Scott said: We should keep in mind our human labels may oversimplify
the complicated but intriguing relationships among groups of similar
Yes! Thatís exactly what we want to do when we label.
We humans have worked so hard to make a clear distinction between us
and all the other species with whom we share the planet. Many of the
distinctions didn't hold water (we're the only ones with language;
we're the only one who feel love and grief; we use tools; we perform
multistep reasoning; we play). One distinction that might work is: we
label. Labeling makes us feel that we live in an organized and
The trouble is that Nature doesn't like clear categories. The history
of human knowledge is full of realizations that some group of
categories we so carefully developed really didnít work.
I think itís fun and fascinating to label birds: to start out with
the basics and then move on to recognizing fall warblers and figuring
out the age of gulls and wondering if I might be looking at a mallard-
shoveler hybrid. But conversations like the one about naming flickers
remind me that thereís deep satisfaction in just watching!