.

The final list was completed earlier this year and contains 10,709 names. Bird watching is a popular hobby in Sweden and the Swedish Ornithological Society has around 17,000 members.