Bird lovers unite! A bird naming project is on; set to enrich future birders so that all our birds have names in each one of our official languages. And, you can get involved simply by spotting a few feathered friends.


South Africa (05 September 2023) — In a country as culturally rich and diverse as South Africa, it’s only apt that more moves are made to reflect different facets of our heritage, communities and wildlife— from new official languages down to the inclusivity of bird names.

Languages play a hugely important role in making cultural appreciation and celebration possible, and in light of this, BirdLife South Africa is up to something very good!

Prior to 2022, complete lists for all our birds were only available in English and Afrikaans. However, BirdLife decided it was high time this list became more accessible to other mother tongues.

After a list of bird names was completed for isiZulu last year, more language inclusion for bird names became a big goal for the organisation.

Through the South African Names for South African Birds (SANSAB) project, BirdLife is making the accessibility happen. They are teaming up with linguists, ornithologists and birders who speak different languages to workshop species’ names that reflect not only the languages and the birds’ characteristics but the culture of the people who speak those languages.

Nandi Thobela, who is BirdLife South Africa’s Empowering People Programme Manager and was one of the participants involved in workshopping the isiZulu bird names, shares why such a project is so crucial:

“A lack of vernacular names was a serious language barrier for isiZulu speakers wanting to get involved in anything related to birds, whether that is casual birdwatching, environmental education, conservation or academic study.

“Not having a name for a bird in your mother tongue also creates a degree of separation from nature. I run environmental education and awareness projects in several communities in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, and Mpumalanga provinces, and these names will be important in getting the message across about the importance of conserving birds and the environment to children and all persons involved.”

Now, the invitation is open for others to get involved in the big naming project so that future South Africans won’t face language barriers to connecting with nature.

BirdLife South Africa and birding app Birda, have created a heritage-inspired challenge this Heritage Month, where anyone is encouraged to look up this September and log 12 bird species (one for every official language).

Prizes are up for grabs including a birder’s dream; HD binoculars.

You can join the challenge here. 

Sources: BirdLife South Africa
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Ashleigh Nefdt is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Ashleigh's favourite stories have always seen the hidden hero (without the cape) come to the rescue. As a journalist, her labour of love is finding those everyday heroes and spotlighting their spark - especially those empowering women, social upliftment movers, sustainability shakers and creatives with hearts of gold. When she's not working on a story, she's dedicated to her canvas or appreciating Mother Nature.

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