For far too long there has been a bird that North American birders have mocked, derided, persecuted, hated, and, perhaps worse of all, ignored. It is a common bird, seen in cities, suburbs, and agricultural lands. One reason it is so widely disliked is its ubiquity, another is the fact that it is an introduced species. It is accused of driving native species out and it has the protection of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act withheld from it. The species I refer to is, of course, the House Sparrow Passer domesticus. But the lowly House Sparrow does not need to stay in the realm of the hated, the persecuted, the vilified. If Philip Morris can become Altria and if Blackwater can become Xe, then why can’t the House Sparrow be rebranded as well?
Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the Black-throated Brown Warbler Dendroica domesticus.
No longer will the House Sparrow be called a trash bird; birders will instead seek out the Black-throated Brown Warbler like they do with every other bird with warbler in its name. The name change will only apply in the western hemisphere so birders from the old world have reason track down the Black-throated Brown Warbler and excitedly get a tick on their checklist. Sure, they may be a bit puzzled at the similarity between the two species but if we can trick them into thinking that there is more than one Empidonax flycatcher, well, they’ll tick the Black-throated Brown Warbler and like it.
We’re sure some “ornithologists” and “taxonomists” will be very upset with what must seem like a very casual and unscientific approach to determining where in the tree of life the branch that contains the Black-throated Brown Warbler belongs. But, really, who pays any attention to them at all? Once our multi-million dollar advertising and rebranding campaign hits the market they will return to their laboratories and specimen cabinets and their natural state – completely ignored. We’re sure that some creaky old birders will shake their fists at the renaming as well, most likely while muttering about English Sparrows, but we can distract them by pointing out that Wheel of Fortune is coming on the television and they will soon forget all about why they got angry in the first place.
Sure, this is a big change and change is scary. But at the end of it there will be a new species of wood-warbler breeding in every city and town across the Americas, and, really, that has to be good for conservation, right? The more wood-warblers the better? Obviously if you are opposed to this change you are opposed to a massive increase in the number of wood-warblers and are therefore as anti-environment as BP. There, it’s been said. Now jump on the warbler train or be recognized as being as bad as the company at the root of the worst environmental disaster in American history.
You’ve come around now, right? We thought so. So, moving forward, just remember to refer to the chirpy brown-and-black bird you find all over the place by its proper name, Black-throated Brown Warbler Dendroica domesticus, and everything will be just fine.
(We originally published this post in May 2010, but share it today to celebrate World Sparrow Day!)